Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Downton Abbey craft-along progress...This is supposed to be *relaxing*, right?!

Well HELLO to all you gals and guys out there in Blog Reading Land! I'm so glad that you're here! I thought the time was right for a crafty post, and so here we are, crafting along together. :)

This has been rather a busy week, and in terms of knitting and crocheting, I am WAY behind. But let's ignore that little tidbit for the time being. Last Sunday hearkened the start of the annual Downton Abbey mystery knit- and crochet-along and like the Type A Eager Beaver that I am, I downloaded the first clue right away and started knitting.

*spoiler alert! If you're doing the MKAL or MCAL and don't want to see progress photos, skip this post :)*

So, the way that this works is that each Sunday morning, a clue comes out with a portion of the pattern. We do know that the finished items will be shawls, but not how the designs will look. This continues throughout the season of Downton Abbey, with the final clue being released for the finale.

I decided to start with the knit shawl and leave the crochet clue for later in the week. I excitedly get my wound yarn and needles and look at the pattern: it calls for a heretofore unknown to me cast on method devised by some woman named Emily Ocker. It's a method of casting on in the round using a small amount of stitches, whereby you create a ring that can be pulled together later, creating a nice, small, non-gappy circle. That all sounds super efficient and lovely, right?

Well. :) Casting onto double pointed needles with just a few stitches on each needle creates...let's just say A NEAR OCCASION OF SIN. The needles are flopping every which way, stitches are sliding off of needles such that I have to start over, all the way back to the ring, I can't discern which needle even comes next in the circle and if it's facing the right direction...I have to re-start the thing multiple times, and by the third or fourth try, I'm pretty punchy. I'm thinking very uncharitable thoughts about this nefarious Emily Ocker, who has so obviously created a device of torture for knitters. Over on the Ravelry discussion board for the knit-along, people are dramatically declaring that they have given up and are electronically flouncing off. I'm far too stubborn to give up, but I'm certainly not happy about it.

I finally manage to get through the first few rounds by holding the needles taut in place using an octopus-like hand configuration and then things get a tad steadier. I knit and increase for about 10 rounds, cautiously optimistic about my future shawl. Then I pull on the yarn tail, which allegedly will close up my ring, and give me a beautiful center to the lace motif. Nothing happens.


Let's just say that that wasn't a good moment and leave it at that. Mike had to gently intervene, coaxing me to put the knitting down and not rip it from the needles. Then I pretended to be totally calm and over it, before sneaking off with my phone to frantically text my friend Stacy, who is also participating in the knit-along. She texted me off the ledge, convincing me to leave it on the needles for her to look at in the morning.

Over lunch the next day, Stacy and I figured out a way to pull up a different loop from the original ring and pull it *mostly* taut. It wasn't the way it was supposed to work, I had clearly done something wrong all the way back at the evil, Satan-spawned cast on, but it worked, and so I didn't have to start over and risk losing what is left of my mind. After that, I finished the rest of clue 1 without incident, thankfully:

At least it's done
It's a scrunchy photo, to be sure, but as you can see it has a nice lacy look, and I'm wondering if the final design will be a pi shawl. We will soon find out.

Around mid-week, I started in on the crochet clue. This one generally went better, although I will say that this is not a beginner-level pattern. It's definitely intermediate, and the directions were difficult to follow. The message boards had lots of back-and-forth with the designer to decipher the pattern language, and there was even an update provided to the pattern to clarify things better. I was rather glad that the dust had settled somewhat before I picked this one up. I also switched my yarn choice from a solid teal color to a variegated autumn colorway, and I really love the result:

One can never have too many autumn hues in their wardrobe...
Right now it looks like a budding granny square, yes indeed, but I'm very fond of it. It looks like in clue 2 we may go asymmetrical, so excitement is in store! If you're a crochet nerd, that is. ;-)

I've started in on clue 2 for the knit version, and it's going well, albeit slowly because I have little time to work on it this week. I will post updates as the shawls progress!

How about you, dear reader? Are you working on either of these shawls? Write in and let me know how it's going. :)


  1. I'm not the least bit crafty--to my great dismay! However, the sisters who live here at our motherhouse and at our retirement house are incredible! We had a wonderful craft fair in December and the products were just unbelievable!

  2. Sr. Anne Marie, how lovely! It is indeed a wonderful pastime. :)

  3. I'm behind on my Downton shawl. By about 3 weeks. I wasn't thrilled with the Yorkshire Skies color but found another I liked that I ordered off of Etsy. After I ordered it I realized that it would come in a hank and I would have to wind it by hand. I hadn't wound anything by hand before but I figured I could look it up on YouTube. I mentioned this to a knitting friend and she showed me how to wind by hand and gave me some tips and tricks. I tried it on a smaller amount of yarn at home and that seemed to go well. However winding the yarn for my Downton shawl turned into a disaster. Let's just say I'm going to be investing in a swift and ball winder.

    I wasn't originally planning to swatch. It's a shawl so does it really matter if it is a little bit bigger or smaller? However after reading many comments in the preMKAL thread on Ravelry I decided since I haven't really done lace before I should swatch. Three swatches later I think I have the right size needles and am ready to cast on.

    I am going to join the minority and say that I like the Emily Ocker cast on. I liked that it was already joined into a circle and I didn't have to join it being careful not to twist. About half the time my stitches get twisted and I have to start over. However I wasn't able to cast on immediately and was reading all of the post on Ravelry where people were declaring their hate for it. So I was expecting it to be super hard and while took me a few tries to get it, it wasn't as hard as I was expecting.

    I've almost finished clue 1 but I think it looks too loose. I'm planing to go down a needle size and start over with the other ball. I can then compare the two and decide which one I like better.

    And thus ends the longest comment I have ever written. :)

  4. Hi Melanie, yes swift & winder = indispensable when it comes to fingering weight yarn.:-) Glad it's going well for you. I *just* finished clue 2, haven't looked at 3 yet, so I'm a tax behind myself. But that's what the boards are for, timing doesn't really matter, happily.


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