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Twist Collective Blog

Behind the scenes: Winter is coming

Yes, the Fall edition just went live, but for us, it's the middle of winter with spring on the horizon. 

Our photographers are setting the cool, crisp mood of winter while our models bundle up, all to make next season's knit's look their very best. And of course, our tech editors, layout designers, web developers and everyone else are all doing their part to make the edition great.

Winter 2011 Shoot

While that is happening, we have a stack of amazing submissions to sort through for spring. No rest for the knitted, around here. 

In the mean time, we hope you are enjoying the Fall edition, along with all the projects in our archives


Nancy Whitman

Nancy Whitman's first design for Twist Collective is a stunner of a pair of socks called Shani. It's been popular enough that she's put together a Knit-A-Long [KAL] that starts today. Find out more about the socks and the KAL in today's blog post and find out more about Nancy at her website


Shani is my first published pattern, apart from self-published ones, so I wanted to share the design process with you.  The stitch pattern evolved from one originally found in a stitch dictionary.  This particular pattern caught my eye because of its asymmetrical quality that was achieved by varying the rate, either every row or every other row, of yarn overs and corresponding decreases.  The lines of decreased stitches that are worked on every row form an acute angle that sits closer to the horizontal plane than the lines of decreased stitches on every other row.   To my eye, this made for a stitch pattern with many interesting angles.  Now that I had the pattern it was time to swatch.

Shani Decreases

I quickly learned that this pattern produced a fabric with very little shape retention, something I like to have in socks.  My first thought was to change to a 100% Merino yarn because the original swatch was made with a Merino/cashmere blend, but that did not solve the problem completely.  The solution was to manipulate the stitch pattern to create that body.  Removing a section of lace and replacing it with ribbing added the necessary body to the knit fabric and, as a bonus, added continuity to the design.  Now the k3, p2 cuff ribbing could travel down the leg.

Shani ribbing

At this point, I was pleased with the cuff and leg, but knew there would be some decisions in how to transition to the heel and the toe.

The stitch pattern for Shani is repeated three times around the body of the sock.  This meant the center of the heel flap and the center of the instep would occur at a different point in the pattern repeat.  From a design perspective there would be more details to decide and opportunities to create interesting and varied transitions between different parts of the sock.

Centering a full pattern repeat down the front of the leg created a natural point to continue the ribbing from the leg onto the heel flap.  Like the cuff, the ribbing would have a V-shaped transition, albeit upside down.  To keep the design cohesive, I repeated that V-shaped transition at the toe.  You can see it in the first picture above.


Much of this design was decided on the needle when I knit the prototype pictured here in yellow.  For me, this is the best way to design a sock since you will know right away what works and what does not.  This was fun to design and I hope you enjoy reading about it and making the sock!

There is a KAL for Shani in the Twist Collective Ravelry group.  The official start will be August 24, and all are welcome and encouraged to join then or later.  I will be there to give whatever support and help I can.

For the Love of I-cord

Fiona Ellis

Fiona Ellis is not just a prolific designer, with 13 designs for Twist Collective, alone including such favorites as Harriet, Gwendolyn and Bonnie, she's also innovative to boot. In today's post, she talks about using i-cord in her designs. You can see her most recent application of this technique in Charnwood.


Did you have one of those spool knitting gadgets / toys when you were a kid?

icord icord

Apart from the time when I, aged 5, “helped” my Mum while she was sleeping with a Fair Isle yoke sweater, one of my earliest knitting memories is of making yards and yards of cord using my “French Knitting” doll. Oooh not for me the simple spool with 4 nails hammered into it, I had a long thin wooden toy pained to look like a doll. I’m not sure if my Grandmother saw me having a career in knitting but her encouragement of my love for it was rewarded with not just potholders but many small rugs. I caught the bug very early.

icord icord

Then when I was in university studying fashion knitwear design I discovered that you could make cords by setting the cams on the knitting machines to slip in one direction.  We were obliged to put in a specific number of studio hours each week. So at 4pm in the afternoon when we would rather be somewhere else we would sit and make miles and miles of “Rouleau” cords AND be able to gossip at the same time. Having been brought up to waste nothing this prompted me to come up with creative ideas for using the cord that I had made. And so it continued.

icord icord

Now knitting only by hand again I, like most knitters, always have a carry around project with me at all times. Sometimes if I’m at a point in a project that needs concentration I will throw a pair of dpn’s into my bag and make “I-cord” on the subway. I have come to see this humble piece of knitting as not only a great tool for sparking creative ideas but also as the perfect accent to a cable sweater. This is because they are simply cords that are not yet set into the fabric. I am totally hooked.

icord icord

I have used them as edgings, to gather a hemline, added to cables in many different ways so they appear to be spilling out of the pattern. I now realize that it was only a matter of time before I started not only adding cords to cable projects but also adding 3-D pieces of knitting to those cords. Charnwood is not my first and I know it won’t be my last. I see a new avenue opening up.


Elizabeth Doherty

Elizabeth Doherty's first design with Twist Collective is the charming Litchfield Cloche and Mitten set. Today's post, cross posted from her own blog talks a little about her inspiration for the design.

My Great-Grandmother Nettie Mae Colby was a prolific knitter, and what she made was mostly mittens. She made them for her family, for the hired men who worked on the family farm, for folks around town. In this she was abetted by my Great-Grandfather James, who would bring her reports of children with cold hands and the approximate dimensions of the needed mittens.

nettie mae

The mittens she made were extremely fine, knit on steel pins, probably #000 or #0000, and apparently very warm. My mother had a treasured pair that she lost some years ago. She mentions them every winter. This past year one of her cousins unearthed a pair, and passed them along to me. I made a fairly faithful reproduction of them for my mom – though I could only bring myself to use #00 needles.

Nettie Mae taught me some interesting tricks with those mittens: the rolled-edge cuff, and the purled gutter around the thumb gusset. Somewhere along the way, I became rather fascinated with mitten construction, and came up with a few of my own improvements. The result is Litchfield.

I have always liked the anatomical shaping of “technical” mittens, those used for skiing or ice-climbing, and used them as a model for the shaping that I built into the design. And where Nettie Mae made a purely functional mitten, I can’t resist embellishing those small blank canvases with a little balanced asymmetry.


Designing a companion hat was a natural progression from the mitten. The suggestion for its shape came from twist collective's editor, Kate Gilbert. As soon as I heard the word 'cloche', I saw the hat perfectly – what fun to take that asymmetrical cable, and make it run around the band. The technical challenge was to create a brim with enough structure to keep it from going floppy as soon as the hat was washed. My solution was to use a ribbing pattern that comes together before the rolled edge to form a sort of buttress to the brim. It was quite an interesting puzzle to work out.

nettie mae and james

The pattern name? It's the New Hampshire town where Great-Grandma Nettie Mae's steel pins were kept so busy.

The Little Spinner and the Spider

Eloise Narrigan

Eloise Narrigan created the stunning illustrations for The Little Spinner and the Spider as well as Critter Comforts. In today's post she gives us a behind the scenes look at the process for The Little Spinner and the Spider. You can find more of Eloise's work at

Besides being a near-constant knitter and having recently started working at an LYS in my neighborhood (stop by JP Knit & Stitch and say hi if you're in Boston!), I am a freelance illustrator and textile designer. I'm always looking for ways to combine the illustrating and designing with the knitting, so when Kate emailed me about a possible story for Twist Collective, I was delighted.

This isn't my first job for Twist, but with three more years of experience, I felt much more comfortable telling Mairgrette's story than I had working on Critter Comforts. My style is a bit loser, my brushstrokes are more confident, and I even got to do some historical research!


I did these sketches while waiting for some books at the Boston Public Library. While the internet--particularly Google's image search--is a great tool, sometimes you just can't beat a book. The ones I found, including Pam Dawson's Traditional Island Knitting and Lucinda Guy's more recent Northern Knits provided me with context and inspiration.

In these sketches, you can see a couple versions of Mairgrete as well as the Trow, plus Marigrete's mother and the wealthy woman from Lerwick who didn't make it into any final illustrations. You can also see, maybe, some small seeds of ideas in the form of thumbnails. Occasionally I'll look back through old sketchbooks and be temporarily baffled by what all those little squiggles could mean.

I'm also experimenting a bit with the text on this page. The lettering, which I did separate from the paintings, wound up taking the longest time! I had to pay careful attention while penciling out the words, then again while painting them in opaque watercolor, since I was fighting against a lot of my natural handwriting habits. For instance: my r's look like c's, and the dots on my i's tend to wander away to join other words. I still did a lot of cleaning up in Photoshop, but I think the effect was worth the extra time.

Final Sketches

I gathered my notes, books, rough sketches, and--of course--Daryl's story and sketched some more legible thumbnails. You can probably tell which ones Kate approved. I can't help but agree; while I like the scene with the woman from Lerwick, it's a less satisfying conclusion than Mairgrete with her sheep in the Shetland countryside.

Color Studies

With the approved sketches, I made quick color studies in Photoshop. Although I don't slavishly follow these while painting (maybe you can tell!), it helps me think about what I want to communicate. In this case, the scene starts cold and a bit lonely (blue), warms up with excitement and magic (a nice, mystical purple) and then stays warm but returns to nature (green). Doing a digital color study lets me experiment, too, and chose wild colors that I'd be too timid to try on a final painting.

I don't have any photos of the paintings in process, and of course you know where to find the final versions of the paintings, but I do have one more peek at my process.


This is what my working space looks like at this very moment. I have a piece of watercolor paper stapled to a piece of Masonite (to keep the paper from warping), and there are two different drawings on it, ready to be painted. Above my desk are some important tools (more brushes, ink, tape, and, yes, that's a roll of toilet paper) and inspirational images and objects, including a bowl my aunt made.

And right on the shelf you can see one of the completed paintings I've been going on about, with the other two behind it. Those paintings, along with a menagerie of cards, posters, and notebooks, are available in my etsy shop ( If you'd like to help keep me in fabric, fiber, and paint (and get a little something for yourself or someone else), consider dropping by.

I hope this was an interesting and informative look at my process. Thanks for reading, and happy knitting!