Mystery Knit-A-Longs - 8 Tips To Help You With Your First MKAL
After recently participating in the Westknits Slipstravaganza Mystery Knit-A-Long (MKAL), I thought it would be helpful for those who have never joined a MKAL, to post a few tips to get you ready to join in!
So firstly, what is a MKAL?
A Mystery Knit-A-long is run by designers or yarn companies who, over the course of a few weeks, release bite-sized pattern pieces (often referred to as 'clues') of a mystery design, usually a shawl. Knitters receive these clues via email and work through them, hopefully completing each clue before the next one arrives. As each clue is completed, the design slowly unfolds until the complete version is revealed. Joining an MKAL takes a little bit of planning, and there a a few rules that I'll talk about in more detail below. So, here's my eight tips on joining your first MKAL; I hope you find them helpful.
#1 Research The Designer
It's a pretty obvious tip, but I guess this is the first step in deciding if you want to join an MKAL. Check out the designer: are their designs something you love or want to knit? Are they well established, and have they run a MKAL before? If the answer is yes, then proceed to the next step (i.e. tip #2!).
#2 Find Out The Difficulty Level
If you've just started knitting, the worst thing you want is to join a MKAL and find that it's too advanced for you. So make sure you check the difficulty level before you join in. You can always email the designer or ask in the MKAL forums on Ravelry or Facebook. Most MKALs these days have helpful YouTube videos that accompany each clue. These usually include videos on the techniques used, and some even have step-by-step instructions. While I was knitting the Westknit MKAL(see my shawl above), I had a few new knitters ask if I thought the pattern was beginner friendly. By looking at the design it looks really complicated; however, each clue was linked to a video that included step-by-step instructions, so, yes, it's absolutely beginner friendly!
A few weeks before the MKAL begins, the designer will start emailing a few 'hints' along with yarn and needle requirements. These hints usually give you some idea of what colours you will need and how to put together your own colour combination. A LOT of people find this to be the hardest part of the knit a-long, yet there is help if you know where to look. Most indie dyers put together kits, so search around and find colours you love. If you are wanting to use your own yarn, then use the indie-dyer kits as inspiration to help build your own combinations from stash. You can also check forums and social media hashtags to see what colours or yarns other people are using. Just make sure you write down the order in which colours will be used (for example, CC1 will be blue, CC2 will be light pink etc.), so you don't forget halfway through. Also, make sure you have the right sized needle/s and cable/s ready to go, as well as stitch markers and any other notions you need!
#4 Join The Online Forums
Half the fun of joining in a MKAL is being involved and knitting together with others in the online forums. Here you can ask questions, seek help, find inspiration, meet other knitters from around the world, and find encouragement to finish each clue.
#5 Set Aside time
There is often a lot of buzz that surrounds a MKAL with people talking about it online, yarn dyers dyeing kits and the designer posting enticing photos and information. It's really easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all. However, just take a minute to really think about the amount of time you will have to dedicate to the MKAL. If you are strapped for time, maybe it's not a good idea to join in. You do need to make sure you can keep up with each clue because falling behind can lead to the project never being finished (yep, been there!). It's also a really good idea to make sure that you finish any lingering projects before the knit-a-long starts. That way you will have lots of time to dedicate towards each clue. I usually have something small like socks on the needles, so when I'm waiting for the next clue I have something to knit on.
#6 Don't Post Spoilers
A big no no is to post public pictures of your project while the MKAL is still going. The whole idea is that each clue is a mystery, so make sure you don't spoil the mystery for others who may not be as far into the pattern as you are. You can post pictures with a SPOILER warning and there are threads in forums where you can post pictures, but just be careful. You can post pictures of your yarn, just not of the project. Of course, once the MKAL is over then post away!
#7 Use Hashtags
There are always hashtags connected to MKALs, and it's a great idea to share your yarn choices and spoiler pictures (don't forget to add a spoiler alert!) using the hashtag. It's also a fun way to follow along on what other people are knitting. So find out what the hashtag is and use it!
#8 Have Fun
And the final tip is to have fun! Don't get anxious or worry if you fall behind on clues, just enjoy the process. Make sure you get involved in the forums and on social media and that you share your completed project at the end of the MKAL. Sharing your projects is always appreciated by the designer and the yarn supplier (i.e. us!).