Viridescence is the tendency to become green. I love obscure words. I’m hoping to see some viridescence soon – getting a bit tired of the grey and brown left over from winter around here. I can’t even be reasonably sure winter is gone, as 13 centimeters of snow fell last Friday (luckily it did not stay). So green is my favourite colour right now, in a sort of hopefulness that things will start to grow again, and quickly.
Viridis is my new pattern in the spring issue of Twist Collective, a wrap front cardigan with reversible panels of undulating waveform ribs and leaf-like structures. I also wrote an article for the issue, The Error of Our Ways, which you should totally read even if you are the kind of person who never ever makes a mistake. Ahem.
The stitch motif on the cardigan is vaguely reminiscent of the leaves and tendrils of the morning glory, a flowering climbing vine which used to take over my garden (when I had one) and which I will plant in containers on my balcony this year. The sweater is knit in Miss Babs Tierno which is a beautifully draping blend of Alpaca and silk in a DK weight. The colour is My Kelley, a gorgeous vibrant green. When I used to take oil painting classes, viridian green was one of my favourite pigments, and one I didn’t get to use very often because I usually used muddier, browner greens for the landscapes I most often painted.
Here is Viridis fresh off the needles, and the search for a button, which in my mind is the Most Fun Part. This is a mere fraction of the buttons in my collection. I LOVE buttons. Note that the stitch pattern is reversible (and different on both sides) so that when it turns back you get an equally pretty view.
I’ve made a lot of green things lately – several green sweaters (including one from last spring), all different greens, and a few sewn garments as well. I just sewed a dress in a dark loden green silk/cotton blend and I’m really looking forward to wearing it, if the weather would comply.
I’ve been doing a lot of sewing over the last few months, not all at once, but when I have some spare time between this is how I have been spending it. Why not more knitting – knitting for me? Well because if I am working all the time on knitting samples, pattern writing, editing knitting patterns, sometimes I want to be creative in other avenues. I also don’t have much spare time, and I can finish sewing projects relatively quickly, even with the amount of hand-finishing that I like to do. And there is the rather large stash of fabric to choose from, many fine wools and things I have been hoarding for quite some time now, and it is time to turn it into clothes. And I can’t forget about the fine items I get to keep when I am finished: I can make things of far better quality fabric than I can afford to buy in ready-to-wear. I have made a lot of skirts lately because they are quick to finish an I wear them a lot. I love making dresses, but I don’t wear them as much in the winter.
I made this skirt from a length of Avoca Tweed that my Mom brought me back from Ireland. Wow, it was a long time ago now, this has been stashed for quite some time, but I am glad I waited until my skills were such that I could do a good enough job for this fine piece of fabric. The fabric is like butter, it’s absolutely gorgeous and soft and has such a pretty little herringbone pattern in orange and blue on the beige background. It is lined with rayon bemberg and I handstitched the zipper. The pattern is Burda 7531.
Next up, a pleated wool skirt:
It is Burda 7147 made in a vintage grey wool fabric in small plaid pattern with flecks of orange. I appropriated the leather fastener from another skirt.
More grey wool! A solid grey this time, with a little bit of a felted finish. This is also lined in rayon bemberg. The pattern is Burda 7132. I love the shape of this skirt! It’s so comfortable to wear and the pleats were super fun to make.
I made this one out of a silk tweed and lined it in a silk printed with gingko-shaped flowers. It’s really short, it is for wearing over leggings. It’s an out-of-print Burda pattern. The kilt straps are from my stash of vintage findings. I used to be a “vintage picker” and I would also pick stuff for the notions or buttons if the garment itself was not in good shape.
Lastly, a bit of fun:
A froufy tiered purple crinoline made of rayon bemberg and netting, just because I felt like it. Yes I am aware that “froufy” is not a word. However, I use it frequently to describe garments of this sort.
I actually get pretty dressed up for someone who works at home. I don’t feel the temptation to while away the day wearing a Slanket, even though no one would know and I could totally get away with it. Getting dressed for work is one of the things I miss the most about working outside the house.
Here is a little detail shot of the double decreases on the yoke:
Something that I was mulling over while designing this was sort of a hot-lady-lumberjack image. The person who I was thinking of is my friend Riel. Riel is a beautiful, wise, and strong woman. A generous host and calm friend, she values the things that are real and earthly – growing vegetables, building things, caring for her son, making art, sharing meals with friends. Riel drives a pickup truck and is building a house on her land in the forest. She can fell trees, she can build docks, she can even blow glass. I wish I were more like her.
We used to be neighbours in Toronto. I spent many a summer evening sitting around the picnic table in her yard, drinking wine from glasses she had blown herself, eating delicious hearty meals cooked on the gigantic barbeque. Many neighbours and friends would stop in for a visit, have a drink and a chat, and play with the dog.
This is a sweater for days of hard work, and evenings of sharing food and drink with those you love.
I have recently finished a jacket, Burda 7304, and it turned out really well. I took the time and effort to do everything the way it was meant to be done. I had my first attempt at bound buttonholes, though I did a practice buttonhole first to make sure I wasn’t going to screw it up. I wasn’t sure if I could pull these off, but gave it a go anyway, not because I am a huge keener (that is debatable) but because my old beast of a machine does not make particularly elegant buttonholes and I didn’t want the final step on the lovely jacket to be Fubar Buttonholes, thereby ruining the whole thing.
So, here is the jacket:
The fabric is vintage yardage that I scored in a thrift shop, black and grey almost-houndstooth-weave wool (I’m fairly certain it’s 100% wool). I lined it with grey rayon Bemberg lining. I used a heavy sew-in interfacing on the lapels and collar, which I hand-stitched allover to the fabric with long catching stitches (invisible from right side). I made the buttonholes before that piece was sewn to anything else. Luckily I had enough extra fabric to cut another piece if I messed that one up (I didn’t though). I cut little patches of fabric on the bias and machine basted them to the right front piece. (The patches are on the right side.)
On the wrong side, I stitched them about 3/16″ on each side from the center buttonhole cutting line, securing the ends of stitching (starting and stopping exactly where marked). Then I cut open the buttonholes through both layers with a punch (it’s like a chisel, don’t use scissors), poked the patches through to the wrong side, and folded them so that they make the bindings, and basted everything in place. I basted the buttonholes all shut until the jacket was finished.
Once the jacket was further assembled, I made the matching buttonholes on the facing, but used pieces of lining fabric to bind the edges.
One thing I love about this jacket is the shoulder detail. It is so awesomely vintage-looking.
These were some crazy-looking pattern pieces for the sleeves, it was actually really cool when they get all folded and basted up and then presto! it turns into this amazing shape. That piece in the foreground is a part of the sleeve.
I’ve been sewing a lot lately, I have a ton a fabric in my stash that I am trying to use. I made some nice skirts as well, I’ll show those next.
Here is the Rosehip Scarf, worked in Gems Merino Fingering Weight. It is knitted on a long circular needle from side to side. The scarf begins with a garter-based scalloped edging which morphs into a lace pattern. It is finished with stockinette and reverse stockinette welts. The differently patterned sections are separated with bands of eyelets. The design is inspired by the foliage and fruit of the wild rose bushes which grow along the banks of the St Lawrence river near my home.
This yarn is a delight to knit with, it has beautiful stitch definition and nice memory. The colour range is super, and the shade in which the sample is made, Candy Apple Red, is surely one of the best reds, ever.
The Hawkweed Scarf, shown here in Golden Rod, is also worked in the Fingering Weight Merino. It’s a deceptively simple pattern, easy to work and looks amazing. The central pattern is a sort of criss-crossing mesh. The scarf is worked on a biggish needle to give it lots of drape and keep the central pattern light and airy. Each of the side panels biases in a different direction, making this a very fluid design.
The Hazel Cardigan is knit in Gems Merino Sport Weight, a great yarn in a versatile weight. The knitting is fairly quick on a 3.75 mm needle, yet the garment is lightweight and comfortable to wear indoors. Inspired by the twists of corkscrew hazel, the knotted cables also appear in a panel of three on the Back of the garment, and are also bordered by twists. The cardigan has waist shaping and raglan-style sleeves. The button bands, collar and edging are worked in 2×2 ribbing. The colour shown here is Sandalwood, a warm light brown with hint of pinkness.
Also in the Sport Weight, I designed the Ironwood Shawl, a half-hexagon shape, shown here in Caribou, a lovely neutral brown.
It is the perfect size for wearing either wrapped about your shoulders or closer to your neck as a scarf. The stitch patterns are inspired by the roughly textured surface of the Ironwood tree’s bark and the linear patterns of branch shapes.
The shawl is worked from the edging up to the apex, so the number of stitches get smaller and smaller and your work just seems to fly by the further you get. Since the columns of eyelets flow in a linear manner, the chart pattern is easily learned. I think that most knitters wouldn’t have to look at the chart past the first few rows of the main pattern.
In Worsted weight, The Opaline Cardigan is a very fast knit. The leaf motif is worked on either side of the center front opening, and in a double panel at the center of the cuffs. The edging is composed of a broken rib with a little rolled stockinette trim. The rolled stockinette trim on the collar is designed to hide the buttonholes, so that when the cardigan is worn unbuttoned, the nice line of the front edge is unbroken. The neckline decreases begin at the point where the leaf-pattern decreases end, so the line flows from the pattern to the shoulder. There are a few short rows worked into the collar to give it a little shape around the back neck.
The increasing and decreasing of the leaf motif gives a little wave and dip shape to the center of the cuff. This cardigan is shown in Champagne.
The Nightjar Pullover is also worked in Gems Worsted, shown here in Steel Grey. It features a central panel composed of a mirrored eyelet pattern, set off from the background with springy rope cables. The eyelet pattern is a medley of directional decreases and garter rows. The panel is worked on the back as well.
The hem and cuffs are edged in garter stitch with a horizontal band of eyelets. The flared cuffs have a line of decorative buttons sewn along the outer edge, and matching buttons at either side of the wide neckline. The shaped waist and set-in sleeves make this a great wardrobe piece, flattering and versatile.
This was an awesome project to work on. As a designer, a collection allows more creative space to explore the themes of the projects. Working with a specific group of yarns entices you to play upon their very best qualities and to design specifically for the emphasis of those qualities.
I also styled the garments and directed the photo shoot, which is a great privilege for a designer. It is a great accomplishment to work on something from beginning to end, and to see the finished product coming out as lovely as you imagined.
The Gems family of Merino yarns are an absolute pleasure to work with. They have a firm twist and smooth surface for superb stitch definition. The yarns are worsted spun from South African Merino. These characteristics make the yarn wear very well which is important for a fine, soft fleece such as Merino. So, you get the best of both worlds, superior wearing and delicate softness. Did I mention it’s Superwash? Yay! With these yarns you can create heirloom quality garments that you won’t have to slave over to maintain.
You can find the Ravelry entries for the patterns here.
As you may be able to guess from my descriptions, I draw a lot of my ideas from the shapes and textures of plants, trees, and flowers. I enjoy spending a lot of time outdoors absorbing the colours and textures that nature has to offer, and incorporating them into my imaginings. Textiles and materials give me similar tactile impressions as flowers and seeds, and it is intuitive to me to integrate these two worlds.
Capriccio is in the fall issue of Twist Collective. It is worked in lovely Zara Plus Merino wool from Filatura di Crosa. When I design a sweater, if there is a lot of patterning, I like all the elements to be related and to reference each other in a way. It allows you to have variety without discord.
I wanted a simple, wearable silhouette in which to showcase my big beautiful lace panel. I chose raglan style sleeves, because I love the look of fully fashioned decreases in ribbing, and there are more decreases and they are very prominent on this style of sleeve. The eyelets of the main lace pattern are reiterated in the ribbing pattern at the hem, which is a mix of rib, garter rows, and eyelet rows. This same combination appears in bands on the lower sleeves, and on the cowl collar. However, I remix it so that it does not appear in the same configuration, thereby avoiding the formulaic repetition of “same edging everywhere syndrome,“ nearly as fatal as “OMG different edgings everywhere syndrome,” which you also want to steer clear of.
Notice how when the cowl falls forward, the pattern on the inside is equally as attractive as the pattern on the outside. A small detail, maybe, but I think that it makes a garment nicer to wear when you don’t worry if your collar is folded the wrong way.
Of course my opinion is totally biased, but I think this sweater is nice to knit, and even nicer to wear.
One of my patterns in the Fall issue of Twist Collective is Zahedra, a cable and textured long cardigan knit in Briggs and Little Atlantic. I can’t wait to get this garment back, I can picture it as my fall cardigan-coat of choice for right now. The weather is at that perfect temperature, the leaves are just starting to change, and I find myself craving a nice robust wool cardigan. With pockets, because I admit, I am a chestnut-and-acorn-collector. I can’t help it. When Fall comes, my pockets are full of nuts, seeds, leaves, and pine cones.
For a longer or heavier garment, I prefer to construct in pieces and then sew them up, rather than knitting in the round. I find that the garment keeps its shape better. I usually set in the sleeves using backstitch, it makes a very professional-looking finish. I love finishing, and I want my garments to look handmade, not homemade.
Backstitch provides the neatest finish when you are joining pieces worked in a stitch pattern other than Stockinette. Sometimes I set in sleeves using mattress stitch if the garment is worked entirely in Stockinette stitch and it won’t be worn very often. But, backstitch is better if there are stitch patterns involved, and/or if the garment will be worn a lot.
I design a lot of garments, and it is sometimes tough to come up with interesting names for them all. Also, working as a production assistant for Twist Collective, I help name other people’s garments as well, so that adds to the list of names. I must confess, I named this garment after my favourite World of Warcraft character. And yes, I did grind out Netherwing rep for that mount. If you know me personally this will not surprise you!
I’ve been working very hard the last few months, both in the sweatshop and chained to the computer. Here’s a recap of my designs that have been recently published.
In June, I was honoured to have a pattern included in Brooklyn Tweed’s Wool People Volume 3 collection. Themis, which I named for a group of Asteroids in the belt between Mars and Jupiter (because–as you know–I am a nerd who loves science), is a cute vintage-inspired cardigan knit in Loft fingering weight yarn.
The sleeves have an interesting detail, a diverging set of eyelet columns which wrap around the upper arm. They are actually very easy to work, you just make an increase into the Reverse Stockinette Stitch portion on the inside, and a decrease on the Stockinette Stitch portion on the outside, on the two outer eyelet columns. You keep doing that every right side row, until the columns magically disappear into the seam allowance. Well… it’s not magic, but it’s close!
I was also the technical editor for most of the garments in this collection.
Vogue Knitting published a design from me in their Early Fall issue, a cabled cardigan with 3/4-length ribbed sleeves, trimmed in a wool ribbon yarn which ruffles as you knit into the loops at the upper edge of it. It is worked in Trendsetter Yarns Merino 8 and Cha Cha. It is quite a glamorous sweater.
Early Fall was published in mid-July I believe. In the knitting world, we love fall so much that we have decided that summer is too long, so part of summer needs to become fall. It’s kind of like how Julius Caesar decided that he should have two months in the middle of the year, named after himself and his great-nephew Augustus Caesar.
Zahedra is a thigh-length cardigan, and is my interpretation of vintage Tyrolean-style cardigans. It is knit in Briggs and Little Atlantic, which is a very rustic and hearty yarn that wears like iron, and is quite economical to make a large garment out of. I love the cute little rounded collar and how the pockets fit perfectly between the cables that flank them. Almost as though they were designed that way…well guess what, they were. I am a designer who thinks ahead. No afterthought pockets for this girl.
Capriccio is a delightfully soft Merino wool pullover with a central panel in a lace pattern, eyelet-and-rib sleeves and a lovely cowl. It is knit in Zara Plus yarn from Filatura di Crosa. I am a big fan of the Zara family of yarns. I love this fabulous green, it is a little greyed so that it is a perfect shade of jade, clear and not too seafoam-y.
In the next few days, I will be doing more in-depth posts on these two sweaters in Twist Collective. I will discuss garment construction and finishing for Zahedra, and a little about where the name came from (those who know can’t keep a straight face). For Capriccio, I will talk about design process and how to mix elements and repeat elements to produce a cohesive design, and a little about the inspiration behind this sweater.
Some of my time has been spent producing designs, but I spend more time behind the scenes. I have been tech editing like crazy this summer, on Wool People Volume 3 like I mentioned, and on their new BT Fall 12 collection, also a counter-edit for STC Craft for a great book that will be coming out next year (I’m not sure if I am allowed to say what it is), and some super secret stuff. I am also a production assistant with Twist Collective, and we have been working hard on photo shoots and assignments to produce some stuff that is so awesome you will want to play air drums with your knitting needles on the dining room table.
There will be more design announcements in the coming weeks, I am working on an exciting new project that will be ready for public consumption soon!
All the knitting is work knitting, at the moment (in perpetuity, seems like). I have been doing some sewing in what little spare time there is, as it’s faster to finish and wear things if I don’t actually have to make the cloth myself.
First up, Vogue V8470, I love the Easy Options patterns – more bang for your buck. I actually made most of this back in February, didn’t get around to hemming it until, idk, May? (it was a circle skirt, they take forever to hem – skirt and lining, and I did it all by hand. That’s my excuse.). The fabric is Birch from Habitat by Jay McCarroll for Free Spirit. I lined it in China silk (yardage bought for a pittance at a second-hand shop) which I dyed black. I also put a layer of fine netting between the lining and the fabric. It really didn’t matter that it took me so long to finish it, because it’s sleeveless and I couldn’t have worn it in February anyhow.
Here is the lining being attached, after I sewed in the zipper by hand with a prick stitch. I don’t mind a bit of hand-sewing, I get so much practice on the knits, and once everything has been machine assembled, it really doesn’t take that long. I also used to repair vintage dresses when I worked at I miss you, so I have a lot of experience hand-sewing and I have worked on more dresses than you imagine. I think a dress zipper looks nice sewn in by hand. But the hem, she was tedious.
I did make the sash, but have no photo of it.
Then I made Vogue V1220, a Donna Karan pattern, out of some khaki-brown cotton with a one-way stretch. It turned out very well also, though I didn’t do as much hand finishing, so I feel a bit lazy.
There are more sewing projects to write about shortly, as soon as I can get around to posing for photos.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Garment photos by Jane Heller for Twist Collective.