There are knitalongs (KALs), where participants decide to knit the same pattern at the same time. There are also mystery projects, where a designer releases a pattern bit by bit and you find out what it will look like by knitting it. I’ve never done either until this pattern came along, which was both a KAL and a mystery. Yes, I plunged into something, armed only with a promise that somehow this was going to turn into a shawl. This is not normal behavior for me, but this pattern (what little I knew about it) was intriguing. Follow Your Arrow is a knitting pattern done in the style of choose your own adventure. There were going to be five clues over five weeks. Each clue would have two alternatives, and at each stage, you’d choose one or the other, and yet no matter which one you chose, either of the next week’s clues would fit it. I couldn’t resist the sheer technical magnificence of the whole thing.
Choosing a yarn for a mystery project is a challenge. If you don’t know what the finished item will look like (“shawl” is kind of vague), how can you best match yarn to project? Despite having a stash large enough that it should be paying a share of my rent, I didn’t have enough of any one yarn in the gauge called for. I ended up buying Silky Wool in color 10 (Woad). I’ve been curious about this yarn for years, so here was a chance to try it, and the KAL experience, and the mystery pattern experience all at once.
January 13: Clue 1A was a set of written directions; Clue 1B had a chart. 1A had instructions on how to start a row with a yarnover, which I’d never thought of doing, and there was something about it making a kite shape when you were done. 1B’s chart looked as if there would be be some sort of zigzag design involved. I’m atrocious at visualizing things from reading written instructions, so I chose 1A to see what it would turn into, whereas with 1B’s chart, I figured I had some idea of where that would take me. My choice turned out to work well for my yarn. Silky Wool shows off texture wonderfully, and the stripes of stockinette and garter stitch let it shine.
January 20: Clue 2A had a chart and was definitely looking lacy. 2B, like 1A, was a set of written directions that I couldn’t turn into a picture, but it was saying something about short rows. Having just decided that Silky Wool was excellent for texture, I wanted more of it. I thought 2B might even out the wedge, and if nothing else, it would be interesting seeing how the garter stitch lay against what I already had.
January 27: At Clue 3, all roads led to lace. I was trying to see a shawl in the shape I had, and failing. I chose 3A mainly because I just didn’t feel called to the zigzag pattern I could see in 3B’s chart. This clue was only 12 rows long, and what with staying home unexpectedly (the polar vortex was producing dangerous wind chills that day), I zipped through this clue.
February 3: Clue 4A was described as being more complicated than 4B, so I went for it. Ysolda Teague, who’d been participating actively in the KAL (and that’s really cool), produced a video just for the 3-into-5 stitch that’s part of this clue (it forms those rounded corners on the left and bottom of the shawl), and I had to try it. I was happy to see that Clue 4A incorporated garter stitch. I’d been worried that the shawl was beginning to look patched together, but the garter stitch in the lace could tie the lace and solid sections together. And this was the point at which I started noticing just how long those rows were getting (anything takes longer when you have to count your way through pattern repeats).
February 10: Suddenly my enthusiasm and curiosity vanished and I finished the shawl on willpower alone. (I’m willing to blame Mercury retrograde for this.) There wasn’t any pressure to keep working because there wasn’t going to be another clue on the 17th that I’d want to be ready for, so it was tempting to just let this drift. I finished it because I was determined to start the next project in my queue and didn’t want to risk this turning into a UFO. Now that’s it’s been blocked, it definitely looks like a shawl. I’m disappointed that the texture from the first two sections faded when I stretched the shawl out to open up the lace. But I’d been worried that the shawl wouldn’t be big enough to wrap around me, and blocking it solved that problem, as it grew noticeably (it’s about 58″/147 cm wide and 27″/69 cm deep).
It wasn’t until I’d soaked the shawl, wrung it out a bit, and was laying it out on my blocking mats that I discovered I’d dropped a stitch when binding off. So there I am, crochet hook in hand, trying to figure out how to catch all the loose strands in some not-terribly-obvious way, kneeling in a gravity-defying position, and trying not to get my shirt sleeves soaked by leaning on the shawl. Not fun.
I was too busy knitting to really pay all that much attention to the social aspects of the KAL. I’d look through the discussions every now and then, but I was trying to avoid spoilers, and anyway, I had to knit! But I do remember getting a sense of the worldwide popularity of this project when I would read comments from Australians that their summer was being horrendously hot, and only this project was getting them to do any knitting at all.
Will I try another of the 32 possible variants of this pattern? I don’t know. Knowing what my options are will make it easier to choose a good yarn, and I’m curious about many of the untried options, but all 32 options make a lacy shawl and I’m not that much of a lace knitter. So definitely not right away. But I do have some ideas l want to try out. What I need is Hermione Granger’s ability to knit via magic!