Each year, Stephen West's mystery KAL is a sure sign of the autumn. And of course, I had to take part in the craziness.
What: Speckle and pop / Stephen West
How: Circular needle 3.5 mm
From: Canon Handdyes Charles Sock + Lystig Merino Single + Petrichor Yarns Shiny Sock + jämiä, 97 + 52 + 96 + 59 g
The whole thing kicked off with instructions to choosing your yarns. The shawl called for three skeins of speckled main colors that you could fade. So the idea was to form sort of a gradient. Also, you would need 20 grams of five different color pops. This sounded like quite a lot of yarn! But hey, it's Stephen and his shlankets.
For me, it's the whole point of Stephen's MKAL to get out of your comfort zone. So, I chose a quite wild trio for my main colors. If we start at the more serene end, first, I chose a beautiful blue and grey semisolid sock yarn with bling from Petrichor Yarns which I had bought from last summer's knit fest. It was easy to pair up with another festival purchase, a single merino from Lystig that had a very light, almost white grey background and speckles in all the colors of the rainbow. So far very good. And then straight out of the comfort zone: for the third color I chose a yarn I had gotten as Tour de Sock prize few years ago. It was sock yarn from Canon Handdyes. The best I can do to describe the color is to say it reminds me of a unicorn on an acid trip throwing up a rainbow. It's wild and free and yet a logical choice to combine with the first two skeins as it had the same rainbow colors as the speckles on the second skein. Though, I don't usually go for such a wild color choice.
The MKAL started at the end of September. The first clue resulted in a huge half circle type of a thing. It was big enough to be a shawl on its own. The half circle was formed by knitting short rows with the main colors (fading them) and narrow lace rows with the color pops. Right off the back, I started to second guess my choices. The shape was nice and fun to work but the instructions said to start with your darkest/most colorful main color. The unicorn on acid trip was an eye sore on its own. As I finally got to fade it with the second main color, things started to look better. And now, in the finished shawl, I quite like to end result. But the beginning had me guessing for a while. More than one of my knitterly friends took a look at the color and asked if was feeling a bit ill.
The size of the first clue was quite a challenge - not to mention all those yarn ends to weave in. Not that many knitters could finish the first clue in time and I didn't catch up until the third clue. And even at that point, I had only weaved in half of the yarn ends of the first clue.
Luckily, the second clue was a lot faster. It was an asymmetric wedge worked with the main colors. I guess it was meant to shape the shawl to a more asymmetric shape but I felt that mainly, Stephen had come up with a fun texture he wanted to try somewhere. It's some sort of a combination of broken seed stitch and linen stitch. The texture looks fun but the most interesting thing about it was how it blended the main colors so well you can't tell them apart. I'm glad it was such a small piece in the final shawl as I felt the texture was a bit too stiff to work in a shawl.
As if things hadn't been interesting enough so far, the third clue blew my mind in more than one way. It started off wild. You picked up stitches at the bottom edge of the shawl and knitted garter stitch triangles. Yes, triangles! For a moment I thought that was the edge of the shawl but I was wrong. After the triangles, you were instructed to work these huge holes to the shawl. On one hand, I knew I could trust that Stephen knows what he's doing. On the other hand, it's Stephen! And anything could follow. It could result in a mind blowingly beautifuul shawl or it could end up being something i would never use myself. As I was working the enormous holes, I was mainly thinking WHAT AM I KNITTING? I was suspicous that the shawl was a big hoax and in reality we were knitting nets for fishing trips for next summer.
After the triangles and holes the rest of the shawl was a mix of garter stitcha and brioche. Youu had to knit for a while before you started to see what was happening. At this point, there were 62 stitch markers and ove 800 stitches. One row took ages and as you're knitting brioche, one row kind of takes two rows. So I fell off the MKAL wagon for good and didn't finish my shawl until just a few weeks ago.
The last clue was instructions for bind off. And quite an operation that was too! The shawl was finished off with an i-cord bindoff but not your usual i-cord bindoff. Nope. Each garter stitch/brioche wedge was bound off with a different color pop. It took quite some time to work the bind off while hiding the yarn ends inside the i-cord at the same time. A few times I already found myself thinking that I found my groove and had good pace - only to notice I had forgotten to keep hiding the yarn ends.
What a project! If you wanted to be extra wild, you could have made a crochet edge for each hole but I wasn't feeling quite that frisky.
All in all, it turned out really pretty. That unicorn on an acid trip calmed down well once I got all my main colors in the shawl. And even those giant holes made sense in the end. And this was a really interesting knit as you can probably tell by the amount of stuff I had to say about it.