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Csilla and the Shorn Project



Quick Links:
Shorn Yan & Kits [sold out!]
Csilla Cowl
Csilla Hat
Yarn Launch Podcast Episode

Some time last year, Melissa Littlefield of the Knitting the Stash podcast ran a designers interview series in which I took part. And one of the questions asked was, what role does yarn play in my design process. For instance, do I have a design in mind, then look for a yarn to make it happen, or do I start with the yarn? This is actually a question I get asked a lot, and my answer tends to surprise the person I’m having the conversation with. Most of my designs start with the yarn - not the other way around.

That is not to say that I don’t have heaps of ideas twirling around in my head. The problem is that I have too many ideas; their sheer volume and vagueness can be debilitating. With yarn in hand, the process immediately becomes more real. Here is the yarn. These are its characteristics. What does this yarn want to become? The physicality and immediacy of the yarn sparks my imagination in a way that is not just creative, but actionable.

When Melissa invited me to design an accessory for the Shorn project, I knew that once the yarn arrived it would tell me what it ‘wanted’ to be. And I was right! Because nothing in my previous experience of yarns could have prepared me for Shorn’s unique blend of qualities.


It has long been a dream of Melissa’s to produce her own farm-to-skein yarn. And the Shorn project is that dream’s realisation.

Shorn is a small batch yarn made from the fleeces of sheep who live just down the road from Melissa’s house in Illinois, USA. The yarn is minimally processed and worsted spun by Stonehedge Fiber Mill in Michigan. It is left undyed, with a creamy natural colouring.

This description may set up expectations for a wool that feels distinctly ‘rustic’ (read: a bit rough). But the remarkable thing about Shorn is this: It is next-to-skin soft. A blend of 80% Cormo and 20% Corriedale, the yarn was specifically designed with this in mind. And it is this combination of silky-softness and chemical-free, minimally processed, sheepiness that makes it so unique to work with.


In addition to being soft and springy, Shorn is also quite silky to the touch and gives off a subtle yet distinct sheen which takes on different qualities depending on the angle from which it is observed. Even as I wound the yarn from skein to ball (which I always do by hand), I noticed these characteristics. And once I began swatching and playing around with stitch combinations, I became quite entranced with them. How crisply defined the knits and purls stood against one another! How sculptural the cables looked! How glossy the lace! But which to choose, to capture this yarn’s spirit?

The idea to use smocking evolved as I kept feeling compelled to play with the yarn by wrapping it around my fingers. I liked the look of the various stitches, but I also liked the look of the yarn in its own right. Smocking offered a way to incorporate unworked strands into the pattern.


And thus, the starlike motif of Csilla was born.

Pronounced ‘heela’, Csilla is a Hungarian feminine given name that means ‘starlike’ and she is exactly what the yarn ‘wanted.’

I love the way the pattern and the yarn interact. The knit stitches, the purl stitches, and the wraps, each showcase this yarn’s subtle sheen from different angles. And the squish effect of the smocking further accentuates the natural springiness of the yarn.

The ornate motif is both 
top-down and inside-out reversible, making this cowl quite versatile in wear. Suitable for adventurous knitters of all skill levels, Csilla is a single-skein project 
ideal for showcasing those very special yarns in a way that is artful and wearable. 

In addition to the Csilla Cowl, there is now also a matching Csilla Hat design. Both patterns are compatible with a variety of DK weight yarns.

With a meterage of 230m/ 100g, Shorn is a light-DK. It is available from Melissa in 100g skeins, as well as in kits with the Csilla cowl and hat patterns. The pricing is very reasonable for an indie yarn, and keep in mind this is a very limited edition - so while supplies last, etc.!

If you are interested in small batch, minimally processed, locally produced yarns from the USA, Shorn is certainly a very special one that you will not regret snapping up.

For more on the Shorn yarn launch, watch the latest episode of Knitting the Stash. I am delighted to be included in this project, and thank you in advance for supporting it!

Can You Train Yourself to Knit Tighter, or Looser?



It’s a question that sometimes comes up in conversations. We all knit with different tension. But for those of us who find ourselves on the extreme ends of the tight/loose knitter spectrum, is it possible to retrain our hands to knit closer to a happy medium?

The answer is definitely yes, and I know many knitters who have done this. In fact, I myself used to be a very loose knitter, and deliberately tightened my tension around 2 years ago - so that the needles I use on any given project now are about .5mm larger in diameter than they would have been then.

But as a prequel, let me first say that being either a loose or a tight knitter is not in of itself a problem and in most cases does not mean that you need to retrain yourself to knit differently. It only means that the needle diameter you choose for projects will be consistently smaller or larger than what is recommended in patterns.

So for instance, let’s say a sock pattern recommends 2.5mm needles, and this recommendation is aimed at the ‘average’ knitter meeting gauge. If you are a loose knitter, you will need to go down to 2.25mm or even 2.00mm needles to meet gauge. And if you are a tight knitter, you will need to go up to 2.75mm or even 3.00mm needles to meet gauge. Again, not a problem. After some time knitting you will likely know how your tension compares to the so-called average, and pre-emptively start swatching with a needle size that is either a bit smaller or larger than what is recommended in patterns.

Individual difference in tension becomes problematic, only if your knitting is so much looser, or tighter, than the typical average, that you cannot source needles small enough or large enough in diameter to meet gauge for the pattern. For tight knitters this can happen with bulky knits. For loose knitters, this mostly happens with fingering-weight socks - which was the case with me.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I had actually never knitted socks out of ‘sock yarn’ until abut two years ago. Before that, I made socks mainly out of rustic wools, which were either DK or sportweight. When I first tried fingering weight sock yarn, I was unable to meet gauge on even the smallest needles available to me. Of course I could go down in stitch count and knit at a looser gauge. But experimenting with that confirmed that it was a bad idea. Socks must be knitted densely to be durable. If I wanted to knit a sock at a 35st gauge, with the needles available to me, I needed to tighten up.

This took willful practice, and was more than a little frustrating. I used 2mm needles, stainless steel and not overly slick. I cast on a 64 stitch sock. And then, knitting at about a third of my usual speed, I made a concerted effort to tighten my tension when working each individual stitch. I do not know how to describe the physicality of this in any greater detail than that. But the comparison that comes to mind, is trying to write smaller than is natural for your handwriting. Imagine you are working with one of those workbooks you get either as a child when first practicing your handwriting, or as an adult if you have ever done a calligraphy workshop. You do not focus on the sentence or even on the word, you focus on each individual letter and take care to make it the correct size and form. In the same vein, I focused on working each individual stitch, pulling tight on the yarn. It took a while to make that first sock! But by the time I got half way through the leg, tightening my tension did become more natural and I was able to speed up a bit. By the time I finished the pair, it became automatic and I was able to knit socks at a 35st gauge on 2mm needles.

Of course, retraining myself to tighten my tension affected my overall knitting, meaning that my needle size went up across the board. If in the past I had used 3.5mm needles to meet a 20st gauge, I now meet that same gauge with 4mm needles. And so on.

Funny enough, I still knit a bit looser than the average knitter. But again, that does not matter as long as I am consistent, and am able to meet gauge with an available needle size - which, happily, is now the case.




I have written before about my somewhat unconventional background as a designer. I’ve been making original handknits for some time, but writing patterns for only about a year and a half. And these two things are not the same.

Design in of itself is a creative process, made all the more wonderful in that it isn’t constrained by any standard language. Design can be informed by a kaleidoscope of cultural, personal, aesthetic, and technical factors, and one designer’s process can differ radically from another’s. I learned to knit at a young age in the improvisational folk tradition, which carries with it its own mentality and methods. It was not until much later in life that I was introduced to the world of written patterns and ravelry. I did not initially recognise in this world the ‘knitting’ I knew all my life, and for a long time I felt quite alienated from it. When I met other knitters in person, they admired my work, but we could not communicate. They could not understand how I made what I made. And likewise, I could not fathom how (or why) they used these things called 'patterns.’

When I found myself at a career crossroads two years ago, I was actively encouraged to become a pattern designer by several key people I’d met at that time. And I embraced this opportunity, without - as I realised only later - having fully understood what that actually meant, in today’s knitting parlance. Because pattern writing, unlike design in itself, is governed by a distinct set of rules and expectations. In my early patterns I tried to change those expectations, and introduce knitters to my way of approaching design. It was often effective. But just as often not! And after some time, I had to consider what was more important to me: holding on to my approach, or communicating with knitters in the way they wanted to be communicated with.

 was the design that made me decide on the latter. People loved it - but were scared to knit it, because the pattern was so different from what they were accustomed to. The discrepancy was deeply frustrating to me (as I am sure it was to them) and pushed me to revamp my pattern writing process, so as to bring it in line with the expectations of ravelry-era knitters. It was difficult, as it really did mean changing my entire approach to design. But with the help of a new tech editor and some wonderful feedback from supportive knitters, I was able to do it.

As of Spring 2018, I am confident that my patterns are written in a style that is familiar and easily understandable to my customer base. And while I expected to feel as if I’ve ‘lost something’ of myself in the process of changing my pattern writing to meet convention, that has not happened. Instead I feel happy that knitters are finding my patterns easy to follow, and do not require pattern support!

I am now working through my earlier (pre-2018) patterns and plan to re-write them all in the new manner. Happily there are not that many. And Laitís
was a priority, because I love the design and I want people to have a good experience knitting it.


And so allow me to introduce: Laitís, the new version.

Made possible with the kind support of Yarn Vibes (more on this interesting company in a later post), the new pattern includes a schematic with measurements in an expanded range of sizes, a cable chart, and detailed instructions with stitch counts at every step of the process. It is, in short, the same design, with improved instructions. If you purchased the original sweater pattern, you will have already received the update!


The latticed cables in this pattern are extremely easy, and are suitable for new cable knitters. However I would overall class Laitís
as Intermediate, because - being worked from the top down seamlessly - it requires increasing in pattern. Increasing in pattern is not necessarily difficult, and anyone who has made lace shawls is probably familiar with it already. Just be aware that you will need this technique. And while the pattern explains briefly how to do it, it does not include an in-depth tutorial.

That said, everything else about Laitís
 is very straightforward. This is essentially a ribbed sweater with occasional cabled crossovers, worked at a gauge of 17st per 10cm - so it knits up quickly!

In honour of its re-release, I am offering the new version of Laitís
 at 40% off until the 28th of February.

Thank you as always for your support, and I hope the re-write will allow more people to enjoy this pattern!

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!

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)

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 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.

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.


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.

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.

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



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.

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