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Twist Collective Blog

For the Love of I-cord

Fiona Ellis

Fiona Ellis is not just a prolific designer, with 13 designs for Twist Collective, alone including such favorites as Harriet, Gwendolyn and Bonnie, she's also innovative to boot. In today's post, she talks about using i-cord in her designs. You can see her most recent application of this technique in Charnwood.


Did you have one of those spool knitting gadgets / toys when you were a kid?

icord icord

Apart from the time when I, aged 5, “helped” my Mum while she was sleeping with a Fair Isle yoke sweater, one of my earliest knitting memories is of making yards and yards of cord using my “French Knitting” doll. Oooh not for me the simple spool with 4 nails hammered into it, I had a long thin wooden toy pained to look like a doll. I’m not sure if my Grandmother saw me having a career in knitting but her encouragement of my love for it was rewarded with not just potholders but many small rugs. I caught the bug very early.

icord icord

Then when I was in university studying fashion knitwear design I discovered that you could make cords by setting the cams on the knitting machines to slip in one direction.  We were obliged to put in a specific number of studio hours each week. So at 4pm in the afternoon when we would rather be somewhere else we would sit and make miles and miles of “Rouleau” cords AND be able to gossip at the same time. Having been brought up to waste nothing this prompted me to come up with creative ideas for using the cord that I had made. And so it continued.

icord icord

Now knitting only by hand again I, like most knitters, always have a carry around project with me at all times. Sometimes if I’m at a point in a project that needs concentration I will throw a pair of dpn’s into my bag and make “I-cord” on the subway. I have come to see this humble piece of knitting as not only a great tool for sparking creative ideas but also as the perfect accent to a cable sweater. This is because they are simply cords that are not yet set into the fabric. I am totally hooked.

icord icord

I have used them as edgings, to gather a hemline, added to cables in many different ways so they appear to be spilling out of the pattern. I now realize that it was only a matter of time before I started not only adding cords to cable projects but also adding 3-D pieces of knitting to those cords. Charnwood is not my first and I know it won’t be my last. I see a new avenue opening up.


Elizabeth Doherty

Elizabeth Doherty's first design with Twist Collective is the charming Litchfield Cloche and Mitten set. Today's post, cross posted from her own blog talks a little about her inspiration for the design.

My Great-Grandmother Nettie Mae Colby was a prolific knitter, and what she made was mostly mittens. She made them for her family, for the hired men who worked on the family farm, for folks around town. In this she was abetted by my Great-Grandfather James, who would bring her reports of children with cold hands and the approximate dimensions of the needed mittens.

nettie mae

The mittens she made were extremely fine, knit on steel pins, probably #000 or #0000, and apparently very warm. My mother had a treasured pair that she lost some years ago. She mentions them every winter. This past year one of her cousins unearthed a pair, and passed them along to me. I made a fairly faithful reproduction of them for my mom – though I could only bring myself to use #00 needles.

Nettie Mae taught me some interesting tricks with those mittens: the rolled-edge cuff, and the purled gutter around the thumb gusset. Somewhere along the way, I became rather fascinated with mitten construction, and came up with a few of my own improvements. The result is Litchfield.

I have always liked the anatomical shaping of “technical” mittens, those used for skiing or ice-climbing, and used them as a model for the shaping that I built into the design. And where Nettie Mae made a purely functional mitten, I can’t resist embellishing those small blank canvases with a little balanced asymmetry.


Designing a companion hat was a natural progression from the mitten. The suggestion for its shape came from twist collective's editor, Kate Gilbert. As soon as I heard the word 'cloche', I saw the hat perfectly – what fun to take that asymmetrical cable, and make it run around the band. The technical challenge was to create a brim with enough structure to keep it from going floppy as soon as the hat was washed. My solution was to use a ribbing pattern that comes together before the rolled edge to form a sort of buttress to the brim. It was quite an interesting puzzle to work out.

nettie mae and james

The pattern name? It's the New Hampshire town where Great-Grandma Nettie Mae's steel pins were kept so busy.

The Little Spinner and the Spider

Eloise Narrigan

Eloise Narrigan created the stunning illustrations for The Little Spinner and the Spider as well as Critter Comforts. In today's post she gives us a behind the scenes look at the process for The Little Spinner and the Spider. You can find more of Eloise's work at

Besides being a near-constant knitter and having recently started working at an LYS in my neighborhood (stop by JP Knit & Stitch and say hi if you're in Boston!), I am a freelance illustrator and textile designer. I'm always looking for ways to combine the illustrating and designing with the knitting, so when Kate emailed me about a possible story for Twist Collective, I was delighted.

This isn't my first job for Twist, but with three more years of experience, I felt much more comfortable telling Mairgrette's story than I had working on Critter Comforts. My style is a bit loser, my brushstrokes are more confident, and I even got to do some historical research!


I did these sketches while waiting for some books at the Boston Public Library. While the internet--particularly Google's image search--is a great tool, sometimes you just can't beat a book. The ones I found, including Pam Dawson's Traditional Island Knitting and Lucinda Guy's more recent Northern Knits provided me with context and inspiration.

In these sketches, you can see a couple versions of Mairgrete as well as the Trow, plus Marigrete's mother and the wealthy woman from Lerwick who didn't make it into any final illustrations. You can also see, maybe, some small seeds of ideas in the form of thumbnails. Occasionally I'll look back through old sketchbooks and be temporarily baffled by what all those little squiggles could mean.

I'm also experimenting a bit with the text on this page. The lettering, which I did separate from the paintings, wound up taking the longest time! I had to pay careful attention while penciling out the words, then again while painting them in opaque watercolor, since I was fighting against a lot of my natural handwriting habits. For instance: my r's look like c's, and the dots on my i's tend to wander away to join other words. I still did a lot of cleaning up in Photoshop, but I think the effect was worth the extra time.

Final Sketches

I gathered my notes, books, rough sketches, and--of course--Daryl's story and sketched some more legible thumbnails. You can probably tell which ones Kate approved. I can't help but agree; while I like the scene with the woman from Lerwick, it's a less satisfying conclusion than Mairgrete with her sheep in the Shetland countryside.

Color Studies

With the approved sketches, I made quick color studies in Photoshop. Although I don't slavishly follow these while painting (maybe you can tell!), it helps me think about what I want to communicate. In this case, the scene starts cold and a bit lonely (blue), warms up with excitement and magic (a nice, mystical purple) and then stays warm but returns to nature (green). Doing a digital color study lets me experiment, too, and chose wild colors that I'd be too timid to try on a final painting.

I don't have any photos of the paintings in process, and of course you know where to find the final versions of the paintings, but I do have one more peek at my process.


This is what my working space looks like at this very moment. I have a piece of watercolor paper stapled to a piece of Masonite (to keep the paper from warping), and there are two different drawings on it, ready to be painted. Above my desk are some important tools (more brushes, ink, tape, and, yes, that's a roll of toilet paper) and inspirational images and objects, including a bowl my aunt made.

And right on the shelf you can see one of the completed paintings I've been going on about, with the other two behind it. Those paintings, along with a menagerie of cards, posters, and notebooks, are available in my etsy shop ( If you'd like to help keep me in fabric, fiber, and paint (and get a little something for yourself or someone else), consider dropping by.

I hope this was an interesting and informative look at my process. Thanks for reading, and happy knitting! 

Tips for submitting to Twist Collective

Submission time at Twist Collective is equal parts exciting anticipation and stressful—the latter, because inevitably, we have to pare our final list down to about 30 projects and those 30 projects need to represent a wide variety of skills, styles and project types. None of us look forward to saying “no” to the hundreds of other submissions we receive.

It is impossible for us to give detailed feedback to each person who submits and, truth be told, there often isn’t any feedback to give, we simply have to decline many submissions we love for no other reason than that we already have a sufficient number of designs for the edition.
However, there are some tips we can offer designers, who want to make sure their proposal has the best chances.

Read the submission guidelines

This may seem obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how often people leave off their contact information or miss the deadline. Our mood boards always have two pages; one with inspirational images and another outlining the format, deadline and information we need from you.

Be concise

There’s no need to send in a fully written pattern. Those of us reviewing submissions won’t have time to review all that text and we’ll just end up scrolling past it. If you’ve already written a pattern and created a prototype, include a schematic which will gives us a nice snapshot of your range of sizes and your skills with grading.

In the same vein, if you’ve knit a prototype or a series of swatches, we love to see good clear photos of what you have, but generally what you can show in 40 images isn’t much more informative for us than what you can show in a dozen or less. We receive lots of comprehensive submissions that fill only 1-4 pages. Keep that as a target, adding extra pages sparingly and only as absolutely needed.

Do not include any pertinent information in the body of your email unless it’s also in your PDF.

The review board for submissions receives only the PDFs, not the full email you send in, so information contained only in your email body will not be considered when reviewing your proposal.

Send any questions to the email indicated in the submission guidelines

We process submissions in batches, generally waiting until a certain number come in before even opening them. Sending questions directly to the submissions email address, especially if your subject line is vague, may mean that your email isn’t answered until it is quite close to the deadline. We always provide contact information in our mood board and on our site, for inquiries about submitting. Writing to that address will ensure a prompt reply, usually within one business day.

Consider the Twist Collective business model

Designers are compensated with a percentage of each pattern sold and patterns are sold for $5-$9 USD each. There are times that we decline a really great design simply because we are not sure our customers will pay at least $5 for the pattern. Single stitch rectangular scarves, and other very simple projects may be stunning pieces but if we cannot sell the pattern, neither the designer nor Twist can recoup their investments in the project. If you have an idea for a hat consider adding a second piece to the submission such as a scarf, mittens, shawlette or another variant of the design.

Look at our library of existing patterns

No matter how wonderful a submission might be, if it looks a lot like a pattern we’ve already published, we’ll have to decline it. Coincidences happen but you can save some time if you catch doppelgangers before submitting.

Think legibility

While it can be great to set a mood with your submission, employing fonts and colors to compliment your idea, if we can’t read what you have written, we won’t be able to appreciate all the hard work you put into your proposal. Avoid using artistic shots that obscure the details of the work. We are most interested in your project and we want to be able to see it clearly. Also, be sure your swatch is big enough to really show how the fabric will look and behave. A tiny little swatch is almost the same as no swatch at all.

Keep all your info together

Each submission is assigned its own number for review. Be sure that each page of your PDF contains information for only one proposal and that all the pages for a given submission are sequential. It is fine to have a title page and a bio page that is applicable to all the submissions but please avoid intermingling the information for multiple proposals.

Allow for flexibility

If there is only one yarn in the whole world that can be used to successfully complete your project, then our international customers and those that may not be able to afford or find that yarn locally are not going to be able to knit the pattern. Be sure that your proposal allows for some flexibility in yarn choice so that as many people as possible will be able to knit it.

Help us see your vision

We know that great designers are not always skilled illustrators and we don’t hold that against you. There are a variety of ways to convey what you are envisioning and you can use those in any combination that works for you. Submissions should generally include a drawing of how the garment will look when worn, a swatch and possibly a schematic of how the piece looks flat. The sketch shows us how the piece will fall on the body, the length, ease, and proportion of details.  The swatch gives us an idea of the scale of the stitch pattern, the texture of the fabric and, if applicable the combination of colors you wish to use. The schematic outlines specific details that may not be apparent in the sketch. If you have trouble drawing garments on people, include photos of garments with similar shapes and proportions found online or in magazines. Add explanatory text where necessary, to further describe your proposal. 

Follow instructions

Please be sure you read all the instructions included with the mood board. Not only does this help us understand and process your submission more quickly, but it is also a way for us to see that you are up to the task of following our publishing guidelines and you see your work as a professional endeavor, not just a hobby.

vFAQs — Very frequently asked questions 


Along with the pitfalls listed above, these questions come in almost every season.

How many submissions may I send in?

As many as you like. We have people who only ever send in one idea and some who have sent in several more per season. That said, we’d rather you sent 2 that you are really confident about, than 8 mediocre ideas.

Should I send in each submission as a separate PDF or all in a single PDF?

Whatever is easiest for you, will work for us, just be sure to read through the information above.

I heard back about one proposal but did not hear back about another.

Unfortunately, we only have time to send one reply to each person who submits. If you receive an acceptance on one submission you will not receive any rejections for other submissions. If you receive one rejection letter, it applies to all submissions. We do our best to try to give some feedback if there is a particular reason that we cannot take a piece. For instance, if a proposal is very nice but similar to something we have already accepted for a future edition, we will let you know.

May I submit crochet/children’s patterns/projects with sewing/etc?

The answer to this type of question is hard to answer. We are happy to consider any of these types of projects but we don’t run them regularly and our customers tend to be less interested in these sorts of patterns. However, we love great projects no matter how they are constructed or who they are for and we certainly want to see your proposal if you have something you are excited about.

Will you give me yarn if my design is accepted?

Twist Collective will assign yarn to you for any projects that are accepted. Please do not contact a yarn company on our behalf.

Thank you

As always, it’s a sincere pleasure to work with so many wonderful designers and see all your inspiration each season. If you ever have any questions, comments or feedback, feel free to contact Marnie at marnie AT twistcollective DOT com. We know how much work goes into each submission you send and we try our best to make your experience with us, a positive one.

Harriet as a Cardigan

fiona ellis

Prolific and talented designer, Fiona Ellis interviews a knitter who worked her Harriet design as a cardigan instead of the pullover shown in the magazine. Find out about working the cardigan version, below, and purchase the pattern and make your own pullover or cardigan or both, here


I love to see what knitters have done with my patterns, especially if they have made modification of their own. It’s one of the things that I love about Ravelry and reading knitter’s blogs.

I have a couple of patterns on Twist that give instructions for both a sweater and a cardigan version. I had only made up the sweater version for photography so I was dying to see what knitters did with the cardigan versions of each.

I had used Green Mountain Spinnery Cotton Comfort yarn for Harriet so I was particularly delighted to hear that Eric Robinson who works at GMS had made up the cardigan version. I did a mini telephone interview with her to find out first hand her perspective on the project.

Harriet Cardigan

Fiona: What yarn did you use for your cardigan?

Eric: GMS Sylvan Spirit (50% wool / 50% tencel), which has good stitch definition so the cables look really good in it. It is one of those yarns that look better knit up than in the skein – it’s more complex and sophisticated looking as a fabric, probably because the fleece is dyed and then blended with white tencel.

Fiona: What did you enjoy about the pattern?

Eric: I loved that there was always something going on so it kept me interested the whole way through.

Actually Eric said that I was diabolical (meaning devilish or fiendish) with the pattern, which made me laugh, and I took as a compliment - I love to challenge knitters. She said having knit since she was a girl (21 years+…I never tell a lady’s age) she enjoyed the complexity of it.

Fiona: How did the cardigan fit when you were finished?

Eric: I made the 38” size which gives me about 2” of ease…I love how it fits. I love the shape of the neckline; it’s flattering and a little unusual. I also loved the lower sleeve shaping with the flare of the sleeve.

Springing from questions that have arisen in my cable workshops the whole team at Twist and I attempted something different with the cable charts for this pattern. We included color as well as symbols for added clarity. So I asked…

Fiona: How did you find working from the charts?

Eric: I did find having color on the charts helpful but I must say I am so experienced at cables that I didn’t feel that I needed the extra information, it does make the chart easy to look at, though.

Fiona: Is there anything that you would change about this pattern?

Eric: I found having to seam in Reverse Stockinette a bit tiresome, it didn’t go quickly and I had to pay a lot of attention but I was pleased with the result in the end.

I think that you will agree that Eric looks really fabulous in her Harriet, that color looks amazing on her doesn’t it? 

I would also love to hear from other knitters who have worked from the charts for Harriet as the Twist team endeavor to give you the clearest, easy to use and accurate patterns that we can, so we love your feedback.

I’ll be teaching a cable intensive weekend of workshops at GMS this fall.