Twist Collective Blog
Fiona Ellis has a way with cables (and lace and colorwork, for that matter) and her design for Spring/Summer is no exception. Harriet is proof that gorgeous cables can be perfect for cool weather in a comfortable cotton blend. Fiona takes us through her design process in this fascinating blog post.
“Knitting is a traditional craft, linked both to the past and to the future by the thread of current practice.” A line that I use over and over to describe my approach to designing: basically we don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time, we can apply what we have learned from traditional techniques to make contemporary garments and thus come up with new ways to approach our craft.
So when I was designing Harriet I knew that I wanted to add what I call “filler stitches” into the areas defined by the cables to add extra texture and dimension. So my starting point was looking at cables that already existed and at what filler stitches had been used before. I quickly came to the conclusion that from a technical standpoint, I could not deviate easily from this tried and tested route. These patterns need to have small repeats to make them simple to put into small areas and so ruled out many interesting initial possibilities. I ended up with the old stand-bys of seed and rib, both of which have a two stitch repeat.
With that settled I moved onto looking at the path the cable cords themselves would draw. Harriet was to be a feminine sweater or cardigan (instructions are given for both), so the lines created needed to be soft and flowing. I also liked the idea of working with a pattern that created pairs or double elements. Using tradition patterns as a jumping off point I came up with several variations, some of which I liked and some of which I thought were ugly.
You can never tell what a cable will look like until you knit it, so swatching is the only way to know. I love doing this. It is the part of the process which for me can generate many other ideas, some of which head off on tangents, that’s why I keep a notebook, enabling me to return to them one day.
The size of the repeat, especially the row count became very important at this stage. I could certainly come up with something beautiful but knew that some (although certainly not all) knitters might be put off by a huge long repeat. I think that there must be some kind of magic number to this, you know not so long that you can never learn it but long enough to encourage you to knit a whole repeat in one sitting and thus move the project along at a good speed. Now if only I knew what that magic number was…. but I’m sure it varies from knitter to knitter.
Anyway I thought you might like to see a few of my swatches and hear my thoughts on what I thought worked (and what did not).
1) Single element divided with the two filler stitches contained in the same circle - didn’t look feminine enough and would produce a sort of polka dot effect.
2) Celtic Knot first attempt: mirror cables within the same repeat. This is 52 rows long – yikes! Plus the areas for adding the filler stitches are way too small.
3) Titling cables: loved the lines and the filler stitch areas are a good size but again repeat is too long at a whopping 56 rows.
4) Final design: row repeat is a minuscule (ahem) 42 rows, nice size areas for the filler stitches. Soft gentle curving lines.
Then I decided to create the mirror image cable, as the negative space created between two cables can sometimes be almost as interesting as the cable its-self. Also I felt that the double element aspect would be more aesthetically pleasing if placed symmetrically.
I guess I didn’t achieve my aim to have a really manageable row repeat but I loved the cable and knowing that it would probably appeal to avid cable knitters I decided to go with it anyway.
Budding Apple - A Spring Twist
Right from Twist Collective's first edition, Anne Hanson has been designing lovely lace shawls for us, along with her incredibly popular Leaving cardigan and pullover design. Her most recent design, Budding Apple Shawlette, is the topic of this blog post, cross posted from her own blog. You can find the Budding Apple Shawlette here.
When the Spring/Summer issue of Twist Collective was launched, I was deep into the opening class day of sock camp and had hardly a moment to talk about our Budding Apple Shawlette design included in the issue.
Fortunately, news spreads fast, thanks to our very enthusiastic ravelry group (i love you guys!), as well as excited fans of the dyers involved in the project—Spirit Trail Fiberworks providing Neith, Kollage Yarns providing Creamy, and The Natural Dye Studio providing Precious and Angel 4-ply.
That’s a lotta yarn and we did a lotta knitting to make a sample in each one. why so many?
Knitters often write to tell me they appreciate our extensive project photography and how much they enjoy exploring blog links to the wealth of gorgeous yarns available to us. I thought it would be fun to present a pretty, quick-knit project that would translate beautifully in a variety of fibers and colors, with an investment in just a skein or two of yarn (the better to try more of them, my dear!).
And what better time than spring to refresh our senses with a palette of soft colors in luscious non-wool fibers? So I set out in my usual way to create a project that would fit all of those parameters.
First step—you guessed it—swatches.
I worked up several swatches in various sample yarns I had on hand, until I came up with a set I liked in a range of non-wool fiber types, including alpaca, cashmere, silk, cotton, and milk.
I don’t remember when, exactly, I decided on these particular stitch patterns, but the moment I saw them together, I knew that they brought together a bunch of loosely-related ideas I had into one firm idea, which was now about apple trees.
In other words, up until that point, I had a general sense of the feeling I wanted to portray, but seeing the stitches together made apple buds come to mind. and since I was designing for a spring issue, that seemed just right.
The larger pattern for the hem portion is one of many “grapevine” variations; this one is particularly sensual, I think, with its sinuous movement and shading. the tiny eyelet trefoil provides a delicately punctuated field to rest the eyes on, while still keeping the feeling light and lively.
Once I had my stitch patterns planned out, I did some preliminary charting and got started on the prototype in kollage creamy, in the cool, fresh canopy green color.
It was a quick knit all right and I was done in no time at all. I did see afterward that a few tweaks were in order—the insertion at the center back didn’t seem right, so i decided to change that
And while I was at it, I refined the placement of the small eyelet pattern as well. Luckily, I was able to get more yarn to produce another sample that is knit exactly as the pattern is written—that’s the one you’ll see in the magazine pages, knit by our very dear friend Karolyn. The changes are subtle, but they make a difference to me.
The insertion in particular is a lot more in keeping with the design. I hesitated about using it, since I would then be repeating a detail I’d used before, but my gut told me it was better for the design.
Once I had the prototype knit and finalized the design, I wrote the pattern up and we got to work on samples to send to the magazine.
These were my secret projects in September and October—above you see it in Pure Silk Precious 4-ply from the natural dye studio, colorway heather and below, the cashmere/silk version in spirit trail neith even traveled to rhinebeck with me, a delicious travel companion.
This soft blue is named chalcedony and is worn by the model on the right in this photo. the yarn is to DIE for, with a lovely density that gives the finished shawl a nice weight. I’m so sorry I didn’t get a modeled shot of it before I sent it off, but time grew short and I was traveling a lot at that point, oy. Same goes for the one we knit up in a soft pink color called sugar, from The Natural Dye Studio.
And all that was way back in the fall, before thanksgiving. I didn’t revisit this project for quite a few months, but when the pattern proofs arrived from twist, I took everything out again to take one last look before publication.
As it happened, the fruit trees were just beginning to show their buds as we put those final touches on the pattern and I was wowed by how accurately the stitch patterns mimic the look of their branches, droopy with buds and ready to burst into flower. i couldn’t help but be reminded of the shawl during my Seattle stay, just as this issue went live.
One week later, i finally have a chance to sit and write a thoughtful recap of the process of designing this piece and to thank the staff at Twist Collective for including it in this spring/summer issue.
Ormond Design Process
Faina Goberstein's second design with Twist Collective, is Ormond, a comfortable and flattering cardigan. Her post discusses the inspiration behind her design. This entry can also be found on Faina's own blog here. If you like Ormond, you may also enjoy her Crown of Leaves pattern.
Before I tell you about my design, I want to say that I am so honored to have my design included in the Twist Collective's Spring/Summer of 2011 issue. There are so many incredibly talented designers whose work is featured in this issue, that I cannot even choose which pattern is my favorite. I recommend that you also read about the work behind the scene to appreciate all these fabulous people who make Twist Collective so appealing to us all. I am always in awe when the new issue comes out with amazing photography and stories.
The story of Ormond began a few months ago when my husband and I visited our friends in Ormond Beach, Florida. It is a beautiful and very inspirational place. We love the ocean and our friends' condominium is right on a beach. You can see the ocean from their balcony or windows. If you want to get to the beach, you have to walk about 2 seconds there. Seriously, I have never stayed that close to the ocean in my life.
It was such a serene place where you can be one-on-one with nature and deep in your thoughts. Very quickly it became a place within me to which I could come back and find peace in the midst of the most difficult and stressful time of deadlines and exam grading.When the time came to submit for the next issue of Twist Collective, I searched through my stash of new yarns that I brought from TNNA. One that caught my eye was Belle Organic by Amy Butler for Rowan yarns.
A seamless construction is always my choice, if possible. Call me a lazy knitter, but I do love to knit with minimal seamwork at the end. Even sleeves are constructed in the round. With all these considerations, I sent my submission for this jacket among some other ideas in.
The waist was shaped by twice switching the needle size. This is something you can say is almost my signature for such pieces. I do not want to disturb the stitch pattern and working on a smaller needle just does the job of bringing the waistline in. Of course, it is not always suitable, so do not take it as advice to do it every time. The sleeves are worked in the round and are set-in. That is where I could not avoid making seams. Another place for a seam is the back of neck. But that is it. The cardigan is done from the beginning to the end including the front band altogether. I guarantee that if you will work on this design, it will be a pleasant experience for you.
Some projects are already showing up on Ravelry.com.
This is one fully done Ormond that Claudia who lives in Germany made in purple.
Here is some information about the pattern:
Devonshire: Amazing Fiber
Pamela Powers debuted her first design last year, with her retro inspired Sunny Day. She's back with another beautiful layering piece, Devonshire, and in today's blog post, she talks about the yarn she used to knit it. This is a cross post from Pam's own blog, which you can find here.
I had the privilege of working with Catherine Lowe’s Couture Yarns for my design Devonshire in the Twist Collective Spring/Summer 2011 issue. When Kate Gilbert contacted me to discuss yarn options, I must admit I was a little intimidated but very intrigued by the concept of Catherine’s yarn. When ordering yarn, you can custom blend the fiber content and gauge. I chose a DK weight blend of Royal Baby Alpaca and Silk.
I ordered 1400 yards of yarn which arrived in a box slightly smaller than a shoe box, containing two balls of the custom blend yarn and one small ball of the silk / mohair for the optional ruffle around the collar. As if that wasn’t startling enough, the appearance of the yarn was unlike any yarn I had ever seen. As you can see in the above photo, the ply of the yarn is very distinctive--the plies run parallel to each other rather than twisted together. The reason behind this is brilliant, but I’ll let you read up on it in Catherine’s words to truly give it justice.
After knitting a swatch, the real fun began. The yarn is treated with sizing that is removed with washing and blocking. The finished result is a beautifully soft, lightweight fabric that had both sheen and a slight loft to it as seen in the “before” and “after” swatch photos below.
In January, I attended Catherine Lowe’s class, “Basic Techniques of Couture Knitting” in New York. Catherine not only has incredible technical and design skills, she also is a very lovely, articulate and patient teacher.
Spring in December
When Twist is ready to photograph the spring/summer projects, there's usually at least a foot of snow at our headquarters. That may actually be what a lot of you see in spring, (I know I did, growing up in New Hampshire) but we want an edition that brings to mind warm weather and bright sunshine. If money were no object, we'd jet set to some tropical location and shoot beautiful knits while sipping ridiculously fruity and extravagant cocktails. We'd probably also never return home.
Instead, we make due with what we have. Frequent Twist Collective photographer, dyer and all around great person, Jamie Dixon, opened up her home to Kate and me (Marnie) in the middle of December, for our Two For Tea shoot. While New Mexico has wonderful light and relatively mild weather in winter, it's not exactly springy looking, unless you think of spring as being particularly...brown.
Scoping out the perfect picnic spot, we had to find a way to make New Mexico's deep dark browns of December look bright and cheery. It would need to start with some sweeping. Dead leaves aren't very springy.
Enlisting a little help from one of our models and Mary-Heather, we got to sprucing up the location
Paper lanterns and ribbons bring those vibrant spring colors we were craving, and a little tarp protects Margaret Mills' lovely blanket from the dirt and debris.
We had spent the previous day matching garments to accessories and raiding the home of one of the Sweater Girls for all those amazing props from the shoot.
Our beautiful models, Amy and Jaclyn, were real troopers. It may be New Mexico, but December in Albuquerque is still pretty chilly. As we set up shots, the models kept themselves bundled while Jamie and Kate got all the little details perfect.
My job was to make sure we didn't miss any shot and to generally be helpful and such.
Sometimes, being helpful involved looking like Mary Poppins to keep the sun's glare off the models' faces.
Jaime and Kate stop frequently to check images for the proper light, composition and clarity of details.
And here's a little extra surprise for you all, Kate didn't just run the shoot, she also did a bit of modeling.
This was my first shoot with Twist Collective (and, incidentally, the first time meeting Kate and Jamie in person) and it was a long hard day of work, but it was also great fun to get to see the magic behind the scenes. When you think of all the creative resources that go into making each shoot a reality, it makes the resulting story in the edition, all the more charming.
A big thank you to Jamie and Mary-Heather for stuffing us full of food while we were in town. I am a sucker for chiles when they are verde and you did not disappoint. Here's hoping I'll get to go back again someday soon.
And that about covers my little behind the scenes for our Two for Tea shoot.