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Twist Collective Blog


Elizabeth McCartenIn today's post, Elizabeth McCarten shares the evolution of her newest Twist design, Brookline. A favorite garment, an old jean jacket, and a teenage daughter all play important roles in the creation of this elegant cardigan. Keep up with her on her blog, from which this post is borrowed.

Brookline front

It started with a trip to the sheep and wool festival at Rhinebeck in October, 2010. Janie H. and I drove down together and while we were there, Janie discovered Helen Hamann's yarns and designs. She must have tried on every garment in Helen's booth, looking fabulous in all of them as only Janie can, and before the day was out she'd made arrangements for Helen to do a trunk show at her shop in Perth, ON. On our last afternoon in Rhinebeck, when our woolly shopping was wrapped up, Janie and I did a little more shopping in the village. We visited Haldora, where once again, Janie tried on numerous garments and looked smashing in all of them. At a nearby, less pricey shop I bought a mohair blend wrap-style cardigan, knitted at a loose gauge with long ties.

In the end, I only wore that little cardigan once. I found the ties annoying because they forced me to wear the cardigan closed. Nevertheless, I loved everything else about the piece and in the back of my mind thought that sometime I might make myself something similar.
Fast forward to early December when I drove north through the Rideau Lakes to Perth to catch Helen Hamann's trunk show. Her designs weren't really my style, but I loved her alpaca yarns, especially the undyed colours, and I was intrigued by Helen's suggestion that I should try knitting her superfine Luxury yarn at a looser gauge than the ball band suggested. It wasn't until late winter, though, that I got around to thinking that the beautiful grey alpaca I'd purchased would be perfect for a useful little wrap cardigan with buttons instead of ties.

Perth Cardigan

Thus, the Perth Cardi was born. This has been my go-to sweater for the last year. I wear it open with the fronts dangling, I wear it closed, I wear it with blue jeans and with dresses, I wear it layered under a heavier jacket in winter, or as a light coverup on cool summer evenings by Lake Ontario. Then, last summer, I bought some more of Helen's Luxury in a colour labelled "Raspberry Glaze", intending to make a Perth Cardi for Isabel, my then 19-year-old. If I loved the Cardi, shouldn't she? Apparently not. After some discussion and ensuing reflection, I decided to try a variation of the Cardi that would fit into the same number of stitches, and I thought maybe I'd do a higher V-neck, not a wrap. A few inches of knitting later, I realized that the garment I was knitting had a completely different feel. It was a little dressier, a little more fun, and even though Isabel, a computer science major, isn't the 'girly-girl' sort, her new cardigan was going to have ruffles.

Gore St Cardigan

The Perth Cardi was transformed into what at the time I called the "Gore Street Cardigan", so named because of the design's early 19th-century feel, just like the street of the same name here in historic Kingston, ON, and appropriate given the deep gores in the cardigan's body. Isabel donned her new cardigan, we pinned up her hair, and despite the high heat and humidity, we managed some photos.

Gore St

Fabic detail

The buttons you see here were some ancient Rowan ones from my button box; the little stars echoed the knot motif perfectly. I had only enough for three pairs, but Isabel is small, so they worked. These were the photos which were sent as part of my submission to Twist.


After the submission was accepted, Kate asked how I would feel about doing the magazine sample in The Fibre Company's "Road to China Light". Who wouldn't be delighted to work with an alpaca/silk/cashmere/camel blend? The result, before I sent it off for professional photography is here:

Finished Brookline

In this case, the buttons were salvaged from an old jean jacket originally purchased from a J. Jill in the Washington, DC area when we lived there. Twist decided to re-name the design "Brookline".

Now, finally, I'm getting around to knitting a version for myself in SandnesGarn's Lanett from my stash in a soft, neutral blue-grey.

a new, blue version

Here, the top portion of the fabric looks smoother than the bottom due to blocking. I'm a big fan of putting all the stitches of a work-in-progress on a length of yarn and wet-blocking to check for gauge and fit. Since I'm only 5' 1", I've also shortened the raglans on this size 38". (I've previously blogged about how to do this in connection with my design, Sandridge, in case you're interested.) This was the state the sweater was in two weeks before the Toronto Knit Frolic, the debut of this version of Brookline- don't worry, I finished it in time!


Robin MelansonRobin Melanson shares some of her inspiration for Sylvatica, a beautiful spring pullover from our latest issue. This sweater has a lovely neckline, a simple shape, and gorgeous details. We can't wait to see more of you wearing your own! Robin's designs never disappoint (remember this one? and this one? and don't forget about this one!!). You can keep up with Robin on her blog, where you will also find this entry, and much much more. For example, did you know that Robin has knitted costume items for stage productions, including Mary Poppins and The Lord of the Rings? Well, now you know.


My most recent pattern for Twist Collective is Sylvatica, a short-sleeved Henley pullover in the spring issue. It’s worked in a lightweight wool, Filatura di Crosa Zarina. It has a delicate stitch pattern on the front and back, composed of columns of eyelet rib and lacy leaves. As I am usually inspired by the natural world,  the name Sylvatica signifies a woodland habitat or origin. In my rather vivid imagination, I think of plants and mushrooms and flowers in a rather anthropomorphic way, that is, in my mind I give them characteristics that normally you would think only people have. It is a common theme in fairy tales and lore.

Juniper Tree

My sweetie gave me a beautiful edition of Grimm’s Fairy tales called The Juniper Tree, selected and translated by Lore Segal and illustrated by Maurice Sendak (of Where the Wild Things Are fame). The tales retain their original horror (compared to the watered-down versions often told to children) and are a really fun read. In the title story, the juniper tree resurrects a little boy to avenge his own death at the hands of his stepmother (who had then fed him to his father in a stew – gruesome!) So this is a peek inside what runs through my head as I sketch or knit, thinking of new designs. Particularly in the spring my mind turns to fantasy. The colours of spring sort of encourage it.

Yellow Butterfly

I went to the Papillons en Liberté exhibit at the Botanical Gardens. The exhibit was a large indoor garden with free-range butterflies just flying all around around you as you walk through the garden. Oddly enough, there were numerous security guards, I’m not sure if they were crowd control for the butterflies or the humans.

Blue Butterfly

The colours of both the butterflies and the flowers were beautiful. They had set out plates of kiwi and oranges for the butterflies to eat. In one section there was a waterfall with a two story chasm in which were fluttering tons of giant turquoise butterflies. Pictures didn’t really do that justice as you couldn’t see the motion of the fluttering , though it was a pretty amazing effect in person.

Back view

I guess I try and use my imagination to re-create the beauty and mystery that I see around me, as people have always been doing. Whether you do it with words, brushstrokes, or yarn and fabric, the important thing is that we are thinking and interpreting.


Tanis Gray

The lovely Fairfax is Tanis Gray's first design in Twist Collective. Tanis is a prolific designer, featured in a number of magazines and books. Today she shares with us why this gorgeous spring pullover will always remind her of Santa Claus. You can learn more about Tanis on her website (from which this entry is cross-posted), or follow her on twitter.

I’ve been dying to have a design in Twist Collective since the first issue came out.

I submitted a proposal last year and promptly forgot about it until I got an email letting me know my design had been accepted! Super excited, I waited patiently for yarn to arrive in the mail. Kate chose one of my favorites, Classic Elite Solstice. A top-down raglan (my favorite) with bits of lace running down the 3/4 sleeves, picot hems and a huge, fold-over cowl; Fairfax is a great winter-to-spring pullover. Download the Fairfax pattern here.

Cowl closeup

I design a lot. The funny thing about my designs is I always associate each of them with what was going on while they were coming into existence. Or,  way back in BC (Before Callum, my son) what I was watching on my computer while furiously knitting into the night. The days of late night knitting and TV watching are mostly over, and have been replaced with feedings and diaper changes, but I still have that association.

Side view

The best way to learn a lesson is to make a mistake once and hope to never repeat it again. For example, touching a hot stove, agreeing to babysit sextuplets alone, going against your gut or eating all the cookie dough batter before it makes it into the oven. Or in this particular case, deciding to go see Santa on Christmas Eve. “What the hell were we thinking,” you ask? Excellent question. We dragged our feet on whether or not to take C to see the man in red for weeks. I thought Santa might scare him, or the lines would be insane, or the mall would be too hot, or I’d want to find the stereo piping holiday music on repeat and beat it with a baseball bat a la Office Space. Yet Christmas Eve rolled around and I decided that Callum would only have one first Christmas, so we had better do it.

Back view

We went to the smaller mall and thought we’d be the only idiots who waited until the last-minute. Perhaps you heard the thwak that was my head hitting the wall over and over when we got in line and were told it was a 2.5 hour wait. While C slept peacefully in his stroller most of the time, my husband called his sister and mom to come keep us company and to entertain him. I on the other hand, grabbed my knitting bag and started to work, happy to have long ago mastered the art of knitting while standing, a skill i developed through years of knitting on the NYC subways.

Cowl detail

The Twist Collective deadline was such that my sweater had to be in the mail on December 26th in order to make it to Kate in time to be photgraphed. Two and a half hours of knitting in line later-- I knew I’d be able to finish it, block, and write the pattern by the appointed hour. This sweater will forever be associated with standing in line, waiting for Santa. And yes, I learned my lesson. We’ll be in line next time on the first day he arrives.

As for Callum, he was a champ through and through.

Callum and Santa


Christa GilesChrista Giles designs beautiful stuff. Functional, whimsical, detailed, interesting stuff. You can see a whole bunch of her work in Twist, including Boundless and Lara. Here she shares her inspiration, process and some helpful tips for the gorgeous Candlewick, from our newest issue. Keep up with Christa on her website

Candlewick side

This sketch was first submitted to Twist Collective for Fall 2011 (when they chose Boundless and Asher (!!)), resubmitted for Winter 2011 (when they chose Corinth and Thornia (!!!)), and then held for Spring 2012 (!!!!!) The mood boards prepared by Kate and her team are always so inspiring that my head is overflowing with ideas. Sometimes I send them a ton of swatches and sketches, other times I send photos of fully-made things that fit the theme.


My original design idea came from this question- if a Bond girl wore handknits, what would they look like?  I think I had been watching Casino Royale while working on another project, and this idea began drifting around in my head. It would be black; it would be close fitting; it would have a high collar but a plunging neckline, and it would be sexy. I had also been noticing that the lace patterns that were sticking in my head were those with a fair amount of texture to them, those made by combining decreases, plain stitches, and yarn overs in ways that created changes in fabric depth, not just opacity.

Designer at work

My laptop had been suffering from a cracked case for several months, and just before it was time to start writing up the pattern, the screen decided to die, so my new glam writing space was a table in our living room, with a HUGE old monitor taking up most of the table while I used the laptop’s keyboard to type. The pieces of graph paper you can see here are bits of chart that I printed and cut apart, so I could figure out the spacing for every size that would keep the main Honeybee motif in the right place while removing or filling in extra stitches for larger or smaller bodies. Sandi Rosner and the tech editing team at Twist Collective deserve special credit for this pattern, as it got a major rehashing of the charts that resulted in each size having its own page, instead of the knitter having to do all the cutting and pasting manually!


Candlewick is written to be worked in pieces, from the bottom up, and then the fronts are joined to the back with a saddle extension from the sleeves. Above is what the piece will look like when you get to the blocking stage.

Blocking collar detail

To get the collar to stand up during blocking, I propped it around the lid from a small wicker basket that has been living in my collection of containers for years… see? There’s a reason why I don’t like to get rid of things, they might be useful someday!

Setting in the sleeve

Post-blocking, the sleeves are ready to be set in, then side seams worked from hem to armpit and cuff to armpit-  I recommend these seam-paths so the most visible areas look smooth, and you can leave any fudging for the less-inspected armpit.


I love these buttons. I wanted something with a bit of subtle glam, but knew that cut glass would be too heavy for this airy sweater. These are made from mussel shells, and I found them at the glorious Button Button shop in the Gastown section of Vancouver. The yarn from Elann is wonderful too - I’m making a second version in my size, using the same Peruvian Baby Silk in the same colour.


Final photos here were taken on the shop mannequin at Three Bags Full (thanks Francesca and Zoe! [best bosses ever]) You can see that the stitches are expanded a fair bit, especially on the upper back.. the mannequin is a 36 bust, the sweater is a 34ish, and the model that Twist Collective used for Jane Heller’s photos was probably a 32!


This is the joy of knitting for yourself, getting to choose the size you make based on the amount of ease you want (bloglady's note- for more on ease, see Sandi's article). The size I am making for myself is the 46″, with short rows in the front to give my 38Es a bit more space without adding extra width (I’ve made that mistake too many times before, and have the baggy-busted sweaters to prove it) so it will be fairly close-fitting at my bust, and hang from there. Photos can be found on my Ravelry project page whenever I finish it!

Saddle detail

Are you thinking of making Candlewick? I’d love to see your projects! Please share your photos on Ravelry (I watch for user activity on my patterns pretty regularly so I will spot them when you post) or drop me a note in the comments if you are sharing your photos and project notes elsewhere!


Sandi RosnerSandi Rosner is a familiar face at Twist Collective. Not only does she consistently contribute wonderful designs to our pages, she also does technical editing and amazing articles! You can find more about her, as well as this post, on her blog. This issue, check out her great piece on decreases (the companion to last issue's article on increases). In this post, she shares her experience creating Sanderling, the lacy tunic found in our newest issue. When yarn and pattern really connect- it's love.

Sanderling full

I wanted this sweater to be comfortable and casual with a feminine touch.  I love the look of all-over lace patterns, and this interlocking pendant lace is one of my favorites, but sometimes lace can seem a little much for everyday. How can you relax the mood a bit?

In the case of Sanderling, the answer was the yarn.

I've done quite a few designs with Kollage Yarns Riveting, and it has some special qualities I haven't found anywhere else. Riveting is made from recycled jeans.  Specifically, it is 80% post-consumer recycled denim, with the remaining 20% made from mill scraps.  Spun in Italy, Riveting is not dyed - the yarn gets its color from the source fabric. When working with Riveting, you'll occasionally come across a bit of orange from the stitching, or a fleck of metallic thread from embroidered jeans.  I love these little surprises.

Riveting is soft, like your favorite old jeans.  It has a slightly nubbly texture.

The real magic with Riveting comes when the knitting is done.  Instead of  the careful blocking I'd give a wool sweater, I throw my Riveting pieces in with a load of laundry.  No kidding - it likes to be machine washed and dried. When you pull it out of the drier, it has been transformed. The fabric softens and pulls up, making your slightly stringy looking knitting into a cohesive fabric. It does shrink a bit in length - about 12% - but not in width.  The patterns I've written for Riveting, including Sanderling, account for this anticipated shrinkage.

Sanderling back

In Sanderling, the shrinkage changes up the lace pattern in an interesting way.  The pattern still shows through, but the lace becomes less precious. The sweater is airy, but not transparent. I love it.

For me, this would be a weekend-at-the-cottage sweater (not that I have a cottage, but I do have a rich fantasy life). I imagine it tossed on over shorts or jeans for those times when you want to look sexy but not exposed. The silhouette is loose and simple, with minimal details. The lace forms a slight natural scallop at the hem and cuffs. The split neckline is edged with attached i-cord. I would probably never tie the cords at the neck because I think the look of an untied neckline is inherently alluring. The fabric feels great against the skin, and since it is easy care, you won't mind wearing it to take the dog to the beach or gather wild blackberries with the kids.

Collar detail

Take some time to check out the rest of the Spring issue.  As always, Kate has done a brilliant job putting together a beautiful piece of eye candy. The photography is inspirational, and the collection of projects is among the best. Thanks also to Jane Heller, who took the photos seen here.

I'd be remiss not to mention the articles - I have one about decreases for the technique lovers out there, and Fiona Ellis' article about the ancient pattern we call paisley is a great history lesson. I am so fortunate to be a part of such a great publication.