Kilt Along: a KAL to Arms

April Fool’s Day, the perfect day to start a KAL–or Jamie’s Kilt-Along more specifically–making anything that uses either the mini-skeins or the single skein version of Lorna’s Laces Jamie’s Kilt colorway.

Planning for it has been almost as enjoyable as diving right in. The fun has been in seeing what people are going to make and how they are going to incorporate the yarns. Some are combining the colorway with complimentary yarns and some using only the mini-skeins. Interestingly, everyone’s pack of skeins came in a different color order so there is no set gradient scale; how we order our crayons in the box is up to each individual.

imageMy favorite stage of a project is always when it is the images in my mind, imagining the what-can-be before the reality of the what-have-I-done hits followed by the inevitable coulda-shoulda-woulda regrets. For this yarn I pictured a cozy shawl in the warm colors, something to comfortingly wrap around my shoulders. Picking a pattern was a challenge in winnowing down the thousands of options; even limiting Ravelry searches to shawl, 450-600 yards range, fingering weight, and “in my favorites” resulted in pages and pages of options. I narrowed it down to shawls with texture, avoiding the lacy and delicate options as that did fit with the theme as I envisioned it. The candidates were Swan Lake by Penny Schumers, Cerasifera by Kirsten Kapur, Enticing by Jennifer Weissman, and Nutmeg by Ágnes Kutas-Keresztes. And, as things like this usually happen, I later stumbled across Issa by Katie White, a fairly simple shawl with loads of texture in a center panel. It also looked very easy to modify.

Being able to modify the size of a pattern is definitely a plus with multiple colors. It is always a challenge with gradients and mini-skeins to find a pattern that uses the yardage almost exactly, to work in all the colors while at the same time not run out of yarn. In other words, a game of yarn chicken. My personal best in the game of yarn chicken was about 15 inches of yarn remaining after I bound off, but it is not a fun game when winning is in doubt up to the last cast-off stitch. It is like penalty shoot outs in soccer or hockey, you may win in the end–or lose in a heartbreaker–but there is a lot of nervous energy spent before the results are in. Being able to modify a pattern increases my odds of getting out of a close game with a win.

Gradient yarns are fun to use–the colors gradually change as the yarn spools off the imagecake–whereas mini-skeins are more like stripes or swaths of color. Mini-skeins are more flexible in how the colors are mixed and ordered. Among the many options, one could do narrow stripes alternating the colors, narrow stripes of multi-colors within a main color, or wide swaths of non-repeating colors.  What I decided to do was a mirror effect, so that with 5 colors I do color 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 then 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ending with the same color I had started with. The first thing that might occur to the reader is that many mini-skein color changes means many not-so-mini ends to weave in. I was very skeptical at first, but the magic cake used in the Magic Cake Ruffle Shawl by Paula Emons-Fuessle opened up my eyes to new possibilities for joining pieces of yarn together without the chaos of spaghetti hanging off the back of the work. Her “magic cake” is made by joining multiple pieces of yarn into a single cake using a magic knot to attach them. Jane Richmond made a nice You-Tube video showing the magic knot:

JR Magic Knot Video

It is not at all hard to do but if not done right it will not hold, there is no shame in watching the video again and again. As I do it, I say to myself that the top knot is “over-under-around-and through” and the bottom knot is “under-over-around-and-through.” It can probably done in the opposite, I think the important thing is that they are done in different directions but that is how I remember it. I also tug the yarn really hard after I have pulled the knots together and trimmed them, it is like checking for your keys before you lock your car rather than after. Now is the time to know if the knot has to be redone when nothing is at risk. Finding out it will not hold while knitting it would be annoying, finding out after the project is completed would be disastrous.

To make my project cake I first wound all my mini-skeins into individual cakes and weighed them each on my little portable scale. I placed my cakes in color order and, beginning with color 1, put the cake on the scale and wound 1/2 of it into a center pull cake on my ball winder. I then did the same for colors 2-4, joining each new color with a magic knot. Because color 5 was the center, I wound it in its entirety then completed the project cake by adding the remaining colors 4, 3, 2, and 1. Now I have a single center pull cake with the colors in the amounts and order that I plan to use them.

What I have found with a shawl that is shaped in something like a crescent or triangle is that the color swaths are wider at the top where the shawl is narrower and thinner at the bottom where the shawl is wider because it takes less yarn to do a row at the top and more yarn to do a row at the bottom. This holds true for both top-down and bottom-up shawls. Side-to side shawls would have wider swaths of color at the ends and narrower swaths in the center because the edges take less yarn to complete a row at the sides and more in the center. Because I am doing a mirrored effect with the yarns, I did not trouble to do something like 1/4 of the yarn to start and 3/4 to finish because I expect it will all work out nicely with the color repeats in reverse order. But…as I mentioned above, this is based on the images in my mind and I may be saying coulda-shoulda-woulda later on (smiley face). The one regret I have already is that I did not save out some snippets of each color; if I need to make any after the fact repairs I will only have the bits and bobs left over from the cast-on and bind-off in color 1. Whoops. Guess I will not be able to have any repairable mistakes, knitting perfection will be a must else the project will be a bust.

Well, there it is. Having answered the call to arms I am ready to begin my Kilt-Along. To steal a line from the British Baking Show, “Knitters, on your marks, get ready, set, KNIT!”

Here is hoping the reality will measure up to the beautiful vision in my imagination.

Be sure to see all our projects by searching for our project tag on Ravelry, “jamies-kilt-along”.

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