A Yarn Tells Different Stories

What happens when a group of knitters start with identical skeins of yarn? Our knitting group found out recently. We discovered Lorna’s Laces String Quintet mini-skeins in a color-way called Jamie’s Kilt. Every one of us has been watching and enjoying Outlander; it did not take much encouragement to yield to the temptation of nice yarn with such a great name. A knit along with Jamie was inevitable.

The KAL

The rules for our KAL were simple, we all had to include the yarn reminiscent of Jamie’s Kilt but patterns were of our own choosing.  First we set up a Ravelry thread, created a tag (jamies-kilt-along) for our projects, ordered our yarn, and then began our search for patterns. Those of us using just the skeins were limited to 535 yards, which helped narrow it down a bit. None of us were inspired by lacey patterns, although texture, cables, or pleats were definitely appropriate and some of us went in that direction. We did pattern searches on Ravelry, but even narrowing it down to “shawl” within a yarn weight and a yardage range resulted in searches that were pages and pages long. Potential patterns were shared, additional yarn choices were explored, and suggestions were given and received on our thread. After much deliberation, eventually we all cast on shawls and started our individual journeys, journeys that ended in very different places. Two of us used just the mini-skeins, one person added a pale green background to highlight her mini-skeins, and another added a deep blue background accented with orange highlights.

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We had 4 people in the group participating, which I will refer to as knitter E, K, L, and P which, coincidentally, are their initials.

Knitter E

imageUsing the mini-skeins plus a skein of pale green for the background, knitter E chose a beautifully textured pattern by Melanie Berg, A Spark of Grey. She used the mini-skeins sequentially for the textured pattern within the green background and finished the border with two of the remaining mini-skeins rather than continuing the pale green background into the border, giving it a nice contrast.

Knitter K

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Using just the mini-skeins, but splitting each skein in half to create two sets of skeins, knitter K (that would be me) knit the first set sequentially and mirrored the color order with the second set of skeins. The color swaths were narrower than in knitter L’s shawl, which used full skeins, but colors were repeated. The Issa pattern by Katie White features cable like texture in the middle panel and a simple picot edge.

Knitter L

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Using just the mini-skeins and ordering them sequentially, knitter L made a lovely And So Are You designed by Rose Beck. It all works together so well, the shawl features a nice texture and a pleated border; the pattern does not detract from the colors of the skeins and the colors do not detract from the stitch work. The pleats are perfect for a shawl inspired by a kilt.

Knitter P

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Using the mini-skeins, deep blue, and a touch of orange, knitter P also chose a Melanie Berg pattern that features frequent color changes, Drachenfels. Her touch of orange was an inspiration, a color pop that really sets off the others. She did a smart thing, brought her skeins into her LYS and worked with someone to find the perfect combination. This one was a “wow” when I first saw it, so striking and so different.

In The End

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Starting with identical yarn, adding individual visions, and ending with something completely different, each project was unique and creative as the person who knit it. KALs are always so fascinating because–whatever the common thread or theme–the finished projects have so much variation. Whether it is using the same pattern, the same yarn, or even the same pattern and yarn, somehow individual knitters find ways to make it their own. The fun is in seeing all those variations and sharing the journey to the finish line.

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Kilt Along: The Comfort of Knitting

Our KAL, in our case Kilt-along, was something I have really been looking forward to. April Fools Day could not come soon enough for me to stop the planning and get started on the real deal. When we first launched this idea, I did not realize just how much I would benefit from a clear calendar and a quiet day of knitting along.

When asked why I knit, I can think of many reasons. Perhaps the most important is the sense of calm I get from the meditative practice of knitting. At any given time I have several projects on the needles and rotate them based on my frame of mind. For mindless, let-my-mind-wander knitting it is perfect to have something simple on the needles that does not require a lot of attention; also a perfect project for distracted knitting such as watching television or social knitting with a group. When I have a stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off day, nothing beats a complicated project for taking my focus away from whatever is keeping me awake at night and putting it into concentrating on precise instructions and making complicated stitch patterns. From the difficult to to the simple, my knitting projects provide me with a sense of calm.

Sometimes the quest for calm is a difficult one. For anyone who has been told by someone in the medical profession that there could be “something” and it will require a closer look, the rotation of thoughts that ran through my brain might sound familiar. In that stressful period between hearing that more investigation is needed and waiting for the results of that investigation, the thoughts circled like a Ferris wheel from the highs to the lows; from the optimistic it-is-probably-nothing to the dire this-could-be-it thoughts. Yes I know we all will have our time, but I could not stop thinking that now is not the time. But maybe it is the time. Why now? Why not now?  Do I need to stop singing When I’m 64 and start singing If I’m 64? Above all, how could knowing the worst be any worse than all the dizzying thoughts repeated while waiting to know?

Matters are made challenging by the overburdened medical resources in our area. We have a large regional medical group, but clearly not large enough. In the days after being told I would be contacted to make an appointment for the follow-up test the phone did not ring. When I had enough of waiting on edge I called them. I was told that it would take 7-10 days for insurance approval but…they were not sure it had even been requested because, after all, it had only been a couple of days. A couple of days that my mental Ferris wheel has been spinning and picking up speed. When I finally received a call it did little to alleviate my nerves. They could not schedule me for several weeks.  The wheel still turning, I called back and inquired about other locations. The good news was, yes there was an appointment that was only a week later, but the bad news was it was an hours drive each way.

The day before our Kilt-Along commenced, the spouse drove with me on the long journey for my test. It took nearly two hours, and I was a bit shakey when at last we were through, but it was in the books. Although I know techs tell you nothing, when he said, “Be sure to make an appointment to discuss the results with your doctor,” I wondered if that remark did mean something. That worry joined right in with the many other crazy thoughts riding around on the Ferris wheel. Did he see something, or does he always say that? Round and round that thought rode along with the many others.

Kilt-Along morning, Ferris wheel in full spin, I gathered up my yarn and started in. Of course it is a fantasy to think of the yarn as Jamie’s kilt, but the colors as I knit made it so. I sensed the warmth and comfort of the soft browns as the yarn slipped through my fingers and slowly began to look like the beginnings of a shawl. The new pattern drew my attention away from my thoughts and brought it to the process of knitting. So worn out from the previous day and the worrying days leading up to it, this day was a gift to myself. I was making something that was giving me comfort as I knit and would give me comfort when I finished, whatever happened. The frustrations of scheduling and testing was over, I had only to await the results. When the phone rang around noon, I drew in a breath and answered with a tentative hello. A nurse told me the results. It was…going to be okay. When I was rather quiet, perhaps waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop, she said, “This is good news.” I realized I was still holding my breath and had to struggle to let it go before I could hear, understand, or respond.

The Ferris wheel slowed and came to a halt, when I got off that spinning ride I found that I was emotionally and physically exhausted. Click, click, click, the rhythm of my needles sang as the soft brown yarn formed into patterns and slowed the spinning in my head. Like being weeks aboard ship, it took a bit of time to stop feeling the sway. It was the repetitive forming of stitches and the soft yarn sliding across my fingers that, stitch by stitch, eventually brought everything back to stillness.

Wrapped in the warmth of knitting to be wrapped in the comfort of a soft brown kilt. This is why I knit.

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