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Twist Collective Blog

Tolovana: The Making Of

I put a lot more time into planning my wedding shawl than I did my actual wedding and to be honest, that's not saying much because my wedding planning amounted to sending an email to my closest family, booking a hotel room, getting a license and hoping for the best. If only knitwear design were so easy. Though, to be fair, I find designing pretty fun but would be entirely content to never plan another wedding.

So to start, I pulled out my entire collection of stitch dictionaries looking for motifs to pair together. I didn't have a strong sense for what I wanted but I knew I wanted to take what I learned from designing La Cumparsita and expand on it, making a project that had more details, and a strongly scalloped hem. I ended up choosing only a single motif and scaling it up and down to form three versions, a border and transitions between each.

At the same time, I started to think about yarn. I wasn't sure what I was going to be wearing but I thought red might be pretty so I ordered three Grafton Batts from Amy.

sweet batts are sweeter with candy

It was a little challenging but I did my best to work all three batts as one to maintaining the color transitions these batts are so well known for.

I ended up with about 1100 yards of rich glorious fingering/sport weight singles and began the swatching and knitting and charting and calculating. I was cranking along and doing great until I actually decided to start looking at dresses.

I suppose this my have been an acceptable reason to consider a white or ivory dress, but as I am already a brilliant shade of "fish belly" and since *ahem* the symbolism associated with wearing white most certainly wouldn't apply to me, I was determined to wear some other color and some other color I found. It just turns out that blue-green doesn't actually go terribly well with red and burgundy.

so sad, don't let the door hit you on the way out

At this point, spinning another 1000 yards or so of fiber just wasn't going to be an option, but I had some purple Handmaiden Seasilk burning a hole in my stash that was more than up to the task.

The final shawl is incredibly delicate and actually snagged quite dramatically right before the wedding. But really, what's a wedding without at least one moment of panic? The fibers smoothed out as easily as they snagged, but it was clear to me that this would always be a special occasion sort of wrap, not one to to throw around my neck before heading out to the city.

When Kate asked me if I'd like to publish the pattern in Twist Collective, I jumped at the chance. Instead of the delicate seasilk we decided to go for two uniquely different yarns and offer two variations of the pattern.

The green version is worked in Sundara Sock. The lace has larger expanses of stockinette for a warmer, denser feel. This is the version I'd use as my all purpose, scarf/wrap on chilly winter days. It's washable, strong, tightly spun and the colors are rich, yet it unfurls into a beautiful shawl that looks great wrapped around your shoulders while you are out on a dinner date.

The violet version is more true to the original, and worked in Sundara Silky Merino which offers the drape and sheen of the prototype with a little of that merino resiliency I love so much. The more delicate and open version of the lace pattern makes it a great option to wear for more formal occasions, but it's not so delicate that you'd be afraid to put it to good use.

It was really a fun design to come up with and as someone who knit the pattern twice (I did hire a sample knitter to knit the third one) I found it really enjoyable too. This may have something to do with my fond feelings for the whole project but I do hope that others will find it equally enjoyable. If you are interested in knitting Tolovana, you can get it here. And of course, don't forget to check out all the otherbeautiful patterns available at Twist Collective.

New From Twist Authors

The fall book harvest is abundant this year with great new titles from many talents featured in Twist Collective, and that we're proud to recommend.

Alison Sarnoff and Melody Moore have finally penned enough of their adorable and sassy Knit Princess strips to publish a hard copy of Knit Princess Volume 1 so you read about the wool-obsessed Tiara'd one even in the bathtub.


Regular Twist photographer Caro Benna Sheridan and the beloved Stitchy McYarnpants bring us Knitting it Old School, a sometimes silly, sometimes serious (and sometimes scifi) collection of retro-vamp patterns that includes the work of Twist contributors Marnie MacLean and Amy Herzog.


Make room on your sock book shelf for Stephanie van der Linden's Around the World in Knitted Socks, previously seen on this blog in the original German.  I'm so excited that English speaking knitters can now see Stephanie's genius in familiar terms.


And don't let me forget about friend of the house and prolific knitgrrl, Shannon Okey, and her newest book, The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design, a book we highly endorse for anyone interested in cutting a professional path for themselves in the knit world.


Roxham Woolgathering

A few years ago, I went to a wool and arts and crafts gathering at a farm near the Vermont border. I remember walking around thinking that I wanted to do a photoshoot there... of what? I don't know. This was a pre-Twist.

Fast forward to this past spring and I found myself in a café meeting with a photographer whose work I had admired. It turned out that Roxham Farm was her mother's!

I felt so fortunate to shoot at Roxham Farm. The buildings are beautiful. The animals were friendly and are treated well. Jane's mother, Sue, is charming. She dyes her own wool, spins yarn and knits all sorts of things from it.

Luckily for those of you who aren't that far away, the Roxham Woolgathering is coming up in less than a week!

The Wool Gathering - a country style craft show - has been going on for 18 years. The 40 artisans are carefully chosen to exhibit originality, excellence and execution. As the location of the farm is far from any café or restaurant, food has always been a part of the show. Last year, there were five nationalities of food represented. Music in one form or another is part of the festivities and usually a sheep is shorn as well and demonstrations are held, such as spinning, knitting, black smithing and potting. The entrance is free and parking is in a nearby field. The craft fair will be on the 11th and 12th of September, 2010, from 10 AM to 5PM, at 332 Roxham, corner of James Fisher, Hemmingford. (If you're coming from Montreal, follow directions to the Parc Safari and go past it to the end of the road, that's where it is!). For more information, you can call Sue at 450-247-2174.

Below are some outtakes from the shoot that might give you more of a taste for the lovely location! Maybe we'll bump into each other there. Say hi!

Roxham Woolgathering collage

Design Process: Promenade

Mary-Heather Cogar

Promenade is Mary-Heather Cogar's first design for Twist Collective and the inspiration for the WWMHW shoot. This post first appeared on Mary-Heather's blog, which can be found here.


It's a little bit ridiculous, I know, that it has taken me just over 3 weeks to blog one of the most exciting things EVER, but... so it goes. The amazing Fall 2010 Twist Collective - you've seen it by now, yes? :) I was so, so honored to be a part of it! I was lucky enough to have a design chosen to be included: Promenade! (Ravelry link!) I have been a huge fan of Twist Collective since the very first issue, and to have a pattern in the magazine (in an issue just full of beautiful patterns from designers I admire) is really a design dream come true for me.


Promenade is a Regency-era inspired pullover with a very scooped neck on a slim, empire-waist bodice, puffy little cap sleeves, an a-line bottom, and a separately worked linen stitch tie detail. I've wanted to knit this garment for myself for so long - it's a simple, clean design, but has so many little style elements that I love and seek out in my clothing (seriously - give me an empire waist and cap sleeves and I'm a happy woman).

When my design was accepted, I happily threw myself into a period of research. Gotta love any type of research that allows me to watch Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and the BBC Pride and Prejudice over and over (and, yes, over) again! I also dove deep into some serious eye-candy paintings from that era:

some promenade inspiration

Sigh. So beautiful, right? I wanted my pattern to be true to the promenade dresses so popular during the Regency era, but without any costumey elements - it had to be wearable today! Luckily, so many style elements we see in those beautiful dresses from the era are nearly universally flattering. To me, a more modern look came through some minor changes, the most important being raising of the neckline (the first version of the bodice that I knit, which was more true to a "period" neckline, was rather saucy by today's standards! I am pretty sure that it would be hard to find modern undergarments that would have worked with a neck that was so very, very scooped). Kate Gilbert (who is so inspiring to work with) and I also both felt strongly that avoiding a white, cream, or pastel color would give the design a more contemporary feel. As you can see from the inspiration paintings above, there were plenty of beautiful rich colors worn by the women during the Regency period.

promenade back

The yarn I worked with, Madelinetosh Pashmina, is delightful. A handpainted merino/cashmere/silk blend, it is luxurious to be sure... frankly, it's dreamy. It drapes beautifully and still has that great merino squishiness and memory. And of course, since we're talking about Madelinetosh here, the colors are just stunning!

I had so much fun playing with the details of this sweater, and it has been fun to see it added to faves and queues and even see some projects start up on Ravelry! There are many more construction details and notes on Promenade's Ravelry pattern page.

promenade sleeve detail

All the photos in this post are copyrighted by the fabulous Jamie Dixon... ok, yes, I'm biased because she is my friend, but she really is such a fabulous photographer. Jamie shot the entire "WWMHW" story of the Fall 2010 Twist Collective... yup, as you've no doubt seen already (if you are a Yarn Person), I got to model a whole story, full of gorgeous sweaters and accessories from some of my favorite designers (seriously), called "What Would Mary-Heather Wear?" Talk about exciting - and flattering, to have been included in such a fun way. More about that day up in the mountains (falling ticks and all!) to come in a few days. In the meantime, here is an outtake from the shoot:

Twist Collective Outtake

The hat is the lovely Community Garden, by Melissa LaBarre. With a cute hat like that, and my sweet happy dog by my side, no wonder I have a great big grin on my face! Such a fun day!

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