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Twist Collective Blog

Design Process: Primrose Path

by Angela Hahn
 
When designing a knitwear pattern, I often start with a stitch I really like, but in the case of Primrose Path, I first had the idea of creating a sleeveless tank, worked in the round, with a lace band winding diagonally around the body from the hem up. With this in mind, I searched through stitch dictionaries until I found a few different lace patterns I thought might work -- patterns in which the lace repeat had some sort of diagonal element.  
 
swatches for primrose path
 
 
I ended up using a stitch pattern from a Japanese book, #138 from Knitting Patterns 300. The angle of the diagonal seemed right-- it wasn't too steep nor too flat (I was trying to get the lace band to start somewhere on the front, curve around one side, across the upper back, and end on the top of the shoulder).  I also realized that this pattern flowed perfectly into a k2, p3 rib, and I thought that using this rib for the body of the tank would be a great way to give it some shaping without using decreases and increases. After making a fairly large swatch, I wondered if the band might be too suggestive of a beauty contestant sash-- not good! So I added a few scattered lace flowers to soften the edges of the band.  Finally, a wide U neck seemed a good choice-- I thought the lines of a V-neck might compete with the diagonal line of the lace band.
 
sketch
 
 
I have to be honest: the idea of adding optional sleeves came from Kate!  Once we decided to do sleeves, it was time to fine-tune the placement of the lace band for all sizes, and to decide how to echo the lace band on the sleeves. Spiraling it up the sleeves didn't work because the sleeves are too narrow-- the band would have crossed the entire sleeve width well before reaching the top of the sleeve.  Instead I decided to make the lace band on the sleeves into an upside down "V" which could be adapted for all sizes fairly easily.  
 
 
 
Calculating the band placement on the body for all sizes was trickier; I didn't want the band to fall across the armhole edge, but continue unbroken to the shoulder. I realized that to do this, the band would need to start closer to the side seam in the larger sizes; unfortunately this means that as the sizes get larger, less of the lace accent is visible on the front of the sweater, but I think in all sizes, the lace really accents the back of the sweater nicely. I also decided that some knitters might prefer the clean look of the lace band without extra lace flowers, so I wrote that option into the pattern.
 
Finally, in keeping with the inherent asymmetry of the stitch pattern in this sweater, for the sample I decided to work the left sleeve with the optional scattered lace flowers, and the right sleeve without (with lace band only). I'm very happy with the overall effect, and with the fact that there are several options included in this pattern: with or without sleeves, with or without extra lace flowers on the body, and with or without extra lace flowers on one or both sleeves.
 
 
 
(The low camera angle in photos is due to the short stature of the 5-year-old photographer, not an artistic decision!)
 
Want to know more about Angela's design?  Read her blog post about Primrose Path here

More from Critter Comforts

Eloise Narrigan's Critter Comfort illustrations for Twist Collective's winter issue inspired a small frenzy when she opened an Etsy shop before Christmas, and she quickly sold out of the limited print run.

 critter bunny

 

A little time has gone by, and Eloise recently restocked her shop with fresh prints of her snuggly sweet bunnies, blue jays, and friends, and has added some other things we love too.

 

 

spinning magic
 

 

She ships quickly and carefully, and ever one of them is sure to brighten your kitchen or studio space. Tell her we sent you.

 

Eloise Draws on Etsy

 

What's a Poffertje?

As you might know by now, so baffled by the strange name of Megan Roger's blanket pattern that you went scrambling for the google button, Poffertjes are traditional Dutch cakes, a bit similar in texture to American pancakes. Cooked in a special cast-iron pan with several small shallow indentations in the bottom, poffertjes are usually served as an afternoon snack, not as a breakfast food, and often served with icing sugar.  Megan likes hers with strawberries and whipped cream too.
 
poffertjes and strawberries 
 
If you so inclined to try them (I know I am) here's a recipe adapted for us non-American cooks from one I found on RecipeZaar (that's the link to the original metric version).
 
Ingredients

1 cup flour
3 tbsp butter 
1 and 1/2 cups milk
2 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
A Poffertjes pan is helpful but not necessary: a large cast iron skillet will work too.

Directions
 
Heat the milk until lukewarm.
Mix the salt with the flour and make a well in the middle.
Mix the yeast with a little lukewarm milk and pour this into the well, together with 2/3 of the rest of the milk.
Stir to a thick, smooth batter. Add the rest of the lukewarm milk (keep stirring!).
Cover the batter with a dampened cloth and leave in a warm place for 1 hour.
Grease the pan with butter.  If you have a special poffertjes pan, fill each of the ‘wells’ of the pan with some of the batter.
With a regular skillet, drop 2" diameter dollops.  Fry until golden brown on both sides, turning before completely set on the first side. Adjust heat accordingly.
Serve the poffertjes hot with butter and confectioner' sugar, whipped cream and strawberries, or maple sugar.
 

Crave Color for Spring? Poffertjes!

If you like to play with color, I think Poffertjes from the spring issue of Twist Collective is a terrific frolic.  When designer Megan Rogers sent in the blanket for spring, we were immediately excited about how knitters could use color when they made their own version.

Her original proposal came with two versions.  First, the one we used to choose yarn for her with ivory or white circles and lots of different greens for the diamonds,

 

poffertijes 

 

and the other with taffy colored circles and white diamonds, which is my personal favorite.

 

poffertjespastel

 

This one could be a bit tricky to reproduce, but Megan writes that she was looking at Manos del Uruguay color cards when she did the proposal.  We asked Megan to use Mission Falls Superwash for practical reasons in this baby blanket, and also because the Mission Falls comes in such an interesting palette, but there's no reason why a knitter couldn't use a untreated wool for a grown up version.

The trick is in making the color choices. Megan writes: "To help with schemes for the pattern, I looked at a lot of patchwork quilts, especially the quilts at the Lancaster Quilt & Textile Museum, in Lancaster, PA.  I tried to chose colors for the schemes that were either analagous, in the same color family, or colors that were all very different but the same value."

Whether you try white diamonds and colored wafers, or you put the color into the circles, have fun with it.  The pattern is light-hearted and portable to knit, as spring knitting should be.  

Things that go "baaah" in the night

by Barbara Parry (originally posted on her Foxfire Farm blog, Sheep Gal)

We're in the homestretch here, with just two ewes, Mystic and Zuni, left to deliver. I'm so happy, completely exhausted, but drawing new energy now that there's an end in sight. 

As many of you know, I rely on the baby monitor on my bedside stand which serves as my ear in the barn. I fall asleep to the banter of 23 new lambs conversing with their mothers. Each morning I wake to soft rustle of lambs scampering at first light. It's getting harder to tell the sound of a playful lamb dancing in the straw from the sound of a ewe pawing the bedding in labor. At night I'm relying more and more heavily on the lambcam to check out the action in the darkened barn.

Here's more of Helena's story, as I promised earlier this week:

At dark o'clock on Tuesday morning, I got my wake up call to help Helena as she delivered a pretty pair, a white ewe and a black ram lamb. Both were strong and healthy, and mother quickly cleaned them up, and claimed them. Which is why it is so mysterious that in the light of the following day, Helena was clearly favoring her black ram lamb, giving her white ewe-ling the cold shoulder, though I suspect the light of day had something to do with it.
 
lamb twins 
 
My good friend, shearer, and trusted resource for all things sheep, Andy Rice, came by to help troubleshoot. First order of business - was she was differentiating by sight or smell? We rubbed menthol on her nose and on the butts of the lambs. For about ten minutes, she went back and forth, sniffing both lamb bottoms, trying to sort out who was who. You could tell she was using her other senses to process, and, smart mother that she is, it didn't take long for her to sort it out. Once again, she began shoving the white ewe aside.

In past years we've had good results in training reticent ewes to accept their lambs by using a stanchion, a panel that keeps the mother stationary and allows the lambs to nurse without the mother able to see exactly who's feeding. Andy felt it was certainly worth a try. So we confined Helena in a stanchion, much to her chagrin. But those lambs eagerly jumped in to nurse, especially the little white ewe. 

I thought we were on the right path until later that evening I discovered that once again, Helena had gone on strike. She was lying down, udder tucked away, firmly sandwiched between her legs. I massaged her neck and cajoled and coaxed her to stand. As soon as she felt two lambs jump in to nurse, down she went. This battle of wills went on for hours. I checked her bag. It was fine. I inspected the lamb's mouths, no sharp teeth (in fact no teeth at all). 

Near midnight, at wits end, after much cussing and several hours of getting her to stand only to have her refuse both lambs,  I lost my resolve and released her from the stanchion. And darn it, she turned right around and shoved that white lamb!

I gave up and gathered the little ewe from the pen. Within minutes, Helena settled and eased into nursing the black ram. There was clearly no point in forcing the matter, at least not that night.

A hungry twenty-one hour old lamb wakes its mother every three to four hours by gently pawing with its hoof. I know this because I spent the rest of Tuesday night and the early hours of Wednesday playing surrogate mom for Helena's ewe. 

Yes, I broke the cardinal rule. Desperate for sleep, I succumbed to the last resort and brought the lamb to the house, making a pact with that little ewe. I would feed her and keep her safe, if she would allow me a few hours of sleep. We both kept our ends of the bargain. Starved for warmth and nurturing , she settled right in beside me, tucked under my chin, in my sleeping bag on the bedroom floor. She politely kicked me twice during the night for bottle feeding. That aside, we both woke somewhat rested the next day.
 
parry lamb 

Wednesday morning, she followed me about the kitchen as I made coffee, checking out the recycling bin, playing with the empty milk jugs. She investigated the shower curtain in the bathroom, chatted with the other sheep she could hear on the baby monitor, and piddled on the linoleum floor. And she never let me out of her sight. I couldn't tell if she was becoming imprinted to me or to the pattern on my flannel LL Bean pajamas, but, darling as she was, I knew she needed to get back to the barn. Sheep are not house pets and it's a mistake to  keep a lamb apart from the flock for any length of time. Back she went.
 
barb lamb 

Where do things now stand? We're making progress, taking each day as it comes. Helena is still iffy about this white lamb. She's accepted it to nurse, is almost fine about its scent, but the moment she sees it, swat. Bizarre. 

Sometimes ewes reject lambs for good reasons, detecting defects or weakness not obvious right away to their keepers. That is not the case here. My white ewe-ling, who I've named Blaze, is sturdy and smart. She's figured out how to avoid her mother's evil eye, hanging out at the back of pen, feeding whenever her brother gets up to nurse. I'm firm but patient with Helena. She doesn't have to like this lamb, but she does need to do her job. I do believe she'll come around.

Since I'm in the barn almost continually throughout the day watching for more lambs to drop, endlessly cleaning, filling feeders, topping off water buckets, I can keep on eye on Helena's pen and intervene if needed. At midnight barn check, Helena goes into the stanchion, for safe keeping.

It's a compromise, much healthier than rearing a bottle lamb, the best I can do for now. My black and white lambs, thoroughly bonded to each other, sleep nestled together in the straw beside their mom, a wooly symbol of the yin & yang of lambing.

yin and yang

Another set of twins, ewe and ram, arrived just before dinner last night to Aberdeen, a first time ewe. The x/y count is evening up, but the ewes are still ahead. Wish me luck, and we'll see what the weekend brings.

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