Knit-Along FAQs

Top view of small pothos plant and philodendron rootings. Below the plants there is a green half done stockinette gauge swatch on circular needles. The swatch's yarn is still connected to a yarn cake.
Gauge swatch knit in Skyland Comet

We’re officially into the second month of the Calgary Capelet knit along (KAL)! I’ll admit to being someone who didn’t cast on April 19 due to the suggested needle size being used in pursuit of a Retreat Cowl that I thought I’d finish in two days (not sure why on Earth I thought that was a reasonable timeline). After knitting and wet blocking a rather large swatch, I cast on with a size 6 and am enthusiastically knitting along. There is still time to join us, we’re having a lot of fun chatting on Ravelry and knitting together.

Some of the participants in the KAL have never participated in one before, and I’ve done a few posts now on the KAL I usually participate in over the summer, so I thought it might be worth taking the time to discuss why you might consider participating (besides the potential to win prizes).

First things’s first: What exactly is a KAL?

A knit-along (KAL) is a group of crafters working on a project together over a set amount of time. I saw crafters here because you can also participate in crochet-alongs, sew-alongs, spin-alongs, and I’m sure there are also embroidery alongs if you know where to look. The ultimate goal of the -along is to build community around a common project and find inspiration in your fellow crafters. Sometimes this inspiration takes the form of observing modifications or color choices that you didn’t think of and other times the conversation leads you to projects that you hadn’t even considered starting!

Freshly joined ribbing on circular knitting needles. The green project has a black and white photo of a woman wearing a capelet with a cable down the front center.

Where are KALs typically organized?

All over the place! You can participate in KALs at your local yarn store, your favorite designer may be hosting a KAL, yarn companies sometimes offer them, podcasts or blogs may opt to host one – sometimes it’s even just a matter of searching “knit along” or “KAL” in the ravelry forms to see if there’s one being hosted!

What’s the difference between a KAL and a MKAL?

The M in MKAL stands for “mystery”. This means that a group of people are working on a project together and no one has an idea of what the finished knit is going to be. Clues, or portions of the pattern, are released over a specific amount of time (usually weekly) and you have between clues to knit that section. Some designers give really good information before the MKAL starts to help you pick yarn and to give you an idea of what the final garment/accessory is going to be, others provide more limited information. When it comes to MKALs, I have a few pieces of advice:

  1. Take a look at the other designs by the designer who is hosting the MKAL. If you like their work, the odds are you’ll also like the mystery item that you’re working on.
  2. See what other participants are thinking about in terms of yarn type or color combinations. You may find yourself inspired!
  3. Ask the designer if you aren’t sure about a color combination or fiber content. A lot of times they’re hosting a MKAL because they want to engage in the community as well.
  4. It’s ok if you don’t like the final piece. I’ve done a couple of MKAL where this has turned out to be the case, but the fun I had waiting for clues to be released and guessing what the final knit would look like. Spoilers are a lot of fun if you’re willing to peek ahead to speed knitters and you can always bail out at any point.

Do I need to complete KALs or MKALs within the specified time period?

No! Take a long as you want knitting your projects and feel free to continue to post in the forms. As the KAL or MKAL comes to a close, the only thing that you really need to be aware of is the folks monitoring the forms may not continue to participate as often. Also, it means that you may need to avoid looking at the project pages or Instagram to avoid MAL spoilers.

Remind me again about Blue Sky Fibers (BSF) current KAL?

Check out my previous blog post, or keep reading for BSF’s Ravelry post. BSF’s post has a pattern discount code and information about a prize for participating:

Spring is here, and so is our new yarn Skyland! Join along as we knit this luxurious accessory piece perfect for wearing all year round.

Join us April 19 through June 30 as we host our first KAL in our brand new yarn, the Calgary Capelet in Skyland. Made from a blend of 40% Fine Highland Wool, 30% Baby Alpaca and 30% Silk, Skyland is the perfect yarn for this soft and cabled capelet. In this KAL, which is great for intermediate knitters, participants will learn to follow a 12-row cable pattern that repeats on both the front and back.

The Calgary Capelet is available in four sizing options to fit bust size 30-58”. This beautiful capelet has excellent stitch definition and stunning cables. Skyland is available in eleven classic and sophisticated colors.

Download the pattern for 50% off with code “SKYCAPELETKAL” through Ravelry or the Blue Sky Fibers website.

Interested in joining the KAL? Find your local yarn store that carries Blue Sky on our stockist page and ask if they’re participating. Gather your knitting friends and make it a virtual group project!

This page will be our home base. Please post comments, questions, and progress pictures here. Post an image of your final piece to any of our social channels to be entered into our grand prize drawing – just make sure to tag us so we see it. Once the KAL is over, we will randomly select one lucky winner to win our grand prize – a year (1 per month) supply of patterns, that’s 12 digital patterns of their choice!

Happy knitting!

Hawaii Retreat Cowl

I know that people have been taking advantage of working from home to travel. It’s all over my Instagram (no Facebook for this girl!) – the new trails that are being explored, the beaches that are being enjoyed, the different foods that are being tried – but I can’t bring myself to travel just yet. Part of this is due to our Spain trip imploding, we’ve already been burned by a lock down and I don’t want to relive that type of “action mode” again just yet. Some of it is a desire to not get sick/not get anyone else sick. Honestly, the biggest part is that I don’t want to travel if it means things are closed. The freedom to stop and enjoy a random restaurant, shop or museum is a privilege about traveling that I truly appreciate.

That aside, the longer we don’t travel the worse my wanderlust seems to get. I find myself daydreaming of hiking the Scotland Highlands or wandering the hills of Ireland. My partner is from New Zealand and I still haven’t explored the places he grew up. We used to be able to hop over to Canada with relative ease and there’s no end in site for the boarder closure. Needless to say, Simply Sock Yarn Company has been allowing me to travel vicariously through their gorgeous National Park Series. The first three month club focused on the Grand Canyon, Cub Lake, and the Black Hills National Forest and have each been knit up into gorgeous projects: House Slippers, Nelia Shawl, and Age of Brass and Steam. March’s colorway was inspired by Haleakala and it took me forever to pick a pattern that would suit it.

To the yarn’s credit, I felt very limited by the fact that I only had one skein. I thought about knitting a Spring Sorrel and several other DK weight sweaters before accepting the fact that I wasn’t going to get my hands on more skeins. So when I say that I settled on Joji’s Retreat Cowl, I need you to understand that there was still a lot of excitement around this pattern. In fact, the Retreat Cowl provided me with a nice break from a lace shawl that I’m passively working on.

The Retreat Cowl is worked flat after being started with a provisional cast on. After reaching the specified length, the provisional cast on is removed and stitches are picked up so that the lace edging can be worked. Simple, yet interesting. Plus it allows the yarn’s colors to bounce around and do most of the talking. I would knit this again, although probably in a tonal so that the lace edge stands out a little more.

Real talk about the lace edge: my row gauge was off and I was only able to pick up ~70 stitches. A quick search through the projects on Ravelry shows that this is a relatively common problem and results in a snug fitting cowl, even if you go up a needle size for the lace pattern. Thinking I was smart, I picked up two stiches for every stitch and worked 140 stitches (two extra lace repeats). The final result is a cowl that billows a bit at the bottom and is, stylistically speaking: a) not what I was going for and b) not really my style (or anyone else’s that I know of). That aside, it’s so frickin’ practical. The cowl will now sit slightly under the collar of a coat, as opposed to on top of it, and seal in warmth better. It’s a winter hiker’s dream! TBD if it ends up being gifted for Mother’s Day…

Close up of a multi colored ribbed cowl with lace edging being worn on a woman's neck.
Retreat Cowl, Knit by Iswimlikeafish

BSF Skyland and KAL Preview

For those of you who haven’t had the chance to pick up a skein of Blue Sky Fibers’ (BSF) newest line addition Skyland, it’s a squishy 4-ply DK with a beautiful sheen. The highland wool/baby alpaca/silk blend promises a drapey garment that will keep you warm on cool nights and I cannot wait to start knitting with it. Enter the Calgary Capelet with it’s gorgeous cabled front and combine that with the fact that I’ve been reading Outlander, it’s safe to say that I’ve spend the last couple of weeks eagerly counting down to helping host this knit-along (KAL).

Step one: Does your local yarn store (LYS) carry Skyland?

Mind does! I have a serious knit crush on the Women of Scratch Supply Co from their project choices to the yarn they carry in the store. In fact it’s been made worse by the fact that their podcast makes it feel like they’re hanging out in my family room.

Use BSF’s stock list finder to locate a LYS that carries Skyland near you.

Step two: Pick a color and buy enough yarn for your size.

My friends would be quick to tell you, I have a hard time committing to a color pallet for most of my projects. For starters, I try to push myself to use colors that are outside of my go-to section (blue, green, pink — think watermelon at the beach and you’ve got my color preferences nailed). Add that with I love most colors and hopefully my problem is seen as a desire to be inclusive and not a problem with committing.

As I mentioned above, a friend and I have been reading Outlander together and I’ve been daydreaming about someday traveling the Highlands. With this in mind, I’ve opted to use Comet, a dark green that is within my typical color pallet. Skyland is a yarn I want to wear all the time, so I refuse to feel bad about choosing a color I know matches everything I own as opposed to one I will occasionally wear as a fun pop of color.

Step three: Swatch swatch swatch.

I’ve been burned by swatching before and can probably guess what needle size I need in order to hit gauge (22 stitches and 27 rows = 4 inches in Stockinette), but at the end of the day swatching is informative. For starters, it will ensure that the garment will look the way that Mary Pranica (the designer) intended. More importantly, a swatch will give you a preview of how the yarn is going to knit up (think fabric drape). Personally, I want to make sure that I’m taking advantage of the way Alpaca drapes and that’s enough for me to knit a square before getting started.

Step four: Cast on and show off your progress!

The KAL starts April 19th 2021, aka this coming Monday! That gives you just enough time to grab your yarn (and swatch!) before we cast on together. Not ready to cast on day one? That’s ok, the KAL will run until June 2021. Grab some yarn and join us when you can.

There is going to be more information posted about this KAl on Monday, so join BSF on Ravelry and hangout with us: https://www.ravelry.com/groups/friends-of-blue-sky-fibers

Use #bsfskyland #CalgaryCapelet #CalgaryCapeletKAL on social media so that we can see your work!

I’m off to start swatching so I’m ready for Monday.

Stay tuned for weekly progress updates and possible grumblings that I can’t wear the caplet yet. It’s been so long since I’ve been a part of a KAL outside of Camp Loopy (it’s also been a long time since August 2020 when camp ended!), I’m looking forward to watching everyone’s Capelets work up and seeing how we add our own twist to the same pattern.

My Yarn Stash Fits in a Hat Box

When my sister was younger she and my mother were constantly bargaining on the status of her bedroom, which is a nice way of saying that my sister’s room existed in a constant state of a tornado whipped through. To her credit, it wasn’t clothing that hadn’t made it’s way to the hamper or towels that needed to be returned to the bathroom. No, my sister had a way of bringing toys to her room and leaving them there. I’m talking stuffed animals, dolls, clothes for each, Polly pockets, lego kits.. it didn’t matter. I have many memories of playing house in my sister’s room and adding, much to my mother’s dismay, to the mess.

At first, the bargaining was a plea to get us to play in what we called the “back room” or the room that we were very fortunate to have to ourselves as a playroom. The next attempt was a “you have to play downstairs”. As time went on, it was clear that there was something about the cozy bedroom that lent itself to hours of playing no matter how the rules changed. Realistically, this is probably because my sister and I enjoyed sharing a room together growing up and often slept in sleeping bags on the floor so that we could wake up and start playing right away (a habit we unfortunately grew out of as we got older as I developed into a book worm and wanted to spend my mornings reading). In order to find a compromise, my mother invested in hatboxes and my sister swore that if she had the space to put her toys she would clean up after herself.

Brightly colored hat box.
My hatbox

To tell you the truth, I don’t remember if it worked, especially because my sister seemed to grow out of her messiness as she got older. Nights of leaving toys out so that play could be resumed the next morning were replaced with “I can’t sleep if my rooms a mess” and I genuinely don’t remember if the boxes had anything to do with it. Years later, I would claim one of the hat boxes for myself and start building my yarn stash in it.

The point I’m trying to make with this backstory, is that the box I originally choose to start collecting yarn in, the box I still collect yarn in, is large enough to hold three, maybe four, average size stuffed animals. True, this box is well over ten years old and is start to look a little worn, but it’s served me so well over the seven years of serious knitting that I’ve been doing (I’ve been knitting longer than that). With the exception of when I bought three projects worth of yarn this fall, somehow I have never managed to have more yarn than would fit in that hatbox. It’s hard to even count this fall when one of the projects hit my needles right away and didn’t need to go into the hatbox…

I’m not saying that 2020 has completely put in a cramp in my stashing, I actually like having a small stash because it means that I can “cheat” on knitting without feeling bad about it. I can spend time hiking and sewing, going days without knitting without feeling like my yarn is neglected. I can sign up for cast on clubs (like Scratch’s or Simply Sock Co’s) without worrying about what my partner would say (For the record, I’ve yet to feel like I’m not allowed to buy more yarn. He usually tells me to buy more). I can spend time plotting projects and buy yarn specifically for them instead of trying to guess what future me will want to make. Although that’s fun too…

Open hat box with four skeins of multi colored yarn, a piece of cedar wood, a lavender satchel and a sock ruler. See caption for links.
Yarn from top to bottom: Rohrspatz & Wollmeise Sockenwolle 80/20 Twin, Rohrspatz & Wollmeise Pure 100% Merino Superwash, The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers Moon Sisters, Uschitita Merino Sock. There is also a piece of cedar and a lavender satchel for month prevention and a sock ruler for quick access.

This isn’t to say that I don’t stash yarn, I totally do! Whether money or space, there has always been a barrier between me and buying all the yarn I touch in a yarn store. Either way, I have usually been in a position to regularly patron a yarn store to touch yarn…

With all this in mind, 2020 has totally put a cramp in my stashing and I’m a little stressed out by the fact that my stash currently has four skeins of sock yarn in it! My box looks sad and empty. Despite having a growing number of favorites and queue on Ravelry, I’m not sure what I want to pick up next. True, I can knit four pairs of socks while I think about it, but it takes time for yarn to be shipped! When you add that to it’s harder to pick and combine colors via a web browser, it hard to to be a little cranky that I can’t go into a yarn store and grope yarn. I was banking on attending wool festivals and tent sales in 2020, perhaps 2021 will have some in store for me (or at least 2022).

Stonewall, Take Two

Yellow orange yarn knit into a stockinet stitch gauge swatch.
Swatching for Stonewall in Wool of the Andes

They say it takes 10,000 hours to master something, which breaks down to about 20 hours a week for 10 years. If you break that down into a work week, that’s roughly five hours a day Monday through Friday. If you take advantage of all seven days then it’s around three hours a day. Three hours a day for 10 years in order to reach 10,000 hours or master level. Crazy.

Mind you, the 10,000 hours must be put toward something called deliberate practice or practicing in a way that pushes your skill set as much as possible (1). I learned how to knit sometime around 2006, which is over ten years ago now, but before I call myself a master I need to admit that deliberate practice did not come until I knit my friend a baby blanket for her first born in 2013. That’s only seven years ago.

I’m a good knitter. Socks come together without following a pattern. Sweaters patterns are modified and manipulated to my hearts desire. Cables are created without the use of a cable needle. I test knit patterns and am able to trouble shoot when there is an error. I’m a good knitter, but I’m not sure I can really call myself an expert based upon the above criteria.

About 8 inches of an in progress yellow orange handknit sweater, 3 inches of bottom ribbing and 5 inches of broken seed stitch.
Stonehill body

Recently, Princeton has conducted research to look into Malcolm Gladwell’s popularized work from over twenty years ago with the following question in mind: Why do so few people who take up an instrument such as the violin, a sport such as golf, or a game such as chess ever reach an expert level of performance (2)? Based upon Gladwell’s 10,000 theory, you would think there would be an easy answer: not many people commit 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to something. I think the point of their question, however, was really are people born experts (and then spend time practicing) or can you become an expert via practicing.

Before I get into what the Princeton study said, you’ll need to excuse my minor geek out moment. The study is a Meta-Analysis, which is something that I encourage my students to look for day in and day out. Essentially, a Meta-Analysis is highly transparent and reproduceable study design meant to answer a question using existing literature while minimizing researcher bias. In short, a team of researchers conduct a systematic search of the literature (using multiple databases) and then perform a title/abstract screen using inclusion/exclusion criteria. When that’s done, they then perform a full text screen using the same criteria. The leftovers studies are then used to write the review and if the data across the studies can be statistically analyzed, the team is able to conduct a meta analysis.

Part of my geek out comes from being a librarian and appraising the study before reporting it back to you. They did a pretty good job and followed the PRISMA reporting guidelines, not too shabby.

A yellow orange handknit sweater sitting in a sink filled with water and a splash of wool wash.
Blocking my Stonewall sweater

Anyway, despite their conclusion saying that more studies are needed to really understand this topic, they found that there are factors that influence skills outside of the 10,000 hour mark (think age and working memory). Which makes me wonder if some of the skills that I learned really quickly happened because I took up knitting seriously right after I finished college. AKA when I was looking to learn something new and challenge myself.

I suppose I wonder this because the motivation that existed for me to learn how to knit does not exist when it comes to learning how to better my crochet, sewing or embroidery skills.

This rabbit hole was inspired by my take two of Alicia Plummer‘s sweater pattern Stonewall, which came out a LOT better than take one. Admittedly, the bar was set pretty low when you consider that take one grew about a foot when I blocked it and I had never picked up stitches for a neckline before. The thing is, it’s still not perfect. I ignored all waist shaping because I usually like a boxier sweater, but I should have done a little bit of it. I also maybe should have gone down an additional needle size when knitting the neckline, even though I’m happy with the stitches for the bottom and sleeve ribbing.

A young woman wearing a textured yellow orange handknit sweater.
My Completed Stonewall Sweater

So where do I stand on the 10,000 hours thing? I would say it’s been a while since I’ve really pushed myself on a project, probably because I enjoy knitting that is semi mindless. That being said, I’ve think I understand how stitches can translate into a garment and can create a mental image of how something will knit up in the yarn that I’m using (pooling aside of course).

All in all, I think I’m mostly happy with my second attempt of the Stonewall sweater and think I’m going to continue to knit projects that inspire me.

Works Cited (Vancouver Style)

  1. Baer D. New study destroys Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule [Internet]. Business Insider. [cited 2020 Nov 7]. Available from: https://www.businessinsider.com/new-study-destroys-malcolm-gladwells-10000-rule-2014-7
  2. Macnamara BN, Hambrick DZ, Oswald FL. Deliberate practice and performance in music, games, sports, education, and professions: a meta-analysis. Psychol Sci. 2014 Aug 1;25(8):1608–18.