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Integrated Heel Knit-Along!

LBHandknits

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WELCOME TO THE INTEGRATED HEEL KNIT-ALONG!
This is a knit-along open to anyone knitting socks using the Integrated Heel method. All details and updates will be posted here, as well as in the LB Handknits ravelry group.

START DATE: 17th of February 2019
Today is the official starting date. I waited until this date, as I wanted to have at least a couple of published patterns available to choose from before announcing. However, socks made before this date (including pre-knitters’ projects) are also eligible.

END DATE: 17th of August 2019
This is the official and firm closing date. Let’s make some socks before Autumn arrives!

THE RULES:
1. Any pair of adult socks knitted with the Integrated Heel, and completed by the end date, is eligible.
2. You may use one of my patterns, or a pattern of your choosing (substituting that pattern’s heel with the Integrated Heel).
3. Socks may be knitted in fingering-weight, sport-weight, or DK-weight yarn.
4. If you knit multiple pairs of socks, they are eligible as individual entries.
5. If a single pair of socks meets criteria for multiple categories (see below) it may be entered into all of those categories separately.
6. Entries may be submitted on ravelry or on instagram (see below)

THE PRIZES:
There will be 2 overall ‘grand prizes' for this KAL, and 4 additional category-based prizes, for an amazing total of 6 prizes! I do not know what the prizes will be yet, but it will be something interesting (and flexible, so that winners have some choice in colour, etc), with larger bundles for the overall prizes, and smaller ones for each of the 4 categories.

Grand Prizes:
1. Random Selection Winner: a special prize will go to an entry selected at random from all the eligible entries
2.Merit-Based Winner: a special prize will go to the participant who knits the most pairs of eligible socks by the closing date

Category-Based Prizes:
Selections will be made at random, among entries eligible for each of the following 4 categories:
1. Projects using non-superwash and/or nylon-free yarns
2. Projects using yarn from an Ireland-based manufacturer, indie dyer, or retail shop (either Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland)
3. Projects using the Integrated Heel in a non-LB Handknits pattern (excluding ‘vanilla’ patterns)
4. Participants who submit 2 entries or more using (different) LB Handknits patterns

TO TAKE PART IN THIS KNIT-ALONG

To take part via ravelry:
1. Reply to the Knit-Along thread in the LB Handknits Group indicating that you are taking part
2. For each pair of socks, set up a project page with at least 1 picture (which must show a completed pair of socks by the closing date)
3. If your entry is eligible for any of the individual categories, state this in the Project Notes (for example: 'Integrated Heel KAL: Cat 1&4’).

To take part via instagram:
1. To indicate you are taking part, use the hashtags integratedheelKAL and integratedheel
2. For each finished pair of socks, make sure to post a picture by the closing date showing the completed project with the above hashtags so that I can find it!
3. If your entry is eligible for any of the individual categories, state this in the text (for example: 'Integrated Heel KAL: Cat 1&4’).

I will keep a list of registered participants both here on the blog, and on the LB Handknits ravelry group. Winners will likewise be announced both here and in the group.

PATTERNS FEATURING THE INTEGRATED HEEL
At the moment, the following patterns are available:
. Basic Sock with Integrated Heel (this is the original tutorial)
. A Pale Fire
. Bashful Fireflies

More patterns will be published in the coming weeks and months, including at least one colourwork pattern! Keep an eye out also for pre-knit announcements (in the LB Handknits ravelry group), as pre-knit projects are eligible entries.

QUESTIONS

Are knitters from all regions of the world eligible? If I win a prize, will you post to my far-away location?
Yes. And absolutely yes - as long as you are okay with economy un-registered postage.

I am not on ravelry or instagram. Can I take part via facebook or by emailing you my entry?
Regrettably, no. I am not equipped, time-wise, to cope with entries in a format other than specified here. Thank you for understanding.

Must I buy one of your patterns to take part? What if I can’t afford it?
Technically yes, as even if you use the Integrated Heel with a pattern of your choosing, you still need to know how to work the heeI, which you can only learn in one of my patterns. I discount the patterns heavily in their first week of release to make sure they are as accessible as possible. If nevertheless you cannot afford to buy a pattern, I would still love for you to take part in this knit-along. Get in touch with me privately and I will gift you a pattern.

THANK YOU!
A thank you to all for trying the Integrated Heel design. If you have any questions about this knit-along, please feel free to ask. I am looking forward to seeing everyone’s projects.


REGISTERED PARTICIPANTS
I keep an up-to-date list of registered ravelry participants on the LB Handknits group. A complete list with both ravelry and instagram participants will be posted here as we approach the closing date.

Knitting with (Different) Yarns Held Together

LBHandknits

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Last year I wrote a post about knitting with yarn held double, explaining how to calculate the weight of such ‘doubled up’ yarn. This proved to be a popular topic of discussion, and in the aftermath a couple of you have asked the logical follow-up question:

What about knitting with two different yarns held together? If the yarns differ in meterage, how do you then calculate their combined meterage?

Admittedly, I was rather dreading trying to address this one. At first, because while I could usually intuit the answer when trying to make this determination in my own knitting, I did not know how to approach it mathematically. Then, even after I did figure it out (okay - so I actually had to ask my mother, who is a trained mathematician!), I was unsure about my ability to communicate the explanation. But you know what? Deep breath, and I am going to give this a go. Just beware, that you might want to have a pencil and paper ready. And a calculator!

{Edited to add: The fabulous Kathryn aka BackStageKatKnits has now created the Yarn Weight Calculator. So keep reading if you’d like to know how it’s done, but you no longer have to do the work!)

So first, let’s start with a review on calculating meterage for yarn held double. Do you remember how to do it? You simply divide the meterage of the yarn by 2.

So:
You are knitting with a 400m/100g yarn held double. This creates a yarn with a meterage of 200m/100g.
You are knitting with a 300m/100g yarn held double. This creates a yarn with a meterage of 150m/100g.

Now, knitting with two different yarns held together is a little more involved.

Let’s say you are holding the following two yarns together:
Yarn A, with a meterage of 400m/100g
Yarn B, with a meterage of 200m/100g

What is the meterage of the combined yarn? To get the answer, follow these steps:

Step 1. calculate the weight per meter of each yarn
Yarn A: 100g divided by 400m = .25g per meter.
Yarn B: 100g divided by 200m = .5g per meter.

Step 2: add these weights together
.25g per meter for Yarn A + .5g per meter for Yarn B = .75g per meter for the two held together

Step 3: Solve the following equation -
If 1 meter = .75g, then how many meters are in 100g?
.75X = 100
X = 100/ .75
X = 133.33

And there is your answer: If you hold a yarn that is 200m/100g together with a yarn that is 400m/100g, the combined yarn will have a meterage of 133m/100g. It will be somewhere between Aran-weight and Chunky.

Want to try it again? Let’s hold together some sportweight with some laceweight mohair! And so -

Yarn A, with a meterage of 350m/100g
Yarn B, with a meterage of 800m/100g

Step 1. calculate the weight per meter of each yarn
Yarn A: 100g divided by 350m = .286g per meter.
Yarn B: 100g divided by 800m = .125g per meter.

Step 2: add these weights together
.286g per meter for Yarn A + .125g per meter for Yarn B = .411g per meter for the two held together

Step 3: Solve the following equation -
If 1 meter = .41g, then how many meters are in 100g?
.41X = 100
X = 100/ .41
X = 243.31

And there is your answer: The combined yarn will have a meterage of 243m/100g, which is in the DK/ light-DK territory.

Now… You are either mathematically-minded, in which case you have just experienced a major ‘A-ha!’ moment and can now calculate the meterage of any yarns held together, with reckless abandon.

Or, you are not mathematically minded and are reaching for the migraine meds. If the latter is the case, do not despair! You can simply plug in your own numbers, follow the 3 Steps, and you will get the answer.

This may not be as easy as calculating the meterage of yarn held double, but I hope it proves useful to a few of you. Moreover, I hope that someone with the relevant skills might read this and feel inspired to create an online calculator tool which makes this post unnecessary! If you manage it, please drop me a line and I’ll be happy to link it up.

Edited to add:
The Yarn Weight Calculator
by BackStageKath

What Does a Month of Knitting Look Like?

LBHandknits

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As a relatively fast knitter, I often get asked how many things I make in a month / a year / a week. And I get it: people enjoy numbers, statistics; they want to visualise a specific number of items upon an imaginary shelf. But sadly, I disappoint them, because honestly - I have no idea. I am not a numbers person, and I do not keep track. My knitting process is chaotic, and also rather compartmentalised. There are the things I make for commissioned designs, and I keep a separate set of records for each client. But as far independent designs and personal knitting, it just never occurs to me to add up and record these things, let alone to take note of when I start and finish each project.

That said! January of this year was an interesting exception. I do not know why, but I decided to keep track. And the result is unexpectedly tidy, as all of these projects were both started and finished in the month of January.

Finally, a simple straight answer: I knitted seven things last month!

One cardigan - for me.
One cowl - a commissioned design.
And five (5!) pairs of socks - all Integrated Heel experiments.

Is this a typical knitting month? As far as volume, yes - if anything, on the slow side, as I was still unwell for the first week of January and wasn’t able to do much. As far as the kinds of things knitted, less typical. I very rarely knit cowls, so that’s an anomaly. And I would usually make more sweaters, typically 2-3 a month. And way fewer socks. Normally I max out at a pair of socks a month, maximum two pairs, before I overdose and never want to see a sock again. But this was the month of the Integrated Heel, so that explains the sock mania.

I am going to try to keep this up from now on, and see how I do. Knowing my work process, I am not holding my breath. But it would be rather lovely to have a record for an entire year.

Introducing the Integrated Heel

LBHandknits

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If you follow me on social media, you know that I have recently come up with a new option for knitting heels. This design went from concept to test-knitted pattern in 3 weeks, and is now ready for your knitting pleasure. I call this method the Integrated Heel -

The Integrated Heel looks and fits similarly to a traditional heel flap and gusset. The difference is in the process. Like the traditional sock heel, the Integrated Heel features a heel flap, a gusset, and a turned heel. Unlike the traditional sock heel, the Integrated Heel is worked almost entirely in the round. This eliminates the need to work the heel flap back-and-forth flat, and to later pick up stitches along its edges. 

The resulting benefits include: a gusset with more give (since you aren’t picking up stitches along a finished edge); fewer interruptions to workflow (which, in turn, speeds up the knitting process considerably); and excellent fit, with ample opportunity for heel-depth customisation.

While I dare not claim to have ‘invented’ the Integrated Heel (goodness knows there is nothing new under the sun!), I did arrive upon this design independently, and have not seen it documented anywhere else. I have found this method of heel construction fast and convenient, and hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.

I have now published a basic sock pattern (here!) which includes a tutorial on working the Integrated Heel. It is called Basic Sock with Integrated Heel (or Stocaí Bunúsach in Irish, which means ‘basic socks’). This is a comprehensive, universal pattern that provides separate gauge and stitch count guides for 3 yarn weights (fingering, sport, and DK), and offers a good range of sizes. So you can try the Integrated Heel in anything from commercial superwash sock yarn, to rustic tweed, or anything in between.

For background: I came up with the idea of the Integrated Heel when out on sick leave this past December. I won’t go into detail over my personal circumstances, but I was quite out of it for much of that time, to the extent that I was unable to knit garments or anything even remotely complicated. So I turned to plain socks, and even that - when I got to the heel - seemed like too much for me at this time. No matter what style of heel I tried - the flap and gusset, the short row, the afterthought - they seemed fiddly and exhausting to execute. If only I could find a more elegant way, I thought, that allowed my work process to flow uninterrupted and felt more integrated into the working of the overall sock. I then spent quite a bit of my bed-rest time pondering the shape of my foot, and thinking about what would need to happen in order for a tube to suddenly sprout a heel-shaped bump, then go back to being a tube. And after a while my hands just started doing their thing. I believe it took me 3 tries to come up with a method I liked.

The Integrated Heel involves constructing the heel flap and the gussets simultaneously, all the while continuing to work in the round on the leg-to-instep transition. In addition to promoting uninterrupted work flow, I discovered that this method of construction allows for more stretch in the ankle/heel area. When my husband wears socks with any of the standard heels, they sometimes develop holes after prolonged wear in the ‘corners’ of the heels, if you can picture that, from the stress of the sock being stretched in that section. With the extra band of fabric from working the leg-to-instep transition in the round while doing the heel, that stress is removed. This might be too abstract to picture when described in words. But when you knit a sock with the Integrated Heel, it will become obvious what I mean by this. There is basically more room for stretch in the ankle/heel area, without making the ankle loose or saggy. This makes the Integrated Heel a good option for those who have had fit issues with any of the conventional heel styles.

But I think the main draw for most people, is that the Integrated Heel is considerably faster to knit than other heels. For me, I would say twice as fast as a heel flap and gusset, and maybe 25%-30% faster than a short-row heel. The Integrated Heel is the same size as any other. It is just that the process of knitting it ‘flows’ faster.

To my delight, I received quite a few volunteers to try the Integrated Heel design before I deemed it suitable for release, and the feedback has been excellent!

I therefore present to you -
Stocaí Bunúsach / Basic Sock with Integrated Heel
at an introductory discount of 40% off through the first week of February, with the code STOCAI40

Thank you for your support, and I hope you enjoy this design! I will be using the Integrated Heel construction in other upcoming sock patterns in the near future and I also plan to host an Integrated Heel knit-along later this month. I will keep you posted!

Knitting with Coned Yarns: Frequently Asked Questions

LBHandknits

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Those who know me in person are aware that I often knit with coned yarns. And it’s a topic on which I get lots of questions - especially as recently, more shops and online marketplaces are making coned yarns available for retail purchase. My last 3 garment projects were all knitted from cones, which has sparked some interesting discussions with fellow knitters. I have summed up some of the things discussed with the following FAQs, which are hope are useful -

1. What is coned yarn and why does it come that way?
Coned yarn is a fairly large quantity of yarn (typically 1kg) wound onto a single cone rather than broken up into individual hanks or skeins. Typically, yarn in this form is sold directly by the spinning mill or factory, to wholesale customers. Often (but not always) coned yarn is intended for knitting machines rather than hand-knitting, and for that reason it is permeated with a greasy substance which will need to be thoroughly rinsed off. Note that yarn which is greasy with spinning oil should not be confused with yarn which is naturally greasy with lanolin! The grease in coned yarns is a chemical lubricating agent (usually machine oil) and is definitely something you want removed from the yarn.

2. Why buy coned yarn? Is it ‘worth’ it?
There are various reasons a knitter might find it worthwhile to buy coned yarn. The most obvious one, is that they require large quantities of a specific yarn. This could be for professional reasons - for instance, if they are a designer, knitter of bespoke garments, or knitting instructor. Or it could simply be because they do a lot of knitting and have a fixed preference for specific yarns. In both of these scenarios, purchasing yarn on cones is more economical, going by cost per meter.

There are also knitters who like to hunt for rare and intriguing yarn blends at bargain prices. Mills and fashion houses will sometimes sell off random quantities of seconds, limited run, or overstock yarns, available through various auction and discount sites. As these yarns come straight from the factory, they are usually only available on cones.

Finally, if you are knitting a large sweater, a blanket, or other voluminous item and like to work with an unbroken quantity of yarn sufficient to cover the entire project, buying a cone will make that possible.

As for whether it’s worth it? I get that question a lot and don’t really know how to answer it, as we all have such different knitting backgrounds. Financially, it makes sense if you actually use up the entire cone. Otherwise, you are better off buying individual skeins on an as-needed basis.

3. How do you knit with coned yarn?
One common complaint I hear from knitters who’ve tried working with coned yarn and did not like it, is that the yarn does not ‘flow’ easily from the cone. Granted, a cone of yarn is not the same as a ball or cake. It is large, heavy, and immobile, and therefore needs to be positioned thoughtfully in relation to the knitter. For best results, a cone should stand on the floor, directly underneath the knitter’s chair, so that the yarn is coming straight from below. This is the only configuration in which the yarn is able unravel from the cone smoothly. If you place it beside you on the sofa, table, or bed, you will be pulling at the yarn from the side; it will be hard-going and the cone will have a tendency to topple over.

4. What about the spinning grease? Does it make the yarn unpleasant to knit with? And how do you wash it off?
Some knitters get used to working with yarn permeated with spinning oils, and actually grow to like it. But objectively speaking, I would say it is not as pleasurable to knit with as a soft fluffy yarn from which the spinning oils have been removed. So if you are a ‘process knitter’ and the tactile experience of working with yarn is important, give this some serious consideration before committing to cones. With the grease left in, the yarn will feel ‘ropey’ and somewhat harsh, and may leave an unpleasant residue on your hands.

Furthermore, it is worth being aware that different mills use different types of grease/spinning oils. Some of them are more or less harmless, others may be downright toxic to handle for prolonged periods of time with bare hands. (You can generally tell which it is by the smell!) In the event of the latter, you will definitely want to wash the yarn before knitting with it. This can be done by winding the yarn into hanks (or one enormous hank, if you wish to keep it unbroken - see Yarn Baby!), securing the hank(s) with ties, and washing in hot water, with liquid soap or dishwashing fluid.

When it comes to blocking items knitted out of the greased yarn, you will likewise need to wash them in hot water using some sort of soapy agent. I know this contradicts the ‘block gently in lukewarm water’ instructions we are all accustomed to, but the spinning oils will not come out using the ordinary, gentle method. Don’t worry about the hot water making your yarn felt. Unless you willfully agitate the yarn as you are washing it, hot water alone will not felt it. You are perfectly safe filling a basin with proper-hot water, adding liquid soap, then dumping your yarn/finished item in there and letting it soak for a good hour. Then rinse, and repeat a second time. Only that will get rid of the grease.


So… in the end of all this, have I made working with coned yarn sound unappealing? It was not my intent! But in summary, there is definitely a reason why yarn producers take the time and resources to thoroughly wash and prepare their yarns before skeining them up and selling them to the hand-knitter! With coned yarns, this process is usually bypassed, and the knitter must weigh that against the benefits of wholesale pricing. Does it make sense for you? Examine your knitting process, the stability of your yarn preferences, and your volume of output - then decide for yourself!