I've always been a bit wary of the Secret knit-a-longs, both they Mystery Shawl or the Mystery stole variety. On one hand, the mystery, the clues, the anticipation of seeing what its going to grow into, that's all pretty exciting. And, at least with Goddess Knits (Mystery Shawl), and Pink Lemon Twist (MS1, MS2 and MS3), you can take a look at their old patterns, and it's a pretty good bet that they'll always turn out a good design. On the other hand, I'm a firm believer in picking the right yarn for the right project, and if you don't know what the project is going to look like, it's a crap shoot.
But, even knowing what the project is going to look like, it's still easy to make a mistake in choosing the right yarn.
The forest path stole has been on my list of things to knit for some time. I had Carol dye me up some Black Bunny laceweight in a color called Acorn - I saw fall, I saw a forest - all nutty and golden. But, when I cast on Forest Path, the seed stitch looked like, well, mud. So, a tossed my 2200 yards aside, mad at the yarn - how dare you knit up like that? You have foiled my project!
Having been one of the earlier Ravelers, I got to see MS3 grow over the weeks into what would become Swan Lake. I loved it - I love the point on one end, the wing on the other - it looks simply ethereal on (I have to admit, it does look kind of goofy blocking - it really needs that wrap affect to do it justice). Instead of just buying the pattern when it came out, I signed up for Secret of the Stole, and was convinced that it would be equally as fantastic.
I won't show you pictures of my Secret of the Stole - I'm just not loving it. The yarn I chose, a rust, slightly marled alpaca, just isn't right. And, I'm not going to say anything negative about the pattern - it's very well written, the charts are easy to read, and a lot of people are really loving knitting it. I, however, knew from the beginning of the first clue that I wasn't in love with it - I just don't like the finlike way it started - I like butterflies and winged creatures, not sharks, or dolphins, or other fin-ny creatures. So, it's simply a matter of taste - and I abandoned it, and bought Swan Lake.
After buying Swan Lake, I purchased this yarn, and these beads at Stitches.
From Skaska, its 1600 yards of laceweight yak/silk. Someone else in blogland mentioned that the yarn has a very distinctive smell - I haven't noticed the smell, but when I cast on, I did find that it's slightly thinner than Zephyr, and doesn't have any fibers that will bloom. While I had this idea in my head that I wanted Swan Lake to shimmer, to be a silver color, I had again picked the wrong yarn. I could have gone down a needle size, but the beads looked really bulky on this yarn, and this yarn just doesn't seem to want to do a lot of stockinette. So, I tossed it aside - and revisited my Black Bunny.
I really didn't want to use a variegated yarn - I didn't think the lace motifs would show. But, it was kind of just sitting there, and I just had a "huh" idea in my head, and I cast on - figuring that if it looked like crap, I would just abandon it again.
But, voila - I love it. You can't really see the beads in the pictures, but they're gold, and really compliment the yarn.
And, I'm not any less excited about knitting it than had I been if I were receiving the clues on a weekly basis - I can't wait to get to the wing. And, Secret of the Stole has not soured me on secret knit-a-longs - just the chance that I'll like something as much as Swan Lake, or the ever emerging Secret of Chrysopolis (which I am still kicking myself for not signing up for!), is enough to roll the dice and take a chance. So, I've got myself signed up for Spring Surprise, and Secret of Bad Nauheim - I think I'll stick with tried and true Zephyr, though - foolproof!
And what about all of my purchases from Stitches and Rhinebeck - I do have a Brooks Farm sweater on the needles, pics coming soon. And, I feel some quality time coming with my stash, as I assess my winter knitting - secrets or no secrets, this winter is going to be exciting!