Twist Collective Blog
Design Process: Gwendolyn
Gwendolyn is Fiona Ellis' eighth pattern for Twist Collective. See her other pieces; Bonnie, Rebecca, Pamela, Chartres, Paula, Lesley, and Mehndi to appreciate her fantastic range and attention to detail. Today's blog post will feature some of her inspiration and thoughts behind her intricately cabled Gwendolyn pullover and cardigan.
Many artists and designers have themes and inspiration sources that they return to over and over, and I am no exception. I find that this to be a cyclical occurrence and it can be a little like revisiting an old flame – it doesn’t take much to ignite the smolder and suddenly you find yourself in love all over again.
Along the way we build on each experience and over time begin to hone our skills with a particular subject.
So it has been for me with cables and Celtic Knot-work cables in particular. My love for them began when I was in university studying fashion knitwear design. I worked on a collection of cable designs that drew their inspiration from the rustic arts of corn dollies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_dolly) and basket weaving, and I also looked at Celtic knots. But their intricate crossings and meandering paths seemed daunting to me back then, so I left them for another day.
I thought you might like to see some of the “rules” I have devised for myself for working these particular types of cables. I hope that these pointers might help you as you work through Gwendolyn as I always find that anything broken down into bite size pieces makes it more manageable.
I think of a traditional rope cable of being made up of two “cords” which twist around each other. When they diverge from this vertical placement the following things occur.
Picasso said: “painting is just another way of keeping a diary”, I also believe this to be true of our knitting projects. Each of my designs reminds me of what I was doing in my life when I worked on it - Gwendolyn is no exception. As usual as I worked on it I carried it around with me. I even took it to the pub one night as I worked on one of the sleeves. As it was an Irish pub I thought it seemed appropriate to imbue the project with some genuine Celtic flair. Because I was following my “rules” I was very happy to find no mistakes the next morning in spite of my liquid refreshment.
Design Process: Crown of Leaves
Cross posted from her own blog, Faina Goberstein talks about the inspiration for her beautiful hat, Crown of Leaves. This is Faina's first pattern for Twist Collective and also the topic of this season's Swatch It with Clara Parkes
This hat is my first design in Twist Collective. I can't tell you how proud I am to be on the list of designers who contribute to this online magazine. Fall 2010 issue is full of beautifully crafted garments and accessories along with interesting articles.
This particular hat's idea was triggered by a beautiful horizontal cable that reminded me of crowns, which my friends and I made out of maple leaves when we were children. Unfortunately, I do not have a quality photo of such a crown, but in this photograph taken in Russia you see the girl on the left wearing one.
Design Process: Issara
After a few failed submissions, I finally made it into Twist Collective, and I couldn’t be happier! Yes folks, I had tried to submit to Twist 2-3 times prior, but unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards for me at the time.
I finally achieved my goal with Issara, which was published recently in the Fall 2010 issue. What made this even more exciting for me is the fact thatIssara is the cover for my particular storyline, Roxham Farm. I was already a fan of Twist Collective and of the artistry and designs in each issue. Now that I’ve experienced a small taste of what it’s like to be a designer in Twist, especially with the multiple layers of review that goes into each pattern, I am even more impressed.
Named after a good friend’s daughter (a Laotian name), Issara is a snuggly coat worked in bulky yarn with simple lines. The WOW factor lies within the back pleat and the oversized reversible cable collar that can be worn up, down, or somewhere in between.
The Idea & Design Process
Usually, when I design, I like to incorporate a feature element and/or versatility. And since I’ve been on a reversible cables kick lately, I really wanted a garment with a dramatic reversible collar. Thus, Issara was conceived. While I had a clear idea of what I wanted, some of the key elements in the concept required some tweaking and experimentation during the actual pattern-writing and design process.
In order for the collar to lay nicely on the shoulders when worn down, it needed to flare a little – I really didn’t want a straight funnel collar. To make a nice flare, I knew that I would have to work increases into the actual cable pattern instead of bunching it all into the beginning or set up section of the collar. I experimented with a few types of increases into the cable pattern. Lifted increases won over other types of increases because it met 3 main criteria: (1) increases had to be as invisible as possible, (2) they had to compliment and work with the stitch pattern, and (3) they had to look good on both sides.
Initially, I had intended the waistline to be a true empire waist. However, as I was working with it, I realized that the weight of the yarn in the skirt of the coat (especially with the pleat) may pull the waistline in a less than desirable way if I raised it to a true empire. So, I change the plan a little and worked the waistline roughly about 1.5″ above a natural waistline so that there is still an elongated silhouette, but without having to carry the extra weight if it was set much higher.
Because the coat is worked in a bulky yarn, Twist editor Kate Gilbert and I had some concerns that the pleat might be a little too thick and cumbersome in the back with all the layers. I really wanted to keep the pleat because I think it gives a nice balance to the dramatic and slightly flared collar; thus, I was determined to make it work. I experimented a little and I figured out a way to thin out some of the bulk in the pleat folding process: I bound off every other stitch in the center panel of each side of the pleat 2 rows prior the pleat fold. The photos below show the differences (click to enlarge) between a regular pleat fold and my thinned out version.
Photos above, clockwise from top left (click photos to enlarge): (1) work-in-progress shot of the skirt shaping; (2) the finished pleat from the private side (WS); (3) collar detail from the public side (RS); (4) collar detail from the private side (WS); (5) waist line and back pleat; (6) back view of coat with collar worn down
Overall, I found the sample a relatively fast knit. Seriously. I’m not just saying that because I’m the designer or as a fast knitter. It goes much faster than one anticipates because it’s worked in a bulky yarn. The slowest part of it, IMO, was the blocking, which took forever and a day to dry. Next post: Tips/notes on modifications, blocking, etc.
Styling "At Lowell's Boatshop"
The whole idea for the Lowell's Boatshop story was inspired by a pair of four dollar LLBean gumboots I found at a flea market. I am always trolling for clothes for the magazine shoots that I can pick up for a few dollars in my local consignments and thrift shops. Sometimes I borrow things from my step daughter, who is closer in size to the sweaters, but I also stock a closet dedicated to skirts and good under-sweater-neckline-blouses that will fit the women we ask to wear them for us. It's a odd element in my life that I own so many clothes no one in my family can wear! I know of one magazine editor who at one time kept a whole storage unit full of such things. Shoes are especially challenging, and often don't make it into the photo, but I have to provide them regardless. And while the model is wearing them in just about every photo, you can only see them there on the first page of the story!
The rest kind of fell into place after that. I ride my bike along the Merrimac River and pass by the historic Lowell's Boat Shop several times a week. I admire the views of the river from there, and also the beautiful building itself, full of nooks and details that record the craftspeople who have built dories and skiffs continuously since 1793. The head boat builder is the son of a friend of mine, so I only had to ask if we could spend the morning with them, promising to stay out of their busy way. And that I would renew my membership too, of course. I asked Caro to take the photos, and Casey to model. Everyone's schedule and the weather worked out perfectly.
My stepdaughter loaned us the beautiful coral dress here, the necklace is mine, and the shawl is Marnie MacLean's Tolovana. We had the most fun finding places among the boats to show it off (although I think this one below is technically a skiff).
Our model, Casey, is the beautiful wife of a karate buddy of mine. She is the mother of three children, if you can believe it. Her mom sat for the kids that Thursday morning so we could get the best light. I especially loved this photo of Tolovana, which made it into the July newsletter, but not the magazine. It was dramatic, but not particularly informational. It made a great tease a few weeks before we launched the fall issue.
Often we get beautiful photos of the knitwear, but can't use them because they don't help the knitter decide if they want to knit the project or not. I suppose I can leave the drama to the blogs. Give it a try, and send me a link!
Design Process: Lallans
Lallan is Christa Giles' second design for Twist Collective. Like her previous design, Piper, Christa offers us her creative blend of fashion, detailing and functionality. This is a cross post from Christa's own blog. Click to find out more about Lallans and Piper.
I have such a hard time keeping secrets, but here’s another can’t-tell-until-it-is-live project: Lallans for the Fall 2010 issue of Twist Collective, a fabulous online knitting magazine (but you knew that already, right?)
The mood boards for this issue included three stories: a woodland shoot, with the words “walk along quiet byways, wander through the woods”; What Would Mary-Heather Wear, a colourful and quirky tribute to the stylish Mary-Heather Cogar who is a knitting designer and Ravelry employee and lover of cute German Shepard dogs (her's is named Charlie); and then a black and white selection of glamourous, edgy, strong rocking women.
I submitted ideas for all three stories, and Lallans was chosen - this was the one that had already been fully knit, and perhaps my completed hats are easier to judge than my sketched ideas! (Piper was submitted in the same way, with photos of a completed hat along with drawings of other concepts.) I thought that design would work particularly well for the woodlands idea, as it had a bit more of the kicking-around-in-the-fields flavour and less of Piper’s glam or the playfulness that I’d associate with Mary-Heather!
The design itself was a sideline project that came after I finished my NaKniSweMo hoodie in January. I had used the braiding technique to trim all around the bottom, front, and hood edges before applying the final ribbing band, and I really loved the way it looked! (Note, however, that I did NOT love applying it to the hoodie! Lesson learned: braid is good on small things, like hats or mittens. That much twisted yarn as you work on hundreds of stitches, not so fun.) I wanted to use piping again (yes, I’m still on that kick) and also throw in a bit more texture, so that’s where those garter ridges joined us. The slip stitch pattern was tougher: I consulted a few different stitch dictionaries, but didn’t find anything I liked, so I started playing around. This pattern that resulted is the colourwork equivalent of the textured stitch in Picker’s Delight, balanced for easy shifting between colours and rows, and simple to remember! There’s a bit of fiddly work at the start and end of some of the rounds, but I think it does a good job of helping to minimize the jog.
This hat had the original working title of Hound, since I thought that the slip stitch patterning looked like the weave structure called Houndstooth. In the second or third round of edits, Kate suggested we rename it Lallans, the Scottish word for Lowlands (the region that developed the Houndstooth pattern). I always find naming patterns hard (read about Piper’s process here) but was content with Hound.. but Lallans is a lovely fit! I have a friend visiting Scotland right now, so I’ll be getting coached in the proper pronunciation.
Knitting the two samples was fun, and I loved the colour combinations that Kate chose for me. The Caledon Hills Worsted Wool was delicious to work with, too! One of the things I really enjoy about designing for publications that provide yarn support is that I get to experience a wide range of fibres, not just what the local shops carry..
And finally, I really love the photo shoot with the model digging around under the hood of a vehicle - my sister and I both spent a lot of time in our teen years working on motorcycles or my dad’s truck, as he tried to give us some good mechanical basics. It obviously stuck with my sister (she’s an electrician, working towards becoming a millwright in a sawmill in the middle of BC), but didn’t have as much of a lasting effect on me. I’m happy that Chris is a handyman and will help me out in that area when needed! As pretty as it looks on the Twist Collective models, I’m planning to get some photos of men wearing the straight ribbing version as I think this pattern can be pretty masculine or unisex too!