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Mary Ann Stephens

Mary Ann Stephens has a way with color and she shows it off beautifully with her Postwar Mittens, Sleepy Monkey, Polar Chullo and now with her extravagant Rosalia. This post combines two of Mary Ann's blog posts, found here and here, from her own site. 

My “Rosalia” is now out in the Winter 2010 edition of Twist Collective.


"Rosalia", by Mary Ann Stephens. See also Twist Collective Winter 2010.


The usual suspect in "Rosalia".


The departing view

Rose Medallion

What the heck is that thing???

When I was a child, unless it was Christmas or Easter, we were simply not allowed in the living room, which housed all manner of my mother's fascinating and delicate treasures. These treasures were not at all suited to inspection by a tree-climbing, rope-swinging, ball-playing tomboy like me,  so naturally, I could often be found there.  Among my favorites were her pieces of Rose Medallion, a type of 19th century Chinese porcelain awash in roses, depicting scenes from imperial life.  (Plus a few mysteries, too.  Can anyone tell me why this bowl features a belt stuffed in a pastry bag?  Or is that a hacksaw sheathed in a diaper?  What the heck IS that thing?!)

As a busy breakables investigator, it was obvious to me that everyone who was anyone had a kimono.  I vowed that someday, I would have one, too, one with plenty of deep, rosy pink in it!  Over the years, my dream of a full-length kimono silhouette became a bit more practical. The internet was a useful tool in reshaping this silhouette; I found happi coats – short,  practical variants of kimonos, made for festivals and adorned with mons (crests) on the back, to identify the festival goers. Rosalia lies somewhere between a Nordic cardigan and a Happi coat, complete with its very own mon.

Rosalia, back detail, copyright Mary Ann Stephens, 2010

Most of the motifs I knit are  either purely geometric or floral; Rosalia’s main motif is a combination of the two.  As I sat wrangling pixels in Excel charts, it occurred to me that the motifs I was favoring reminded me of two things: pomegranates, and stained glass windows.  More thoughts of stained glass brought to mind rose windows, the magnificent blossoms of stained glass that highlight the main entrances of many Gothic cathedrals.

pomegranatepomegranate top

As I charted out the crest, I felt like I was creating something entirely original; later, when I googled the images for rose windows, I noticed a striking resemblance to the one from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine,in upper Manhattan.  The rose window this New Yorker has seen innumerable times, unconsciously imprinted in my memory. Between the Rose Medallion and the rose windows, I knew it should be called “Rose-something”,  so it is named “Rosalia”, in honor of my Danish great-grandmother.

I used Dale of Norway Falk for my original Rosalia, mainly because of the great range of colors available in that line.  But there are plenty of other sport weight yarn options you could use, like Dale of Norway Heilo, which incidentally, is the yarn I would take to a desert island. As for colors, of course, you could knit Rosalia in whatever five colors strike your fancy.  Actually, you could get away with just 2 colors, if you’re so inclined. Although I love the vivid colors of the original, I kept imagining a little voice – with a heavy New York accent – saying “Dahlink, you need this in neutrals!”

There are 3 sleeve options in the pattern and the body length is also adjustable.  I really wanted to show you some of these variations, but after knitting my original, my arthritic hands weren’t thrilled with the idea of an encore.  Enter Debra Thayer, the most wonderful  test knitter I could ever ask for. Debra knit “Rosalia Encore” for me in Heilo, using charcoal grey, mist , grey heather, light steel blue,  and petrol.  She used the full-length sleeves with only one shoulder stripe and she added an extra repeat in the body length.  She used the middle size (as I did for my original) and incidentally, with her variations, used exactly the same amount of yarn as is called for in the largest size. Whichever variations you choose, I hope this pattern helps make your kimono dreams reality.

Rosalia Encore, the full length version of Rosalia by Mary Ann Stephens 2010

(That’s my husband’s shadow, to the right, and no, thankfully, he doesn’t really look anything like that!)

Rosalia Encore, the long version knit in Heilo yarn; copyright Mary Ann Stephens 2010

Designing Chambord

Karen Maple

Karen Maple's first design for Twist Collective is Chambord, which features a wide and elegant short-row garter collar. In today's post, she discusses designing this piece. This post can also be found on her own blog.

Chambord prototype

I was thrilled and honored that my first ever design submission was accepted and published in the latest issue of Twist Collective!

The seed of the idea behind Chambord was a stitch pattern in a scarf that used short rows with two colors of yarn.  I loved how with short rows, you could easily incorporate two yarns without stranded knitting and even without wraps and turns.  Looking at the simple stitch pattern, I played with how could I use it for a sweater.  I thought the best placement would be around the neck, and I created a simple cowl.  The first try with the short rows created a three dimensional fabric that nicely falls around the shoulders.

When Kate Gilbert first emailed me, she asked me if I would turn the cowl into a boat neck.  That same evening, I took out the very simple seaming for the neckline, and draped it on my dress form as a boat neck.  I loved the simple modification because the back and fronts could be identical, which provided a nice symmetrical feeling to the sweater, and the back is as dramatic as the front.

Chambord Prototype

The big challenge in designing Chambord was creating a matching sleeve detail.  The short rows easily made the collar wider around the edge for a nice drape but created a challenge for the cuffs.  I did not want the sweater to have bell sleeves as they often get in the way of daily tasks.  I created three rejected samples before I discovered the solution.  I could mimic the shaping of the short rows with reverse darts on the back of the cuff using the main color!


Because Chambord is designed to be close fitting, I offer three different versions of shaping on the body:  straight, waist shaping, and also bust darts in four different heights applicable to all sizes.   The design is offered in 10 sizes from 32” / 81.5cm to 50 ½” / 128 cm.

For color selection, I would simply recommend that the two colors have sufficient contrast.  The contrast could be with two different colors or the same color but one color be a light version, the second a dark.  A variegated yarn could also be used for the contrast color as long as it does not contain long repeats of color that blend too much with the main color.


I hope you enjoy the sweater and the other great designs in Twist Collective.  You can find the pattern page with purchase information here.

Something new...

We’re excited to announce that Twist Collective customers now have more options at the checkout. Purchases can now be made by credit card (Visa, MasterCard, and Discover). Of course, you can still choose to pay via PayPal if you wish. Please be assured that our new merchant service for credit cards is secure.

Forest Mushroom Mittens

Elinor Brown

Forest Mushrooms is Elinor Brown's second design for Twist Collective. While her Hallett's Ledge displayed her eye for shape and texture, Forest Mushrooms highlights her skill with color and pattern.

In today's post, Elinor talks about her design process for these charming mittens. This post can also be found at Elinor's own blog here.

All of my favorite knitting books follow the people's history of the craft. Michael Pearson's Traditional Knitting is, as far as I'm concerned, the best social history of knitting ever written. Nearly all the others on my list of top knitting books are primarily concerned with mittens: Latvian Mittens by Lizbeth Upitis, Folk Knitting in Estonia by Nancy Bush, Selbuvotter by Terri Shea, Mostly Mittens by Charlene Schurch, Folk Mittens by Marcia Lewandowski, Magnificent Mittens & Socks by Anna Zilboorg, Favorite Mittens by Robin Hansen. And what about the Ukrainian folk story, The Mitten?

I love mittens with a story, don't you? Mittens are the most fascinating article of knitted apparel because no matter where they come from, they always seem to reflect the cultural and religious values of those who wore them. As contemporary knitters, we have lost track of the tradition of our craft. We knit for enjoyment, for fashion, to make gifts for friends and family; we drift from stockinette to cables to fair isle and back again, dabbling in all sorts of styles and techniques along the way with little regard to those who came before us. People like Lizbeth Upitis and Nancy Bush bring us back to the roots of our craft with their research in the folk art of the humble mitten.

Latvian mitten book

Last winter, while rereading Lizbeth Upitis' book, I followed a footnote to the text Latviesu cimdu raksti. Ornaments in Latvian gloves and mittens, by Irma Lesina, a text Upitis noted had many wonderful plates of mitten designs. Published by a small Nebraskan press in 1969, the book was long out-of-print. In fact, there were so few copies left in circulation that it took my university's inter-library loan service a month to track down a Canadian copy for me; needless to say, it was most certainly worth the wait!


I poured over hundreds of traditional designs from Kurzeme, Latgale, Vidzeme, and Zemgale, recharting many stitch patterns that interested me. I created a large Excel file of stitch patterns, mixing and matching different ones as I went along. I remained faithful to regional distinctions, trying only to pair up patterns originating in the same region.

Copyright Jane Heller

Copyright Jane Heller

My Forest Mushroom design in Twist Collective Winter 2010 (Ravelry link) is one of the fruits of this lovely labor, combining several different motifs from the Kurzeme region of Latvia to be knitted with more contemporary colors at modern gauges.

Copyright Jane Heller

Copyright Jane Heller

The cuff is elaborately detailed and includes three distinctive brown and white braids before breaking into the mushroom-like pattern of the upper mitten. Unlike a traditional Latvian mitten, the top rounds off instead of coming to a hard point.

Forest Mushroom Mittens

The peasant thumb is placed with waste yarn and knitted in the mushroom pattern to blend in with the mitten body.

Forest Mushroom Mittens

Some designs you love more than others and these are one of my favorites; they combine everything I love about knitting: gorgeous colors, Latvian braids, long mitten cuffs, and old, complex, crafting traditions. Every knitter needs to make a pair of Latvian mittens in his or her knitting life, perhaps these will be yours!

Mittens on book