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Viridescence

Viridis

Viridis from Twist Collective Spring 2013, photo by Jane Heller

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.

 

Viridis from Twist Collective Spring 2013, photo by Jane Heller

Viridis from Twist Collective Spring 2013, photo by Jane Heller

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.

Fresh Viridis

Search for a button

Search for a button

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

loden dressI’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.

recent sewing projects

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.

photo by Anthony Biancardi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

photo by me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up, a pleated wool skirt:

photo by Anthony Biancardi

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.

photo by me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

photo by Anthony Biancardi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

photo by Anthony Biancardi

photo by me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, a bit of fun:

photo by Anthony Biancardi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

photo by me

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.

Maeshowe

Photo by Carrie Bostick Hoge


This is Maeshowe, my design in the winter issue of Twist Collective. It’s knit in the round, and the yoke shaping has an unusual arrangement: I have worked the decreases flanking the cable panels at the center front and back and on the sleeves, rather than at the standard points where the sleeves and body join. The ribbed pattern on the yoke keeps the fit snug about the shoulders.
It is worked in Rowan Felted Tweed Aran, a favourite yarn of mine. I love the fiber blend (wool, alpaca, and viscose). I like the soft halo that it has but I also appreciate how the plied structure gives a nice body to the garment and good stitch definition.

 

 

Here is  a little detail shot of the double decreases on the yoke:

Yoke close-up

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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.

New Jacket!

I have recently finished a jacket, Burda 7304, and it turned out really well.Burda 7304 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:

 

jacket front

jacket front

jacket back

jacket back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.)

buttonhole facings

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.

bound buttonholes basted closed

bound buttonholes basted closed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

buttonholes seen from facing side

buttonholes seen from facing side


 

 

 

Once the jacket was further assembled, I made the matching buttonholes on the facing, but used pieces of lining fabric to bind the edges.

 

 

pleated shoulder

pleated shoulder

 

 
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.

sleeve piece

sleeve piece

Zahedra

Zahedra front

photo by Carrie Bostick Hoge

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.

neat seams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Recently published….

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.

Themis by Robin Melanson

Photo by Jared Flood

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!

Themis by Robin Melanson_sleeve detail

Photo by Jared Flood

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.

Cabled Cardigan by Robin Melanson

Vogue Knitting Early Fall 2012, photo by Paul Amato for LVARepresents.com

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have two patterns in the Fall issue of Twist Collective, Zahedra and Capriccio.

Zahedra, Twist Collective Fall 2012

Photo by Carrie Bostick Hoge

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.

Capriccio by Robin Melanson

Photo by Jane Heller

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!

Sylvatica

Sylvatica
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.

The_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.
turquoise 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.

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.sylvatica_c_500

 

Garment photos by Jane Heller for Twist Collective.

Di Corvidae

I’m publishing patterns under a new label, di Corvidae. The patterns are sold as individual PDF downloads from Patternfish. The Bristlecone Collection seen here is the first collection under this label, and here is a peek at the creation.bristlecone_filmstrip

Vivika_tagged

Vivika_shoulders

 

This cabled sweater is Vivika. I designed a very wide cable panel some time ago, inspired by Corkscrew Hazel. I often get ideas from plants and trees, I find their shapes very interesting. I was waiting for the perfect garment in which to use this cable panel, and I believe I found it. The panel fits well between the shoulders, so the armhole shaping is worked over the Stockinette stitch portions of the sweater.

Katrien_progress

Here is Katrien in progress. If you know me, then you are familiar with my Lopi obsession. Well, I have indulged. Here is a lovely shoulder wrap in my favourite yarn. I love Alafoss Lopi, the colours are amazing.

Tekla_detail

Bristlecone_garments
This spring and summer I will be visiting local gardens and arboretums in order to study the shapes of plants and flowers more closely, so that I can offer more nature-inspired patterns. I’m also planning some camping trips, as I find that an appreciation of nature can only be enhanced by campfires, beer, and toasting marshmallows. As wonderful as it is to have the convenience and culture of a city, it is so nice to get away from it for a while. Falling asleep to the sound of owls hooting in the distance is quite magical. Plus I can bring my wool.

Garment Photography: Anthony Biancardi. Still life photography: Robin Melanson.

Spring melt

The winter has been quite mild, but regardless, I am very excited for Spring. The birds have been coming back, and the air is alive with their sound. There are tons of red-winged blackbirds down near the shore, trilling their song.
The seasonal changes are particularly obvious on the river. Just last week it was still frozen, except for the rapids. The quality of the light has been amazing at sunset, very glowy and diffuse, sort of magical.
shorelineThe melt is allowing the earth to emerge again, spring bulbs are pushing up, the smell of composting leaves is on the air. Mud and subtle rot, spring smells. It always reminds me of Seamus Heaney’s poetry, earthy and honest, and cyclical. In “Gifts of Rain,” a river is described as

“bedding the locale / in the utterance, / reed music, an old chanter / breathing its mists / through vowels and history.”

Water is symbolic of life and blood and the flow of time and history.

 

sunset_meltOnly a few days later, a lot of the ice has melted and the water has risen by about 6 inches. The birds are going crazy – crows, blackbirds, jays, cardinals, and numerous little twittering brown birds, and there is a small animal corpse rotting near the shore. It must have been frozen all winter, but now the water is alive and decomposing what winter preserved.

 

This morning the fog was absolutely surreal. It was floating like a big blanket, so thick that you could see it up close, swirling around like dry ice fog, probably caused by a slurry of broken-up ice rushing down the rapids and melting in the morning sun.fog

 

 

 

 

 

fog_2This isn’t snow, it’s fog sitting just above the water.

 

 

 

 

 

In the lock, the mists were gathering around the gate. It was otherworldly.

fog_3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t wait until the magnolias and crab apple trees start to bloom. There is a garden in the Morgan Arboretum which has numerous magnolia trees and I know it will be glorious in a few weeks. Leaf buds are already starting to come out. And I need to find some pussy willows.

Bellevue sweater in Twist Collective Winter 2011

My “Bellevue” sweater pattern is published in Twist Collective Winter 2011 edition. It’s a hip-length pullover with a deep v-neck, and it is worked in two coordinating textured stitch patterns. It works up very quickly on 5.5 mm needles in Filatura di Crosa “Charly” 100% wool yarn.

Twist Collective Winter 2011. Photography by Jane Heller.

*Pony not included with purchase.

This sweater was made back in July-August, which gives you an idea of the lead time involved in publishing patterns and magazines. So way back in the nice warm Summer, while I was working in the sweatshop picnicking by the river, I was dreaming of wintry sweaters and snow and ice.

Luckily, it is now winter and I was able to take some winter-inspiration photos over the last few days while out for my usual walks.

 

I don’t take photos of projects in progress with the plan of using them later in a blog post. There are a few reasons for this. Sometimes I am not the one knitting the sweater, or not even anywhere near the person who is knitting it. Another is that I am not a photography wizard – the reference photos that I take for pattern writing aren’t works of art, they are tools. Publishing knitting patterns tends to be seasonal, and the work comes in great big stacks all at once at certain times of the year, not spread out in a comfortable fashion. So, at Busy Time, my workspace (= apartment) is a disaster area and my free time is non-existent. All waking hours are spent trying to meet stacked deadlines. Hence the dearth of in-progress photos! You see one sweater here, but at the time this was made I had about sixteen on my plate in various stages of their creation.

Luckily for you, Twist Collective took lots of photos!

Twist Collective Winter 2011. Photography by Jane Heller.

In this one you get a good view of the buttons. I confess I am somewhat of a button hoarder aficionado. These are vintage buttons, from my personal collection. They were just the right colour to go with the yarn, and their shape is so pretty.

Twist Collective Winter 2011. Photography by Jane Heller.

Here is a nice close-up of the cuff. I have to say I cannot wait until I get this one back and can wear it myself. That’s another good thing about Twist Collective – they return the samples to the designer after the trunk shows are over. Given the number of sweaters that I make (in recent years, it’s been about 40 or so per year), I have very little to show for it in my own closet. However, that doesn’t bother me terribly, what I enjoy the most is thinking of new things and creating them (in fact, there is a new thing from me which will appear in the Spring issue of Twist Collective).

Should you knit this sweater, I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I will, and that it will keep you warm on days like this: