Monday, December 31, 2012

Downton Abbey Mystery Knit-A-Long-- Here we go!

Happy almost New Year everyone!

Wow, first, I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you who joined this Knit-A-Long (KAL for short). December was an especially exciting month this year because of this KAL. Back in early November, my co-worker Rachel and I were thinking about the December Lorna's Limited Edition color and what on earth we were going to do with it. We had this gorgeous color picked out but it needed a name. And soon. We had to send all of the info off to Lorna's to be dyed and it had to have a name. I kept looking at this gorgeous color with it's muted holiday hues and seeing Downton Abbey and late Edwardian fashion. I just couldn't get it out of my head. I mentioned it to Rachel and she agreed it was the perfect color for Downton. So, in that moment, "Christmas at Downton" was born.

Shortly after we ordered the yarn, I got to thinking about how fun it would be to design something with the yarn and do a KAL with it to coincide with the show. I mean, how much fun is that, right? I figured if I would participate in something like that, I could get 100 or so people on board, right? Rachel excitedly agreed and I started planning this KAL. Little did I know that not only would 100 people want to participate, but the KAL would shoot to #1 on Ravelry and over 1,700 people would "favorite" it! There are currently 780 confirmed projects on Ravelry for this KAL but over 4,000 people have visited the Jimmy Beans Ravelry Group Thread and we pre-sold over 3,000 skeins of the Sportmate yarn in "Christmas at Downton" color. Simply AMAZING, and we couldn't have done it without all of you fellow Downton fans out there!

**Note** We had do a final cut off on this color and it is no longer available. Please feel free to choose another color of the gorgeous Sportmate yarn instead if you are just now joining us.

In fact, we've sold more of this color than any other yarn in any other color in our 10 year existence. EVER. We actually had to call in a special favor with Lorna's Laces, who along with us, did not expect this to be so popular. We have never done a Mystery KAL like this before, so we truly didn't expect that many people to want to participate, let alone want to use the exact yarn we did. It's been wonderfully overwhelming and exciting. Lorna's Laces has been dyeing the skeins for us as fast as their little hands will allow. (Did you know that they only have 2 full time dyers and they hand-dye each and every skein?! I didn't until recently, and now I know exactly why their colors are so awesome and worth the extra wait time for.) We kept over-estimating how many more we would need, ordering it, and then selling out of it before we could blink, and then ordering more. Seriously, if you've never worked in the knitting industry, this is absolute crazy-sauce! This kind of thing definitely doesn't happen everyday!

Luckily, most people should be getting their yarn in time for the KAL to start on Sunday, the 6th. Even if you didn't order early, it will get there in time for Week 2 and you should have plenty of time to be all caught up by Week 3. This is so very exciting and I can't stress enough how amazing and supportive you all have been this month! Your energy has been so amazing and I am thrilled to be leading you all into the great unknown... (commence eye twinkling and mischievous smile)

So this brings us to the start of the KAL. Today I intend to cover some of the FAQ's I've been getting and give you the important info you've all been waiting for: Gauge! Has anyone ever been more excited to gauge swatch in their life? I know I was super excited to cast on with this scrumptious yarn so I imagine many of you are too! But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves here. We should start with the basics:

How do I sign up?

First, there is no sign up for this KAL. What? No sign up? Yep, that's right. We are super informal here at JBW (for example, every Wednesday is pajama day) and we like to keep things casual and comfortable like you would be with a group of your closest friends or family. In an effort to bring that same feel to our KAL, we like to keep an open forum going and be available for questions at all times. I encourage you all to read through the group threads on Ravelry and all of the comments on the KAL. If you have a question, chances are it's been answered on there already, and if not, you are more than welcome to message us directly on Ravelry and we are happy to get back to you. Our casualness doesn't mean that we don't take our responsibility to you very seriously. I check that inbox every day except Sunday, and always respond to all questions or concerns. I don't like to leave anyone hanging. :)

The same goes for customer service too so please don't hesitate to call our toll free #: (877) 529-5648 if you have questions about your order. I know that many of you are new customers to Jimmy Beans and we always want to make sure that things are right with your orders as well! :)

If there is no sign up, how can I participate?

Join in the conversation on the Raverly Group! We've had tons of fun conversations happening over there and it's like being part of a very large knitting circle-- chaotic, enthusiastic, and fun. Even if you've never joined Ravelry before and you only do so to participate in the KAL, it's worth your time to head over there and join the conversation. That is the most community oriented part of the whole KAL and is a great way to meet knitter's all over the world who share your interest in both knitting and Downton Abbey!

You'll notice that there are many thread topics in the Jimmy Beans Group. If you click on any that have Downton Abbey Mystery KAL in the title, you are on the right track! If you want to start a project and link it to the group, you must first join the group (by clicking the join button when you look at the group page). Then, start your project adding in the appropriate tags for the Downton Abbey Mystery KAL and searching for and selecting the KAL as the "pattern" you are using when creating the project. You can also right click on the image from the KAL to save it to your desktop then upload it as the profile picture for your project until you have an actual project photo to include. Finally, you can "share" this project with the Jimmy Beans Wool group by selecting the group in the drop down bar in the "Share with Group" section. Ravelry's system for uploading projects is done step by step and should be pretty easy to figure out even if you've never done it before but feel free to send questions my way if you get stuck. They (Ravelry) also have an awesome online help-chat you can go to anytime. :)

There are also some other fun ways you can participate. If you happen to be lucky enough to have some knitting buddies in your area, why not get them involved too? You could do weekly knitting groups while you watch Downton and knit this project together. What fun! Several of the gals at the shop have been talking about knitting this together as well, and we've heard many folks say that their entire knitting circle is getting on board. The great thing about online KAL's is that they can really be open for all kinds of community interaction.

What are we going to be knitting?

Mystery KAL's are really fun in that, you don't always know what you are going to knit before hand. Sometimes, depending on the designer you'll at least know that you are knitting a shawl or socks or something like that. I left this open to guessing as I figure that would be more fun. I have given a few clues as to what we are knitting here. Here they are so far:

1) It is not a hat or socks.
2) It is knit in the round.
3) It is an accessory.
4) It is inspired by a garment that my favorite character on the show wears frequently.
5) This character has quite a feisty and opinionated personality. :)

For those concerned about whether or not to participate because you aren't sure if you'll like the design--please, still participate! If you don't want to use your Downton yarn on something you are unsure of then try using something else. In the end, if you aren't in love with the project, you could always give it as a gift or rip it out. The best part of the KAL is the experience. I'm sure you won't regret participating either way, and maybe you'll learn something new in the process! :)

Also, it sounds like there are a lot of first-time KAL participants here! Bravo and thank you for choosing us to be your first! It will be a lot of fun, and we don't bite. Promise! The biggest tip for enjoying your first KAL is to participate actively. Even if you are shy don't want to comment, at least read the threads and comments. It will help you feel like you are part of the action!

How do I get the pattern?

Each Sunday morning starting on the 6th, I will release a little bit of the pattern on this blog for you to knit while you watch that evening. (For those who don't know, the 3rd season of Downton Abbey begins in the US on Jan 6th, on PBS. Check your local listings for exact time.) You will have enough pattern for at least a couple of hours worth of knitting, plenty to get you through until the next clue. Many people will want to have other project going as well as I expect most people will not need more than a few hours to complete each section. However, everyone works at their own pace, and if you don't work at the same speed as someone else, please don't get discouraged. It's not a race and we are all here to help support you if you get stuck! :)

On that first week, I will provide some video resources with the first clue blog for learning to do the cast-on and would encourage all of you who haven't done this type of cast-on before to practice a bit before hand or cast on before the show so you are ready to knit while the show is airing. Allowing yourself plenty of time for this will ensure you have an easy start.

How will I know if I can manage this pattern's difficulty level?

I would consider this pattern to be an advanced beginner level pattern. The skills you will need to be able to successfully knit this pattern are:

-increases such as: yo and k1f&b
-decreases such as: ssk, k2tog, and k3tog
-other stitches such as: sl st and psso
-Knitting in the round
-Crochet provisional cast-on (a couple of different methods are out there and if you want to get a jump start, you can do a google search to find some tutorials)

Most of these are part of the lace panel. The lace panel is quite simple and is considered advanced beginner or intermediate lace work. You can simplify the pattern entirely by omitting this lace section if you'd like. I will release the entire lace instructions at once so that you can knit it and try it before committing to it as well.

I am confident that any knitter who has done the above skills at least once prior to the KAL start, should be able to read and understand the pattern and complete their project. If you are unsure of what any of the above terms mean is a great resource and so is Google as well. :)

What supplies do we need to participate?

-200-270 yards of a sportweight yarn
-US size 3 needles for knitting in the round (I am using DPNs but you are welcome to do the magic loop or two-circular method)
-A crochet hook and waste yarn for your provisional cast on. (Gauge isn't super important for this part but I find using a slightly larger gauge of yarn than what I am using for the project works best for me. I used a US size H hook and a worsted weight yarn.)
-Other handy tools: A darning needle for finishing, scissors, a ruler or something to check gauge, a row counter, pencil and paper.

I'm ready to swatch! What is the gauge?

Ok knitters, here is the moment you've been waiting for! The gauge for this project is: 26 sts and 36 rows to 4" in stockinette stitch. I knit my gauge swatch flat so this gauge will be accurate if you also knit yours flat. Gauge will change slightly when knit in the round, and the pattern accounts for this. Swatch away my friends, and prepare for the fun to begin on Sunday!!!

Once again, thank you all so much for participating in what is sure to be a super fun KAL. I am so excited to take this journey with you! If I didn't answer all of your questions above, and you have remaining questions for me (that don't include asking me to reveal what we are knitting) then please feel free to send me a direct message on Ravelry via "Jimmy Beans Wool" or on my personal profile "Marinade". (Feel free to friend me, or "favorite" the KAL while you are at it, or any of my other designs too. Shameless plug, I know.)  If you don't use Ravelry, you can e-mail me directly at: kristen(at)jimmybeanswool(dot)com. I am here for you and more than happy to help!

Happy knitting everyone!

PS. Some of the folks on the Ravelry thread have been taking this fun quiz: What Downton Abbey Character are you? I thought I would provide the link here in case you wanted to take it as well:

PPS. And for those who want to know, I am Anna Smith. ;)

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