A couple of years ago I did my first mystery knit-a-long. For those you who have not participated in something similar (knitting or quilting or crocheting), a designer creates a pattern but does not release it immediately. Instead s/he announces a mystery a-long and states what materials will be required. Then a section of the pattern is released every one to two weeks. The final form of the project is not revealed until the very end.
Participants spend the weeks preceding the first release choosing their yarns or fabrics and they often share and discuss their choices on line. As soon as the first pattern section is released many people drop everything to work on it and post photos on line. Most knit-a-longs are carefully managed so that people who do not want to see the project until they have done the work can avoid spoilers. On Ravelry, there are separate chat and spoiler threads and moderators are vigilant and remove offending posts quickly.
Several designers have successfully made a knit-a-long into a major event. For example, last year I was part of Stephen West's third KAL. I don't know how many people bought the pattern but there are over 2000 projects posted on Ravelry. I'll bet there were four to five times as many purchases. I, for one, finished the shawl (and love it) but didn't post a photo. I did, however, lurk in the related on-line forums and enjoyed seeing the choices other people made and others' excitement as the project changed from clue to clue.
Based on that experience, I joined again this year even though at the time I made my purchase I could not knit because of damage to my thumb. Once again, there has been lots of chatter about colour choices. Yesterday morning the first part of the pattern was released. By the way, Mr. West does a great job with these releases. He prepares a video which walks people through the particularly tricky parts of the construction. Within minutes of the availability of the first clue people had posted photos of their own work in progress and a few hours later there were pictures of the completed first section of the shawl. As I write this, 24 hours after the release, there are almost 600 posts in the spoiler thread and close to 3000 in the thread devoted to yarn choice.
Why am I writing all of this? Because I feel left out. My thumb is better but my yarn hasn't arrived yet. I am itching to get started and be part of the group, even though it is unlikely that I will participate in any of the chatter. What is the attraction of working on the same project at the same time as thousands of strangers? What other activities could benefit from a knit-a-long type experience?
If you are curious, I am waiting for this yarn to arrive. I chose barnacle (main colour), syrah, mist and terra cotta.