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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.

Gwendolyn
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 (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.

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