Why Mystery KAL?

First Mystery KALWhat is a Mystery knit along (KAL)?  For years I have seen the “spoiler” posts for the mystery KALs on the Ravelry forums and wondered what it all meant.

When you sign up for the mystery KAL, the designer releases the pattern in sections, over a period of time.  You, and a group of other participants are knitting the pattern without knowing what the final object looks like.

I decided to delve in, and discover the Mystery KAL for myself.  I started my first mystery KAL 2 weeks ago.  In fact, I started my first knit-along of any kind 2 weeks ago.  I started the J Fleckenstein’s Summer 2016 mystery KAL which promised an easy shawl pattern.  In the process of participating in this KAL, I have learned a few things about myself and discovered some benefits and drawbacks to the mystery KAL experience which I have shared below.

Benefits

  • Each week has a knitting goal.  I do well with a knitting goal.  A new “clue” ie, the next step in the pattern is released periodically.  The first week, I knit like crazy to make sure I had clue 1 completed before the release of clue 2.  I completed clue 2 in just 2 days so I was sure it would be done well in advance of clue 3.   Having a specific knitting goal in mind, really motivates me to complete each clue on time
  • I love the mystery aspect.   I have always loved a good mystery starting with Nancy Drew in my younger years.  I guess I still really love a great mystery or surprise and wait with anticipation for the next clue to be revealed on Fridays.  I also anticipate the mystery of what the final shawl will look like.
  • I like knitting with a community.  I really enjoy exploring the other knitters’ project pages.   I also enjoy browsing questions in the forum for this project.  For me, the community is the main reason to participate in a KAL.
  • I received the pattern for free.  If I wanted the pattern now, I would have to pay a small fee.

Drawbacks

  • Yarn choice is difficult.  I’m hesitant to buy expensive yarn when I don’t know what the final product will look like. It is also more difficult for me to decide on the best yarn for the project when I don’t have a visual image of the finished project.  The KAL called for 2 skeins of fingering weight yarn.  The designer for this pattern has gorgeous yarn for sale that is suggested yarn for the pattern.  However, I did not feel comfortable spending more than $60 on a knit I wasn’t sure I would like.
  • The knitting can be uninteresting.  The shawl for this KAL has been almost entirely in garter stitch.  This pattern has been easy, as promised, but so far I’ve been waiting for a more challenging or interesting section of the pattern.
  • It can be difficult to trouble shoot the pattern directions when you don’t know what the final product will look like.  When I knit, I constantly compare my knitting to the pattern photograph to ensure that I’m interpreting the directions correctly.  There is no pattern photograph to use for this purpose in a mystery KAL.

Overall, I am enjoying the mystery KAL experience and will probably do another one after I complete my current project.  Or perhaps I’ll try a classic knit along where I still get the advantage of knitting with a community but have the advantage of knowing what the final product should look like.

I would love to hear about your experiences with any mystery KALs that you have done.  .

 

Easy German Short Rows

Today I’m going to show you how to do a German short row.  I’ve always been intimidated to learn this short row technique because I found wrap and turn to be somewhat difficult.  I always had the impression that this short row technique would be even more challenging.  However, I started my first mystery knit along this week and was forced to learn this technique, which was part of the knit along.  Once I learned how to do it, I wished I had learned this technique long ago.  For me, the German short row technique is a lot more intuitive then the wrap and turn.  Let me show you how to do it, and it might become your favorite too.

On this piece, I’ve knit up to 2 stitches left in the row.  The second to last stitch is where I’m doing the short row.  I’m actually going to go ahead and knit that stitch like normal.  Then, I’m going to turn the work.  The yarn has to be forward in the German short row technique.  Then I’m going to slip this stitch that I just knit, purlwise.  And then the technique is as simple as pulling this yarn up and over the needle.  Now you can see these 2 legs.  That’s how you know you’ve done it correctly.  Then I’m going to knit the rest of the row.  I’m doing this in garter stitch.  I’ll show you once I get back to the “double-legged” stitch on the other side.  I’m going to knit that stitch like a “knit 2 together”  with both legs knit into a single stitch.  The double leg stitch will become hidden and look like purl bump.  This technique is an excellent choice for garter stitch.  I’ll knit to the end of the row and back, until I get to the “double-legged stitch” and then I’ll show you what that looks like.

So now I’ve knit back to the place where I did the German short row, and you can see this stitch has the 2 legs that I pulled up and over the needle when I did the short row.  Now, I’m just going to knit into those 2 as if it was a knit 2 together, so the 2 behave like 1 stitch.  That’s all there is to the technique.  When I turn the work over, you can see that short row is really hidden on the back of the work.

How to Estimate Yarn Needed for Long-tail Cast On

My default method for casting on is the long-tail or sling-shot method.  However, I have spent most of my knitting career underestimating the length of yarn needed in the long tail.  For most of my projects, I have had to repeat the cast-on with a longer tail 2 or 3 times.  This repetitive error led me to investigate methods for properly estimating the length of yarn needed for a long tail cast-on.  I came across 3 reasonable methods that I will list in my order of preference.

  1. Method 1: Estimate based on the yarn needed to cast on a smaller number of stitches.  For example, if I needed to cast on 140 stitches total, I would first cast on 10 stitches and then pull them out.  I would then measure the amount of yarn that I  needed to cast on those ten stitches.  I would then multiply by 14 (140/10) to calculate the length of the yarn tail needed to cast on 140 stitches.  I always allow for a few extra inches for weaving in ends.
  2. Method 2: Allow 1 inch of  tail for every stitch you need to cast on.  In my example, since I need 140 stitches, I would leave a tail 140 inches long.  In my  experience, the tail ends up being quite a bit longer than I need with this method.
  3. Method 3: Allow for a yarn tail that is 3 times the length of your finished cast-on edge.  In this example, the finished object is a cowl with a circumference of 24 inches.   The yarn tail would be (24 x 3) or 72 inches long.  I have often ended up with a yarn tail that is too short using this method.

With the first method, you are using an estimation method that is exactly tailored for you.  Because the amount of yarn used to cast on 10 stitches is slightly different for each of us, due to varying tension, method 1 will give you the length of tail that should be just right for your project.    I have found that method number 1 gives me an appropriate tail length every time.

Valuable Tool for Knitting Lace

 

I recently started knitting simple lace projects.  I’ve used charts before, and would typically photocopy the chart, and use a highlighter to keep track of my row.

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I ordered this chart-keeper by Knitter’s Pride and wish I would have purchased it long ago.  Magnets hold your chart in place on the board.  A magnetic strip helps you keep track of your row.  My lace chart repeats several times.  By using the magnetic strip to keep track of my progress, I can reuse the same chart.  When I was using highlighters, I had to make multiple copies of the chart for repeats. Using this chart keeper also allows me to better visualize my knitting. The magnet is placed above the row you are working.  Therefore, you are able to see the rows below your current row and view how the stitches should relate to each other.  When using the highlighter method, I would highlight a row as it was completed, thus diminishing my ability to visualize the knitted pattern below my current working row.  This chart keep folds up and has an extra pocket for holding additional materials.  Now, if I can just keep my 5 year-old away from those magnets…..

Sewn Bind-off | knitting

Today I’m going to show you how to do a sewn bind-off.  You can see I’ve already started binding off this shawl with a sewn bind-off, which was the bind-off that was specifically recommended by the author of this pattern.  The reason this bind off is recommended here, is because it looks very good with garter stitch and it creates an elastic border which allows these ruffles to develop in the border from the lace pattern.  This is a very simple technique but it does require a lot more time than any knitted bind-off I’ve ever done.  First, take your working yarn and cut it to a length that is at least 3 to 4 times the width of the edge you’re going to bind off.  Next step is to thread that yarn onto a tapestry needle.  Then, to start the bind off, take the tapestry needle and run it through the first 2 stitches on the needle purl-wise and pull the thread all the way through.  The next step, is to take the tapestry needle and thread it through the first stitch on the needle knit-wise and then pull the yarn all the way through.  The third and final step, is to take the first stitch off the needle.  Then repeat these 3 steps until all stitches are bound-off.