#2 daughter is studying the English Civil War, but they are calling it a revolution. This surprises me. I wrote about the death of King Charles once, as it relates to knitting. Here, in fact, if you click on it. The whole thing got me thinking about the difference between a Civil War and a revolution: the balance of power, maybe? the outcome?

And Jamie’s opinion blog has an interesting post about Mr. Bush’s intelligence, with a link to this interesting article, which suggests that being smart isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

But enough about politics. On to the truly important topic of the day: the lure of the KAL.

The knitalong, or in some cases sewalong, is a sort of casual movement in which someone makes a cool button and then a bunch of other people join him or her in making a particular item or category of items. I was musing on the phenomenon because KaliMama has begun a new sewalong.

My first KAL was the DNA-along, a classic KAL in which we all made DNA scarves. I made three, in fact, for Christmas presents.

Knitting bloggers in general seem to love KALs, lining up their buttons like Girl Scout badges. But there were, even in those early days, dissenting voices. “Do the Things” suggested that KALs were a source of grave peer pressure, pressure to conform.

At the time, I had recently been in a discussion on peer pressure among adults, and determined that the only thing I do because of peer pressure is housework, so it seemed like a fairly positive force in my life.

The Witty Knitter wrote about knitting lemmings, all making the same thing. And it did seem at the time as though most knitting bloggers were making all the same things.

Knit the Classics, my most recent KAL, shows how the KAL has evolved. In this KAL, we all read the same thing and make anything we feel inspired by the book to make. This flexibility seems more in the current mode than the KALs in which everyone made a single project.

I am not much of a joiner in real life. I belong to a church and a book club, and that’s it. But I like KALs. Here’s why:

Information. By knitting DNA scarves along with a bunch of others, I could see that the pattern was just inclined to frill, that’s all, and quit frogging and restarting it. By knitting Fuzzy Feet along with others, I could see how stripes and colorworks looked in the pattern. It’s like having classmates.

If you have difficulties, you have people to ask for help. Better yet, you can see what difficulties people tend to have before you get to that point. You can ask questions out into the ether, and some more knowledgeable person will come along and answer them.

To me, this is the major benefit of the KAL.

But there is also encouragement. My current project for Knit the Classics is a tea cosy which I have been intending to make for years. I just hadn’t gotten around to it. Now, if you like to make a pot of tea and have the second cup hot, you just have to have a tea cosy, and my old one disintegrated, so I need a new one. But without the deadline, I might never have gotten around to it. Sew? I Knit, also, has been great for encouraging me to get back to dressmaking, something I enjoy but had fallen out of the habit of working on since my kids no longer let me dress them up like little dolls.

The KALs are also fun. The Knitting Olympics was just a lark. I like my Olympics bag, but it wasn’t as though I had either a great desire for a multicolored handbag or a desperate need to learn modular knitting. But it was fun. You get to know new people on a KAL, and even having a deadline is sometimes rather fun, since it doesn’t really matter whether you meet it or not. I hardly ever want to make the thing that is really popular at any given moment, but when there is a KAL that fits with what I already plan to make, I’ll join in.

So, yeah, I’m going to join KaliMama’s sewalong. She has a really cool button.