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Twist Collective Blog

Design Process: Ahni

Julia TriceToday's post is brought to you by Julia Trice, designer of this lovely pullover from our Fall issue. Julia has contributed many wonderful pieces to the magazine, and her designs are always characterized by classic shapes and thoughtful details (case and point- Nyame, Evendim, and Wingspan, just to name a few). In this post, which you can also find on her blog, Julia shares how she combined a few simple elements to create a really gorgeous sweater, that can be worn in lots of different ways!




One of the things I've learned over the last few years of designing is to pay attention to elements that I like in clothing, and to try to understand why I like them and what feel they impart to a design. For me, this comes in handy when I want to tweak a design to create a specific mood, but it is also useful for any knitter who likes to personalize a pattern with modifications.



Julia's Sketch

The original sketch submitted to Twist.


Ahni uses a couple of different elements to achieve various aspects of its overall look. I started with the stitch pattern. I love texture of all sorts, but I tend to knit a lot of lace and cables, and I wanted to explore other textures. In looking through stitch dictionaries, the little scale pattern stuck out to me. I haven't really seen it used much (at all? I'm sure someone somewhere has used it!), and it has a lot of nice advantages: 1) it's easy to work; 2) it's fun to work; and 3) it has a very small pattern repeat which makes it a dream to grade. The third advantage won't matter to many of you unless you decide to tweak the pattern, but believe you me, it makes any potential tweak so much easier. The little scale pattern on its own has a pretty amorphous character. Worked in a sport weight yarn it could be delicate, but at a worsted to aran weight it has a much more substantial, rugged feel.



stitch pattern detail- sleeve

Check out that lovely textured stitch.


I've noticed that designs that really draw me in have an element of the unexpected, even if only subtle. So after deciding on the textured stitch pattern in the heavier yarn with a woodsy feel, I wanted to juxtapose it with some femininity. A good way to do that is with the neckline. Necklines are really important to me. They may not be radical, but they are always purposeful. The scoop neck on Ahni is a perfect example. It's sexy. And do you know why? It's all about the collarbone. Everyone has one, and when showcased properly they are just lovely. The scoop neck highlights your collarbone by creating those long rows of ribbing that all lead to it, while at the same time not revealing a lot of shoulder or cleavage. That means sexy, but yet everywhere appropriate, which is a nice feature. It elongates the neck in a swanlike manner. You can use a scoop neck like Ahni's on just about any pullover and instantly give it a touch of romance. It's a nice tool to put in your arsenal.



Ahni in Twist

With the model's hair pushed back you can really see the neckline.


I wasn't quite ready to stop at femininity, though. I wanted just a little more character. Unlike many of you folks, although I love the look of vintage on others, it doesn't usually work out so well on me. (And I prefer to design things I can wear!) There are a few exceptions, however, and one of them is deep waist ribbing. Add deep waist ribbing and you can give a sweater an instant 1950's feel - va voom! - yet still have the piece look modern.



Dr Steph's Ahni

Dr. Steph of ravelry models her finished Ahni.


The last thing I decided on was the sleeves. I went with set-in sleeves to continue in the vein of femininity. There is just not another fit like them (well, maybe a contiguous sleeve, but that's another adventure), and when you want to portray a touch of elegance a fitted set-in sleeve is a good way to go. The deep ribbing on the sleeve was an easy choice - that was simply to blend. It mirrors the waist and neckline nicely and doesn't draw attention away from either.



Vintage-y shot of Dr Steph's Ahni

I love this photo - vintage-y and fun.


So that was the thought process. If you don't already have a good idea of what you like and why, I highly recommend going into your closet and noticing things like neckline, waist, and sleeves and thinking about what they do for you and how they make you feel. Then the next time you want to change the aura of a pattern up just a little bit, you will have elements in mind to draw on. I had great fun going through this process with Ahni, and I hope that those of you who end up knitting it enjoy the details as much as I did.

Win 12 Images for Styling

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Twist Style Friday: Zigmund

Every Friday we feature one of the garments from the magazine in a post about styling. We suggest different ways to wear the garment in question using mock-ups from Polyvore. We encourage readers to tell us what they think about these outfits via our Facebook page or Twitter, and if folks want to make their own outfits, please tweet them at us with the hashtag #twiststyle. You can find all of the Style Friday posts here.

Snowflakes fell on me this week, fashion fans. Winter is coming to Toronto. I know Canadians do our share of whining about chilly weather, and I am certainly not exempt from this, but my complaining mostly takes place between February and April, by which time I feel like things should be warming up significantly. Decemeber and January though, I love. I love the first few months of layering weather, of wooly sweaters, of snuggly cowls and long coats and cozy boots. So I'm excited about the approaching chill- but even more than that, I am excited to tell you that the Winter issue of Twist is similarly imminent.

Barring another natural disaster, this will be our last Fall installment of Style Friday. It's fitting, then, that the garment we are looking at today is bright and cozy, perfect for when the wind is icy and the sun is hiding. Friends, I give you Zigmund.

Zigmund, plus poultry

Don't worry, cute chickens are not a requirement for looking great in this sweater (though their head-combs really to pick up the vibrant colors..). I wanted to play with the ways that this sweater could look awesome in a more urban context. I call this set "Ziggy in the city", and I owe some serious credit to my dear friend Sue who helped me brainstorm outfit ideas. I think Zigmund is a wildly beautiful sweater, but it's shape and proportion are pretty outside my wardrobe comfort zone, so I am greatful for Sue's fashionable eye. 

Three outfits with Zigmund

I really hope that lots of you feel inspired to knit this one- I can't wait to see what it would look like in different colour combinations. I think it's worth noting too that this could be a really gorgeous layer for warmer climates if you made it in hemp or linen instead of wool. Me, I love bright colors, but I would make mine in black and a few shades of grey to keep it really simple and graphic, and then you could literally wear it with anything. I think it would also be super beautiful in a pale-on-pale combo, like oatmeal and dusty rose. Seriously, look at this colorwork and imagine the possibilities.

Zigmund, back detail

However you knit and wear you Zigmund, it will carry you happily into next season. See you in Winter, dalings. I can't wait!!

Designer Process Double Feature: Capriccio and Zahedra

Robin MelansonRobin Melanson is the designer of two of our Fall Patterns, Capriccio and Zahedra. She blogged about them seperately (here and here) but we are running short of time to blog about Fall (because Winter is coming soon....) so you get to read about both of them together! Robin's knitted brainchildren also include Bellevue, Hazelwood, and Stormsvale.

Capriccio is in the fall issue of Twist Collective. It is worked in lovely Zara Plus Merino wool from Filatura di Crosa. When I design a sweater, if there is a lot of patterning, I like all the elements to be related and to reference each other in a way. It allows you to have variety without discord.


I wanted a simple, wearable silhouette in which to showcase my big beautiful lace panel. I chose raglan style sleeves, because I love the look of fully fashioned decreases in ribbing, and there are more decreases and they are very prominent on this style of sleeve. The eyelets of the main lace pattern are reiterated in the ribbing pattern at the hem, which is a mix of rib, garter rows, and eyelet rows. This same combination appears in bands on the lower sleeves, and on the cowl collar. However, I remix it so that it does not appear in the same configuration, thereby avoiding the formulaic repetition of “same edging everywhere syndrome,“  nearly as fatal as “OMG different edgings everywhere syndrome,” which you also want to steer clear of.

Cowl reversability evidence

Notice how when the cowl falls forward, the pattern on the inside is equally as attractive as the pattern on the outside. A small detail, maybe, but I think that it makes a garment nicer to wear when you don’t worry if your collar is folded the wrong way.

Of course my opinion is totally biased, but I think this sweater is nice to knit, and even nicer to wear.


This lovely piece is  Zahedra, a cable and textured long cardigan knit in Briggs and Little Atlantic. I can’t wait to get this garment back, I can picture it as my fall cardigan-coat of choice for right now. The weather is at that perfect temperature, the leaves are just starting to change, and I find myself craving a nice robust wool cardigan. With pockets, because I admit, I am a chestnut-and-acorn-collector. I can’t help it. When Fall comes, my pockets are full of nuts, seeds, leaves, and pine cones.

For a longer or heavier garment, I prefer to construct in pieces and then sew them up, rather than knitting in the round. I find that the garment keeps its shape better. I usually set in the sleeves using backstitch, it makes a very professional-looking finish. I love finishing, and I want my garments to look handmade, not homemade.

back detail

Backstitch provides the neatest finish when you are joining pieces worked in a stitch pattern other than Stockinette. Sometimes I set in sleeves using mattress stitch if the garment is worked entirely in Stockinette stitch and it won’t be worn very often. But, backstitch is better if there are stitch patterns involved, and/or if the garment will be worn a lot.

front detail

I design a lot of garments, and it is sometimes tough to come up with interesting names for them all. Also, working as a production assistant for Twist Collective, I help name other people’s garments as well, so that adds to the list of names. I must confess, I named this garment after my favourite World of Warcraft character. And yes, I did grind out Netherwing rep for that mount. If you know me personally this will not surprise you!


Designer Process: Horatio and Oren

Barbara Geregory

Today's entry is brought to you by Barbara Gregory, designer of many wonderful Twist patterns, including these other whimiscal mittens- Perianth and Ringo & Elwood. She shares where she got her inspiration for Horatio and Oren, adorable owly mittens for hands of all ages. She also gives you a sneak peek at  just how she got those owls to look so darn cute. Keep up with Barbara on her website.

Horatio and Oren

The idea for this design came to me one night in a moment of wakefulness about 4:30 a.m.
I don’t remember if I was dreaming of mittens, but I woke up, thought “Hm, mittens with
owl ears
?” and went back to sleep.

I think this might have been inspired by a Ravelry forum thread discussing preferred
mitten-top shapes: round, pointed or oval. And I had heard a knitter speak of ‘ears’ to
describe the little bumps of untidiness that can occur when grafting the top of a mitten. I
liked the idea of turning those ‘ears’ to advantage.

Some time the following day I remembered this thought and doodled on a little scrap of
paper to stick in my back pocket. The ear tufts were too big, but the sketch served to pin
down the idea so it wouldn’t float away and be forgotten.


The next morning was a day when I was at home, alone and with no pressing chores or
appointments. I opened up my grid program and started to sketch.

Looking back at my initial tries, I see some clumsy first attempts and a couple that might
have been usable with a little work. But these first owls didn’t look cute enough; the
unibrow look can be slightly intimidating and it’s hard to put a smile on an owl!

Attempted Owls

The turning point was realizing that I could show the whole owl: by adding little wings,
skinny legs and feet, suddenly my owl was a baby with body language. I refined the details,
tweaking and adjusting. The first attempt at feet looked more chicken than owl. The body
and the background had to be broken up with some contrast stitches, and that took some
experimenting. Once the front was solved, the back fell into place. By the end of that day I
was bleary-eyed from the computer screen, but happy with the chart for my little owlet.

Finally, owls

For fun I’ve made a short animation using some of the charts I saved as I went along. It
shows how the mitten front evolved from the first baby owl to the final version.


After all that went into the design of the horned owl, the snowy owl came about as an
afterthought. Knowing that there will always be knitters who prefer to switch the dark and
light colors, I tried recoloring the chart. It almost worked, but I didn’t like the eyes as well
when they became pale circles instead of dark ones. A few tweaks made the pupils dark
again and there was my snowy owlet.

Snowy Owls

In the end the owls had become the focal point and the ears were just a cute little detail—
which is as it should be. Now I’m enjoying seeing Horatio and Oren appear in many lovely
and imaginative color combinations, with or without ears.