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Twist Collective Blog

Design Process: Gwendolyn

Fiona Ellis

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.

Image copyright Jane Heller

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 ( 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.

It is over 17 years since I graduated (really it’s been that long?) and I have found myself returning to Celtic patterns over and over.

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.

  • Resting (or not): Vertically placed cables need to “rest” between each crossing otherwise they become really tight. But when cables are traveling across the fabric they need to move on each right side row to avoid a jog being created.
  • Traveling “cords”: When crossings involving both knit and purl stitches are worked remember that the knit stitches of the “cord” need to be visible on the public side of the piece. I think of them being a prima dona standing in the limelight, thus the purls are her back-up singers and should never be in front preventing the audience from seeing the diva.
  • Direction of cable crossing: in order to achieve the interwoven look of the knots each “cord” needs to cross over, under, over, under the others throughout is path through the piece. This will tell you whether to hold the “cord” in front or at the back when two meet.
  • Chart “no stitch”: Often these types of cables require that we increase and decrease the number of stitches within the pattern. The chart will then be set up with the number of squares being equal to the maximum number of stitches used. So until the stitches are made (increased) the extra squares are simply blacked out and should not be counted when working a pattern.
  • Middle stitch crossings: Sometimes two cords almost meet but are separated by a single purl stitch, so a method of crossing the cords and keeping this center stitch is used. It’s a bit like a double crossing and involves putting the purl stitch back on the needle in between working each set of cord stitches.

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.

Celtic Knot Pub
Sleeve Progress
Pub Logo

Inspiration photo 1
 Inspiration photo 2

Design Process: Crown of Leaves

Faina Goberstein

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


Crown of Leaves
Image copyright Caro Benna Sheridan 

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.

It is very intriguing for me to watch the beginning of any design. Each pattern is different. You never know what will give you an idea.

Crown of Leaves SketchCrown of Leaves swatch

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.

Child wearing crownHere is another crown made by Larisa Vilensky for this post. Thank you, Larisa.

Crown of LeavesIf you are interested, here is the website showing how to make it. Although it is a Russian website, you do not need to know the language since the step-by-step explanations are in pictures and are very clear. I am sure that many such crowns are made by kids and adults outside of Russia as well.

I love hats and even though I do not need to wear them now as often as at the time when I lived in Russia, my memory of windy and cold days suggests to me that a hat needs to be functional and beautiful. Functional, because it has to stay on your head in the wind, and beautiful, because when you are bundled up, this is probably the most important of three small articles in your wardrobe (the other two are gloves and a scarf). So, when I planned the design of this hat, I kept those thoughts in mind. As you see on the original swatch, I began with the decorative cast-on that I love for the look. The problem with this cast-on is that it is loose. That's why I followed it with a rib for elasticity and for keeping it firm on a head. The rest of the hat was hinted by the cable stitch pattern. The crown part naturally flowed from the main pattern and decreases were done to taper the hat at the top.

Finished sampleThis shot is showing the cast-on, the rib, and the cable part.

When the Fall 2010 issue was live and I saw the photos, my thought was: "I hope people like this hat as much as I do."

I think what makes this magazine special is the combination of exclusive designs, gorgeous photography, and great articles. You can be sure that there are hard-working and talented people behind the scenes who make it all happen.

You can read a very nice article by Clara Parkes in Twist Collective about swatching using my hat's cable pattern. I was very pleased and honored that Clara liked my hat.

Remember that there are many more beautiful designs in this issue of Twist Collective. Go and check it out.

Design Process: Issara

Anne Kuo Lukito

Anne Kuo Lukito's strikes a balance of practical and flattering in her warm jacket, Issara, her first design for Twist Collective. This post can also be found at her own blog, Crafty Diversions.

Issara Front

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.

p2-1 Issara sketch

Issara sketch


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.

Issara Swatch1 - front Issara Swatch3 - back


Side Shaping Pleat detail

Cables 1 Cables 2

Closeup of back Issara back

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"

Julia here.

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.


Lallans version 1 Lallans version 2
Image copyright Jane Heller Image copyright Caro Benna Sheridan

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?)

Lallans prototype


The picture above is of the prototype - see the Lallans pattern page here or on Twist Collective for photos of the real version (this length of ribbing didn’t work out with the short rows).

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!