Rowan Birch Shawl Review

It’s done! It’s a monster!

Too large to fit into a single frame, you’ll have to make do with this photo of the completed Birch Shawl. I finished it just in time for my colleague’s 30th birthday. The morning before work I blocked it (kind of), weaved in all the loose ends, wrapped it:

And presented it. Here’s a happy friend wearing her gift:

Happy birthday!

What are my conclusions re Rowan’s free Birch shawl pattern?

1. Terror Can Be Your Friend

Starting this pattern means casting on 291 stitches. Take a moment. Read that over. 291, I’m telling you! And then keeping a new-to-you lace pattern in your head over each row of 291 stitches. When I began I was terrified, almost scared enough to give up. Just getting to the end of a row had me collapsing in a little puddle. But I kept going and I’ll tell you this, the Birch rewards persistence. Every eight rows, this shawl reduces. Slowly, slowly, you have fewer stitches to get through until suddenly (well, not suddenly – eventually) you’re zipping along. This pattern starts by trying to break you, then it rewards you. Keep the faith!

2. Invest in some decent circular needles

Thanks to the advice of Damn, Knit & Blast It, I bought some Addi needles. Worth. Every. Penny. When you’re working with a fragile, fluffy silk/mohair mix you want good equipment.

3. Take A Break

If you’re feeling tired, distracted or just not in the mood – step away from the knitting. You don’t want to cast back over a row of 291 stitches in Rowan Kidsilk Haze…

4. Find A Routine

What I mean is find a part in the pattern that you can use to keep checking you’re on track. I used the main stem of each little leaf to make sure my knitting was still on course and hadn’t gone awry. This one’s a life saver and means you can immediately cast back only a few stitches for correction, rather than whole rows.

5. Buy an extra ball of wool for good luck

The pattern says three balls. At the last moment, I had to buy a fourth ball. At £7.95 a ball, this was a tad annoying – and could have meant horrors if the dye lot hadn’t matched. Thankfully, there are no discernible stripes.

6. Give yourself time

This took me three months to make, although sewing distractions mean I’m often not the most dedicated knitter. Others would complete this more quickly. But know thyself! If you have distractions in your life, too, give yourself the time to do a good job.

7. Remember the Rule of Eight

The shawl itself is mammoth, but this is a repeating pattern. You’re really only working with eight rows. When you put it like that, how hard can this be…? (Um, I’ll let other knitters of the Birch shawl answer that question!)

Was it worth it? Yes, to see such a thing of beauty:

Close Up Detail

Interestingly, I have a shawl of my own that I knitted from Kidsilk Haze. It is much simpler – a huge oblong knitted on large needles. It’s possibly been one of the most well-used items I’ve ever made. The oblong shape makes it perfect for wrapping around my upper torso and arms whilst sat a desk. It squeezes down teeny-tiny for transporting away and has gone through the washing machine. I didn’t even need to press it afterwards. It’s a simple, functional, silky oblong. Dare I suggest that oblongs make better shawls than lace triangles?

But, please. If you’re a confident or semi-confident knitter looking to make something really rather beautiful, have a go at the Birch shawl. It will give you an immense amount of satisfaction. The only real challenge is giving it away…

So, what’s next on the knitting agenda? After knitting two lace patterns in a row (remember the Betty Minisweater?) my RSI ached, craved, yearned for simplicity! The comforting, dull repeat of knit one, purl one. I’ve plumped for Metro by Connie Chang Chinchio:

Simple, yet with a twist

I love the collar detail and the variance on the left and right. I love that there’s a lot of straightforward knitting here. I’ve invested in seven balls of Rowan Cashsoft Baby DK in shade 808 Crocus. I’ll share a photo of the wool some other time with you. I thought it was going to be a straightforward camel, ordering off the internet. I was wrong. There’s a pinkish sand hint there, too. In fact, it’s one of those colours that shifts mood with the light –  I love it.

So, there we are. A rare knitting FO and review. Knitting is a much slower process than sewing, but satisfying in its own way. It’s a bit like gardening. It demands patience, the results are unpredictable, but it teaches you a lot and it is the most amazing source of soul food. Not bad, for something you can do from the comfort of a sofa!

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6 Responses to Rowan Birch Shawl Review

  1. whimsycate says:

    that is just beautiful! x

  2. stitchywitch says:

    Love your shawl – and I agree with you about oblong shawls being easier to wear – I wear them all the time, but the triangular shawls just sit in the closet.

    I’ve been looking at the Metro sweater – I’ve knit several of Connie’s designs, and they were all really great. Can’t wait to see yours (I love Cashsoft too… and of course, since you’re in the UK it wouldn’t be overpriced the way it is here!)

  3. Roobeedoo says:

    Ooh – lovely! Though I would have imploded at casting on 291 and then repeating the same 8 rows over and over again – I suffer too much from ADHD!
    And how come I have never seen the Metro pattern before? Also lovely!

  4. Clare says:

    This is gorgeous! I’m such a wimp with knitting and give up at the first hurdle. That kidsilk haze is so warm and cosy though – I’d love to do something other than stocking stitch / crochet scarves with it. I may well print out your advice and frame it for when I eventually have a go at some lace knitting!

  5. Lysy says:

    You’re so brave – and it was so worth it! I’ve been eyeing this pattern for a while but was worried at how complicated it looked (plus I’ve recently had a rather bad experience with mohair!!). Perhaps I’ll give it a go after all – thanks for the review!

  6. Susan Crowe says:

    Your Birch is beautiful 🙂 Well done for persevering.

    Glad the tip about the circulars helped to 😀

    Susan (Damn, Knit & Blast It)

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