Week 3: Making the Ella Sleeves

It might seem strange to add sleeves now. . . but I’m thinking about yardage and stripes. If you were to make the skirt next and then run out of a color, you wouldn’t have it for the sleeves. This could be bad. . .

In order to make sure you have the right colors for your sleeves, let’s make them now.

Your Assignment: For this week, we will make the sleeves as written without picking up those provisional stitches to make the cuffs–save that step for next week. So, just the knitting. No seaming, no setting in! We’ll do that a bit later.

1 & 3. The Sleeves in the Two Ellas & My Tweaks:  In both Ella patterns, the sleeves are saved for one of the last steps. . . this is conventional, but not so great if you are worried about running out of a particular color necessary for matching a stripe pattern in the bodice. . .

The main difference between the two patterns is that in the original, I have a more traditional increase scenario, asking you to increase every 6 & 8th rows. This means that first you increase on the 6th row, then the 8th, then the 6th. . . you get the idea. For the revised pattern, I have you do the first increases every 6th row, then switch to every 8th. The results are virtually the same, just easier to keep track of. Same number of increases, so everyone please follow your patterns as written with regard to how many increases for your size.

2. What You Need to Know:

Fit: I have you cast on the sleeves using a provisional cast on. Here’s my reasoning. Not all people and their arms are alike. When you case on this way, once you finish with the sleeves and sleeve cap, you can return to the provisional stitches, pick them up and work down as far as you like (more about this in next week’s post).

Matching Stripes: You may have your stripe sequence all mapped out. . . if this is the case, you will want to count down from the bodice BO to the approximate number of rows below the BO and match that pattern as you knit up toward the armhole BO.

You may, like me, not know what you will do.  If this is you, you will want to match stripes beginning with the stripe pattern you do know–that of the bodice. In short, match the stripes beginning with the CO for the bodice.

In my latest Ella, I only matched the sleeve stripes with the bodice beginning with the armhole BO. This way, I didn’t worry about gauge, only about matching the stripes where the sleeve meets the body. Number of rows per color must match exactly.

4. What to Check As-You-Knit: You will want to make sure that the sleeves fit your arms in both length and width.

Let’s tackle sleeve length first: please take a moment to look at the schematic either in your pattern or here in the blog. Is the sleeve, as written, about right?, too short? If so, no worries. But what if it is too long? If too long, please identify by how much. It may be that all you will need to do is change those increases every 8th row to every 6th row. In any case, a little easy math and work with your row gauge will tell you that you should increase every ?th row.

What about width or circumference? As I mentioned last week with regard to the armhole depth, I intentionally made the armhole depth for larger sizes less deep than most size schedules or charts would have a designer do. I did this in response to lots of feedback from ladies who pleaded that I not make the arms too baggy.

Thus, in the sleeves, as with the coat in general, I am assuming at least 2 inches (or more) of positive ease. This means that the sleeve circumference is at least 2 inches greater than the circumference of your own arms. Basically, if your arms are larger than the pattern but the armhole depth works for you, this means you will need increase faster and make more increases. When you are done, you will have a sleeve that, at the BO will be wider than the pattern or schematic reports. You will have more stitches to get rid of in order to make the sleeve fit nicely into the existing armscye. This is possible but you may need some help working out the decrease scenario so the fit is just right.

5. What Fun! These sleeves should keep you busy this week. . . but if you do need something to do, start making some Bling Flowers with which to decorate your coat . . .

Making matching flowers to decorate a felted bag will Ella-fy your bag. My picks?  Vintage Bag (large), Bowling Ball Bag (large), The New York Bag (new and officially launched soon. . . stay tuned!), Bedouin Bag, Nomad Bag . . . I could go on.

What are your picks?

A Tiny Ella Diversion . . .

I have spent a part of the day working on a little diversion for you Ella knitters. Now you can make a coffee cup cozy that matches your coat! Or several!

This first tiny Ella diversion (as yet untitled) is, as you know, a free pattern . . . So, it will not include all the bells and whistles and it is a bare bones pattern. Simple. Fast knitting. Fun.

I am, however, working on another version of the coffee/tea cup cozy that is not free (but still fun, simple knitting, fast knitting and a great gift)–do I even have to tell you that the level of fabulousness is far superior? But you’ll see for yourself when I am done with the “Ella Cup Cozy” as I’ll call it.

Here is the Tiny Ella Diversion NO. 1–how cute is this?!:

I mean, devestatingly cute! But the BLING IS KEY!!

Gauge: 6.5 sts/inch in a 1 x 1 rib  –this is an -ish gauge. . . (see note below).

Needle Size:  Size 5 or needle size to achieve gauge.

Supplies: Bling package. Pictured cozy is decorated with 40 sparkles, 20 in hibiscus and 20 in persimmon. There were 10 littles and 10 bigs in each color.

Pattern: I worked flat, so the pattern is written with that in mind. If working in the round, subtract 1 stitch from the CO number.

Using a single-strand of yarn, CO 49 sts. Work in a 1 x 1 rib beginning and ending with K1 (now the RS) until piece measures 3″ (7.5cm) or desired height, ending with a WS row.

Next row (RS): Knit in the front and back of each stitch across the row (this is now definitely the right side).

Next row (WS): Purl.

Next row: BO knit-wise.

Decorate liberally with Noni bling package!

Look for fabulous Ella Cup Cozy later (no set date for release . . . you’ll just be surprised and delighted and I’ll be offering a Noni KIT!)

Now, remember, this is a coffee cup cozy and the rib is intended to allow it to fit a lot of different cups and to allow for different gauges (within reason). So, you don’t have to be spot on gauge with this pattern, you just really need to make sure the ribbing is fairly dense. For two reasons:  it needs to snuggle your coffee/tea cup AND you want to be able to put those cute bling rivets all over it, or at least on one side.

In order to get maximum stayage of the bling, you need to split strands with the rivet shank and then set. Set by putting pretty side down on a magazine and then hit the bag with a hammer. 3 hits or so should do the trick.

If you are doing the KAL with your local yarn shop, seek out the bling there.  If you have no local yarn shop, I am happy to supply you with a bling package.



Week 2 or Bodice II: On To The Shoulders! (complete post)


Before we go over this week’s task, I want to work on some KAL Blog infrastructure.

This is a partial post. I know some of you are fit to be tied to get going and I’m holding you up. So, I’m going to post this as is with the instructions through the back, keep working on it, and then update later today with the full instructions. The only thing that is changing is I am adding to the post instructions for the week. In response to the feedback, I’m trying to front-load everything. I know I’ll probably miss something because that is the nature of the beast. But isn’t it cool to be able to talk back to the pattern the way you can in this format? Usually, you have to wait until the coat is done and try it on to see if it fits. This way, if you have to rip out (and I’ve done plenty of that over time after the whole thing was DONE and seamed together. . . I prefer things this way) it’s trivial. So, like any good foundation, better to lay it right in the beginning.

Henceforth, the Monday Ella Blog will be partitioned into several sections to make it easier for everyone to see what the week’s task is, what is the difference in the two versions of the pattern and why I have done things the way I have, how to follow me in my Ella innovations, what to check for in your own knitting, and what incentives and diversions we have planned for you during the week.

Now, in order of appearance in this and future Monday Ella KAL Posts:

1. The Two Ellas: Their Differences and Similarities In this section, I will go over the differences between the original Ella Coat for Women and the more recently revised Ella Coat Re-Discovered so that no one feels left out or in the dark or guessing or any of that new-kid-on-the-block awkwardness.

2. What You Need to Know  In this section I will supply any additional information you may need to complete the week’s task, such as pattern notes, links to tutorials that others have done previously, and links to any tutorials or videos that I might make.

3. Nora’s Innovations and Tweaks  In this section I will divulge my innovations and tweaks and how to make them yourself.

4. What to Check As-You-Knit  This is where we will talk about customization issues. Here I will discuss fit, how to check for fit, what–in a big picture way–different folks might need to do in order to make Ella work for a body idiosyncrasy that the pattern does not take into account. A caveat: I can answer big picture questions, offer advice, make suggestions that will be relevant to many. I cannot do one-on-one consultations with individuals about their specific needs.

5. What Fun! Here I will outline any Ella Diversions to look for toward mid-week and detail any incentives or contests we are offering to keep you guessing and having a good time.


Now, without Further Ado:  Let’s move on!

1. Pattern Differences Outlined As Relates to the Shoulder: An Overview

I have specified the method for decreasing at the armhole edge, the neck opening, and the sleeves (I’ll remind you when we get there) in the pattern notes for the revised pattern and in the body of the bodice instructions, etc., in the original pattern. I include them here for ease of finding and following.

2. Relevant Pattern Notes: Decrease Method for Bodice & Sleeves Here is the method I want you to use when working the decreases for the armhole, neck, and sleeve:

• RS: At beginning of RS rows: k2, ssk, knit across; at end of RS rows: knit to last 4 sts, k2tog, k2. NOTE The Re-discovered pattern shows an ssk for the second decrease on a RS row, it should be k2tog in order for the slants to be mirrored. I will post an errata.  The decrease method in the Original pattern is correct.

• WS: At beginning of WS rows: p2, p2tog, purl across; at end of WS rows: purl to last 4 sts, ssp, p2.

  • Armhole BO: In the Original Ella, the BO is separated at the armhole and is done in two parts, the first half of the armhole BO is connected to working the back, the second part occurs when you work the front. My revision has the BO occur all in one stop so no tiny jog to take into account as you set in the sleeve.

Both methods work, but the revised method is more elegant. Here is the row: Removing all markers, work to 4 (4, 4, 5, 5, 5) sts before 2nd marker, BO 8 (8, 8, 8, 10, 10) sts for underarm, work to 4 (4, 4, 5, 5, 5) sts before 5th marker, BO 8 (8, 8, 8, 10, 10) sts for underarm, work to end. Slip the 34 (39, 43, 48, 51, 56) sts for each front to separate holders—68 (78, 86, 96, 102, 112) back sts remain on needle. [NOTE: the bolded numbers are listed incorrectly in the Ella Rediscovered pattern.]

3. Slight Tweaks from the Original  Because I moved the markers in the bodice a bit from the original coat construction, the stitch counts for the fronts and back are slightly different from the original pattern. Please use these instructions above–the total stitch counts are the same for both pattern versions).

  • Bodice Back: Decrease at each armhole edge (that is every row) per the patterns (both have same instructions and work even until armhole measurement for your size per both patterns or desired depth–more about armhole depth in my updated post later today . . . .
    Last row: Work 16 (18, 20, 20, 22, 23) shoulder sts, BO 26 (26, 30, 32, 32, 32) back neck sts, work 16 (18, 20, 20, 22, 23) shoulder sts.
    Place shoulder sts on holders.

NOTE about armhole depth: I made the arm hole on this coat smaller than the “standard” measurement charts that most designers use. My reasoning was this: so many ladies said to me, “for the larger sizes, don’t make the arms gorilla arms!” I was repeatedly implored to make the armhole human-sized. So, this is something I want you to look at with your garment. Is the armhole depth right for you? You can check by measuring this depth on a garment you like and want to fit similarly to your Ella. If you want to wear Ella as a winter coat, measure a light weight winter coat. More like a suit jacket? Measure one. More like your favorite t-shirt? You know what to do. If you add rows to the back, add to the front the same number for greater depth. You will need to do one more adjustment when we get to the sleeves, but more about that later.  In any case, take notes if you make alterations.

  • Left Front: Remember to work your stripes in the same sequence as you did the back. Shape the armholes as you did the back using the same instructions. Work even until the armhole measures 6 1/4″ (15.5cm) [that is, roughly 3-ish inches below the back neck]–29 (31, 35, 36, 38, 39 stitches).
  • Neck Shaping: BO at the neck edge as stated in both patterns. Decreases are as written for both patterns and stitch counts on both patterns are as written. Work even until front measures the same as the back to the shoulders. I like to count rows here as a double check.

NOTE For ladies with bosoms, you may want to work some short rows if you need extra fabric in the front. I hope some folks who do this can weigh in here. I’m sorry to say that I don’t have experience in this particular tweak so can’t be of much help except in a theoretical sense.

  • Right Front: Work as for left front.

4. What to Check Recap:

Check your stripe pattern to make sure you do in the fronts what you have done in the back. Carefully count your rows. I do have some row differences in my Ella fronts and back. I like them now, like a priceless Persian rug that has such differences–it adds to the character of the piece.

Make sure the armhole depth works for you and how you want to wear Ella. Take good notes as to what you are doing.

5. What Fun!

Please keep up with your project pages on Rav, adding pictures as you go and sharing with the Ella KAL group and other groups you may be a part of.

Join us for the live chat on Wednesday nights. I’ll be there this Wednesday from 9 – 10 pm EST.

I’ll be announcing the Ella Diversions for this week a bit later in the week. We’ve had requests for long and short diversions for maximum choices and time management, so I’m working on that. But you might have noticed I’m not one to just throw something together so I take a little longer at times than I and everyone else (perhaps) would like. I do promise, though, at least a little tiny Ella Diversion by midweek. I’m working on it tonight.

And if you have not already, please take a peak at my non-Ella blog post from yesterday, Jan 22. I’m going to try to make that a regular Sunday feature.

Happy Ella Knitting!

Dr. Nora’s Ella Advice Column, or More About Fit Before We Move On

“Measure twice and cut once,” my father says as he measures now for about the fifth time. He is deliberate and methodical. He writes each measurement down on a scrap piece of paper, the back of an envelope he’s fished out of the recycling. He uses a fat red genuine graphite pencil he has sharpened with a knife. He studies the numbers on the sheet of paper, his reading glasses at the far end of his nose. He considers them and then goes to work on the business of cutting or sawing or warping the loom . . .

For this process, one must be well fed and watered, be rested, be calm, for I have witnessed that it is true what Lao Tzu says in the Tao Te Ching: those who rush ahead never get far.

With all that in mind, I’d like to say a bit more about fit before we chug along to the shoulders. Please take some time to consider carefully the fit of your Ella bodice at this point. Ladies, prevail upon those closest to you for help! There are opportunities everywhere to bring us closer to those we love and who love us!

I take this moment to include here two questions from the comments you might not have seen. And if you have seen them already, they bear re-reading. How are these questions and answers relevant to you at this point? Part of the objective of this Knit-A-Long is not only that we all are working on the same project and make lovely coats to run in down cobbled lanes in early spring, the hems dancing around us as we go, but also to deepen our understanding of how to make a garment fit each and every one of us uniquely, perfectly. It is the rare pattern that can do everyone’s shape justice without a bit of personal adjustment of its measurements. Without further ado, here are the questions that two ladies have asked and my answers. There are some expert knitters among us, so if you find that there is something you would like to add to what I have said, please do so. We will all benefit from your knowledge.

Dear Dr. Nora How do we measure the bodice across our chest to see if it is too big or too small? Do we use a lifeline and move all of our stitches on same to measure or is there an easier way? Sincerely, Janet

Hi Janet, A lifeline is a good method, then make sure the piece lies nice and flat and check your measurements. I have also been known to use a circular needle with a long cable but I don’t think the results are as accurate. Keep in mind, as you do this, that you will have ruffles or plackets to bridge the distance between the front edges. You also have blocking as a tool to reach finished measurements.
This sort of pick it up and try it on method is great for the big picture, for seeing if the sizing is way off in either direction and you definitely want to do this now instead of later. If you put the bodice on your body and find that the fronts are between 1 and 2 inches apart at the center and everything else is fitting great (the armholes are going to be in the right place, the increases are positioned under the breast points (for those of you who have never heard this term before I’m going to spell it out more or less: you want the increases or knitted dart to lie directly in line with the pointiest part of the breast. My breast-fed boy used to call them nibbles. . . : )
If the darts are in the right place and the fronts are, as I mentioned, just a bit apart–up to 2 inches–you are getting a good fit. Darts not in line and too far out in a way that is too much for blocking to remedy? The bodice is too small. Darts not in line and too far in, the bodice is too big.
I saw some remarks in the chat last night (I was in there reading the archives this morning) about fit. Some folks wanted less positive ease (that is, less room in the garment). If you want the coat to be more like a sweater dress, then you will want to make a size where the finished measurements are your measurements (no positive ease, no space between your body and the coat). As written, the coat should give you 2 inches of positive ease. This means that you can wear a t-shirt underneath and it will fit just a bit loosely.
If you want more positive ease because you want to wear a sweater underneath, or an extra ella, then you will want to go up in size.
Also remember that this coat worked on a 9 will give you a nice drape, a fabric with some give and stretch rather than a dense fabric.

Thank you for your question. Keep ‘em coming, Ladies! The more good questions and answers, the more educated everyone becomes about the process and if I don’t have the answer, then I bet there is a knitter out there who does.

Thank you to everyone for pitching in and helping out. This is how a knit-a-long can be a positive and wonderful community experience for us all.
My compliments and thanks again, Nora

Dear Dr. Nora I knit quite a few rows and discovered I had chosen a size that was too big. I’m starting over, and would like to have a coat with very little ease, so I am picking size 36 because my actual bust size is 38. However, my waist is 30, and that would leave a lot of ease at the waist. Is it possible to start with size 32, and then increase into a size 36 at the bust?  Thank you, Gwendy

Hello Gwendy,
It is possible to start with the measurements for the 32 for the cast on. . . in order to increase to the bust measurements for the next largest size, you will need to figure out how many increases you will have and you will have to do it faster. It’s pretty simple math. You’ve got 4 increase locations in the bodice, so you subtract the starting (CO) figure from your ending figure (stitches around at the bust) and then divide by 4. This gives you how many increases you need per location or the number of times you will increase. Then divide by the number of projected rows (using your gauge and the distance from cast on to armhole) to get the number of rows between each increase. As long as you keep the armhole depth the same as the size 36 you would then follow the instructions for the sleeves for the larger size. You will follow the skirt instructions for the smaller size. If you need more flair faster than you get it in the 32, then you just decrease the number of rows between each skirt increase.  Sincerely, Nora

Homework for everyone if you have not already done it and maybe even if you have. . . Check the fit of your bodice both in height and circumference, making sure that the increases in the bodice are properly positioned under the breast points. The last increase should be completed before one reaches these points. For those seeking an extra high waist–that would be with a waist just under the bust (a true Empire Waist)–you will want to make your increases quickly, with only a few rows between them so that the widest part of the bodice occurs just below these points.

Check back later today for the next installment in the Ella Coat KAL entitled Bodice II: On to the Shoulders!

How I learned to ski and why talking (back) to yourself is a good trick to know

I recently learned to downhill ski. I am even respectable on blue slopes at this point and can’t wait to get on a pair of skis again. It was, however, not easy to get to this moment.

For some, such a milestone would be just another pebble along a path of athletic success: there was a 15 year old girl in my skiing class, for example, who began the class because her mother made her and after 3 days of instruction was always the first one down the slope, waiting for everyone else to catch up and join her. She got to like it. Through chatting on lifts at various points, I learned she was a cheerleader, a member of the school soccer team, lacrosse team, field hockey team. Simply, by the age of 15 she already had a long history with learning and mastering such things. With such experience comes a certain physical confidence. She knows what she can do. She knows how to do it. And she said when she is afraid of something she does it anyway and doesn’t think too much about it.

But what do you do if you don’t have such a resume? While I liked to run for my own purposes when I was a teenager, spent years working out at the gym in my 20s, learned to Lindy Hop in my 30s (and loved it), have enjoyed hiking up mountains since I was a child–so, not a couch potato but not a tremendous athlete–I was, nevertheless, not ever really pushed to participate in and master anything sport-like. I was not part of any sports team as a child, was always one of the smallest children on the elementary school playground, picked last for the team . . . I didn’t have the best experiences with learning new things in the physical world. Most of my physical activity, aside from the dancing and to some degree the mountain hiking, has been solitary, self-taught, self-motivated. There is a certain amount of avoidance in these scenarios.

I had known for a year that we were going skiing in Vail. And every time I thought about it I felt some trepidation, an irrational fear, my heart pounding against my ribs at the thought (truly). I would console myself with the idea that I would be in a class; I would tell my self, I can do this. But evoking The Little Engine That Could, as I confess I have done many times in my life, only goes so far and then you need actually to chug up and down the mountain as the Little Engine does.

It was my turn to do something.

Whenever we learn new things we carry with us the freight of all that has come before, especially as it relates to learning new things. For me, as I have said, my experience and confidence is in the mountains, but at my own speed. I love to hike, to scrabble over boulders, to run down the trail skipping from rock to rock. I mastered this quick balancing act as a child and it feels comforting, comfortable, fabulous.

To move so quickly on fiber glass sticks down a steep mountain has no precedent in my life. This lack of experience and knowledge is like a dark cave. It can be filled with anything. So, what do you do when the cavern of unknowing becomes filled with fear, so much so that your heart starts beating hard in your chest just thinking about it?

The projection of what is unknown and most feared, or known but not helpful or comforting onto the unknown can happen with anything, with knitting, with the idea of holding a baby, with the idea (even for some) of leaving the house. . . I have taught people to knit for whom just the process of making the stitches was so filled with stress that the knitting itself became wet with anxiety, harder to slip from one place to another on the needles. I have heard some of my (now long ago) English students tell me they are lazy, selfish, can’t write, were never good students, could never write, are not creative . . . their own voices echoing the words of their parents? former teachers? siblings?

For those students, I wanted to supply them with new narratives about writing. Something more along the lines of the Little Engine’s script: “I think I can. . . I know I can.” I might even have mentioned her since she has helped me out so many times, and recommended her autobiography–it’s still in print, you see. And I often recalled for those students the time before language when they were learning to walk and no one would have dared say, when they fell down, that they were lazy or quitters or not creative enough to learn such a difficult thing (for it is, you know. . . a difficult thing to walk, really complicated and miraculous as anyone who has tried to learn it again as an adult will tell you. It is a precious precious thing). I might say, “What do you like to do in your spare time–one thing?” One boy loved basket ball and played often for his own pleasure. He was good at it. Confident. I could see him square his shoulders, straighten his body. I watched him gain more than an inch in stature, smile a little. “Were you always good at basketball?” I said and he laughed and tipped his body gracefully to the side as though there were a ball there that had just been bounced toward him and he would catch it. “No!” he said unabashed and it was plain that the memory of that early awkwardness was a wonder to him, as though he almost couldn’t believe the time before mastery. “Did you just instantly become good at it?” I asked him. “Of course not,” Looking straight into my eyes as though now he was having trouble believing I wouldn’t understand how much work it took. . . Maybe when he saw my own small smile he knows what I have been doing but he presses on. “No, I was terrible in the beginning. My brother wouldn’t let me play with him and his friends even, because no one wanted me on their team.” I could see him, small, his brother’s too-big, handed-down clothes getting in his way, leaping to make a basket on the big-boy basketball court. How many times he missed and raced after the ball. The excitement when the ball dropped in through the hoop, cradled by the net. Again. Again. Again he shoots. He looks a little too casual as he finishes his last sentence: “So I would play by myself,” his palms briefly forward in a gesture of, what? of the truth of hard work?

“Writing is like basketball,” I told him. “You have to practice to be good. You have to practice and practice to see how good you are, and be able to do with words what you can with that ball.” He was thoughtful and quiet. He took it in. He smiled a little as he looked down, inward. When he looked up, he says “Yeah, I see what you mean.” And he does better after that. He seems to have a different relationship to words, to writing. He’s in the shoot and miss, shoot and score, chugging up the mountain stage. He’s not the least bit scared or lazy and he seems to know he may not always shine . . . not yet.

I am standing at the top of Lost Boy, a middling to harder green slope and it looks so steep to me. As steep and daunting and terrifying as a blank page must be to a new writer but with physical consequences. The sky is huge, the land falls away to my left (this is the less steep part of the slope, too, which is counter-intuitive and unnerving). I am afraid I will tumble down the mountain. The earth ends there and I will fall forever if I get too close. I feel this in my bones. It feels like physical knowledge. Though I realize now it was all thinking and the thinking is paralyzing. My muscles are exhausted. The thinking is so terrible, because it is filled with such terrible things. My instructor is watching and says simply, “follow me. . .” And I can do that.

Everyone wants to ski Lost Boy again but I am so drained and suddenly so tired that I can’t even feel a sense of accomplishment. I just can’t go again. There is so much anxiety wrapped up in skiing at this point that I am drenched in it and I wake up at night to my very stomach clenching and unclenching. I take a day off. But then I try again.

And there I am standing at the top of Lost Boy. My instructor skies half way down the steepest part there at the top and looks up at us. With my heart pounding I am first and start down. I know how to go slowly even on a steep slope and I am employing this knowledge to the point that, again, I am frozen. . . when the instructor starts yelling at me “Down!” and I go down. “Turn!” and I turn. “Down!” I go down. “Turn!” I turn. She keeps yelling until I am through what has frozen me and I can ski again.

The next time I am standing at the top of Lost Boy I hear Joanne’s voice even though I am with a different instructor: Down! Turn! Down! Turn! and I listen, whispering commands to myself until I am skiing. It is quicker this time, and feels better.

We do Lost Boy again. This time, as Joanne speaks to me, as I speak to myself with her voice, she is just reminding me. . .

And the next time I just ski.

It is then that I see why people love it. I am flying, I don’t exist. It is just this moment and this one, the shush of the skis, white, sky, wind, silence.

There was only one path to the place of flight and dancing. Maybe it is always this way with things that we fear, with the unknown. We must go through that dark cave, made passable by our own voices in our ears, or the voices of those who have gone before us and know the way.

It is fear that says turn back. You can’t. You’re not good enough. You’re not creative. You never will. You’ll die. And this voice can sound in our ears at any time and for the slightest of reasons, reasons that may be buried in our past, or even deeper, in the histories of our parents and grandparents.

But like that young man who replaced the narrative of laziness with the narrative of dribble, shoot, try again, we can talk back to worry, fear, defeat, grief. My mother told me about a book she read that states we have some number of seconds (and it’s enough seconds, truly, to do this) to replace our buried and default speeches to ourselves with new ones. Replace I can’t do it, with I can. I’m terrified, with I know how.

And if we persist, we learn to knit, to write, to walk again, to ski, to dance.

Ella’s Bodice: Getting the Right Fit

As you work on Ella’s bodice with the goal of reaching the armhole bind off, please stop at that point without doing the bind off. Here’s why: It is important that the bodice fit you nicely and that the bottom of the bodice hits your body where it should–just above the natural waist.

Here is one way to see if the bodice to the armhole is long enough for your particular figure. Use the schematic in the pattern (for your convenience, I have included that schematic here) to measure from the armhole bind off to the shoulder.

To help you with this customization here is a link to a short little video we did that shows a quick way to get a sense of whether you need to add or subtract rows (or whether it is just right as it is).

After you finish your knitting for the week, it would be helpful to all of us {Melissa and I included} if you were to consider the KAL so far. Did you have enough to do? Any concerns? Tweaks? Are you all ready for Ella Diversions? Can we get a jump start on our fabulous embellishments if you all are ready? Is your schedule so filled that this week’s knitting assignment has been just right? Our sincerest hope is that we at Noni Design’s are able to provide you not with just a beautiful garment to knit, but a beautiful process of knitting.

Week 1: Casting On Ella’s Bodice

Today is the day we cast on!

For those of you that have the Ella Coat Reinvented pattern, you can begin as described. . . just follow the pattern.

For those of you who have the Ella Coat for Women pattern, there is a tweak. I am actually in this category myself, because when I began my new Ella, I was using the original pattern. The tweak makes the coat easier and, I think, more fun to knit. Instead of casting on all those bazillion stitches at the bottom for the ruffle, we will begin our coats at the bodice. It is not wrong to start at the hem of the coat. I would say it is more traditional. I made my original 2 Ellas this way . . I also made several little Ella and the Legume coats this way and that coat starts from the bottom as well.

The Big Picture: How we will proceed

For this Knit-A-Long, we will all begin with the bodice, work up to the shoulders. Easier. More fun. And safer: you can try the coat on and make sure the bodice fits before you have finished all the knitting and finishing.

So, needles poised, ladies and any participating gents. Yarn at the ready.  I’m a long-tail cast on girl myself, so that’s my recommendation, but I’ve always advocated a more democratic teaching style, so cast on as you will.

For those of you with the original Ella pattern, you will see Coat Bodice in the second column not quite mid-way down. Second sentence toward the end there, you’ll see the total number of stitches you need to pick up in the skirt for the bodice. . . these numbers are, for you, now the cast on numbers. Locate your chosen size and cast on.

I am now going to supply you with the locations for 6 markers. 4 of those markers will locate your increases for the bodice: 2 locations in the center fronts just under the breast points and 2 locations that mirror these on the back. They look like darts and give the coat bodice its lovely shaping. The other two markers will locate your side seams–this comes into play when you are separating the fronts from the back to do your armhole shaping and work to the shoulder.

Ok, for you long tail cast on people. . .  you’ve cast on and now I want you to purl row 1 (see below) . . . why, you might ask, tempted to ignore me and just knit. Don’t do it. Here’s why: the purl row puts that lovely more knitterly (as opposed to purly) texture on the right side. I like this and think it’s pretty. When you go to pick up stitches for the skirt, you will be glad you didn’t ignore me. . . (if you do a knitted cast on, you can knit the first row).

So, here, without further ado and more bibble babble is the relevant, life/knitting-made-easier in an instant tweak . . . marker locations:

Row 1 (WS): Purl across, placing 6 markers as follows: p18 (20, 22, 25, 27, 29), pm for center left front;  p18 (21, 23, 25, 27, 30), pm for left side seam; p18 (21, 23, 25, 27, 30), pm for center left back; p36 (40, 44, 50, 54, 58), pm for center right back; p18 (21, 23, 25, 27, 30), pm for right side seam p18 (21, 23, 25, 27, 30), pm for center right front; p18 (20, 22, 25, 27, 29) to end.

AND NOW: I’ve got what I hope is a “worth the price of admission” tip (or at least makes you glad you came) . . . Once you know the location of these markers (you already know I like lock markers as I find they work well in most situations) it is trivial to count again as you pick up for the skirt and re-place them. . . however, if you are like me you might think of ways to save time and counting later, or, to say it a better way, to double-check your counting now and later. Here’s what I did. I set two markers at each increase location.

One set of markers stayed put at the cast on edge (ready for when I pick up the skirt stitches to just jump over to the skirt side) and one moved with my knitting. This way, when I pick up for the skirt, I can pace myself, instantly know where I need to have the markers, and double-check marker locations, stitch counts, and that my stitches line up from bodice to skirt.

Now, all of you can follow the pattern as written until you get to the armhole bind off!

Don’t Forget Your Homework!  As you work through this part of the KAL, remember to post on Ravelry in your Ella project log.Take lots of pictures! Be creative! There is an awesome prize up for grabs . . .

Happy Ella Knitting!

Preparing for Monday: Ella Knit-A-Long Nuts and Bolts

The Blog Is Our KAL Compass
The Blog will be our compass for the KAL. It is the place the place from which the KAL content springs.  There will also be many other places and ways we will provide help: Facebook, Twitter, Ravelry, emails to Melissa . . . Please make sure you either set up an RSS feed for this blog or simply remember to check it every Monday. Don’t worry that you may miss a Monday because you “forgot.” Melissa will post reminders everywhere. I know some of you have mentioned to Melissa that you are having trouble with setting up an automatic RSS feed. We have checked our end and the trouble does not lie with the blog site. It generally stems from the browser you use. So, try Google, Safari, Firefox or whatever you haven’t used if you run in to this situation.

Starting Monday the Blog will explain what we all are to do for the week with knitting Ella. It will address where to start working and where to end so you are ready for the next blog entry/knitting installment. I will be assigning homework: the activities you need to do will be spelled out. They will relate to knitting Ella and perhaps to embellishments or “Ella Diversions” (additional content such as patterns for other items such as accessories that you may want to make for a complete “look”).

During the weekly blogs I will not only to offer instructions for what I have done but also to suggest other things you can do. I’ve had a lot of ideas as I’ve been knitting my fourth Ella and I will share all those ideas with you. What will be really terrific is if you also share your plans with everyone, post your idea swatches, post pictures of your plans and/or finished results. My dream for this project is that we create a veritable library of Ella coat ideas. How fun will it be to page through that?!


Weekly Ella Challenges & Contests

There will also be weekly challenges: This is the fun part of your “homework,” aside from knitting Ella. There will be info here in the blog each week as to little extras you may do to be entered in different contests or giveaways. Melissa will post details for the week in the threads on Ravelry.

For week 1, you will be asked to simply keep up with your “Ella Coat Project” by way of the “Projects” pages associated with your Ravelry presence. If you have never logged a project on Ravelry, it is very simple: while logged into your profile, click in the upper right corner where you see an assortment of colorful tiny boxes next to the word “projects” and simply fill in all the information you can about The Ella Coat. PLEASE take pictures as you go! It is not only a lot of fun for everyone to see what YOU are doing, but to some knitters seeing your progress will be a huge help! You should “share” you Ella project with the Ella Rav group called The Official Noni Ella Reinvented KAL–Melissa will post a thread in the Rav/Ella group discussion board). All the different projects will appear in our “recently added projects” box. I encourage you all to look over them as we go along. This contest of keeping up with your project will run for the duration of the KAL. Get as creative and detailed as you want. There will be a panel of 5 judges to look over and critique these. One GRAND PRIZE WINNER will be named at the end of the contest and win a delicious prize.

By now most of you have all your materials and have swatched. We have had such a tremendous surge of last minute knitters that we now have made The Ella Coat Pattern available as a Ravelry download. If you purchase the pattern on Ravelry, you will have plenty of time to take it to your LYS and find yarns to MAKE ELLA YOURS. We are providing the Ella pattern on Rav for those knitters who do not have the pattern available in their LYS. Be sure to check with your yarn store! Some may be just a little delayed in getting pattern. If you are without a local yarn store, getting the pattern is very simple: you can go to Ravelry and find the pattern page there or you can just pop over to the pattern page on the Noni website: http://nonipatterns.com/collections.php?show_design=1302 and click on the “buy now” button.


Check-in Here on Mondays:  See You Back Here on Monday the 16th!

Every Monday come and look for the Noni Blog posting. You will want to have your pattern next to you to reference what we are to do for the week.

Melissa will hostess the Ravelry chat every Wednesday 9 to 10 EST to discuss what is to be done or what you have been doing that week.

If you are in a LYS group or a KAL group you all will follow the week’s breakdown in whatever way you decide. Our Facebook page, twitter and Ravelry group will lend additional support.


The Bloggers Knitting & Blogging Along With Us

We have bloggers knitting and blogging as they go!

Shameka at http://shamekaknits.blogspot.com/ is blogging from NYC. Please sign up for her RSS feed and get inspired by what she is doing with her NYC Diva color pallet.

We also have Stephanie who is known on Rav as DrSteph. Her blog is http://acunningplan.typepad.com/andsheknitstoo/2012/01/ella-revisited-kal.html and she hails from Canada. You will want to see what she is saying, so sign up for her RSS feed as well.

We will also have a blogger on board from Down Under who posts in the blog Random Knits http://www.randomknits.net/ . Donna may offer helpful insight as she blogs, so stop by and see what she says!

These ladies are knitting alongside you: They are great at blogging about what they are knitting and thinking and doing. I believe they will give a fair assessment of their own process, how it is going, and what seems easy or challenging. These ladies were asked specifically to join our KAL because they knit and blog very well. When they post their thoughts on projects they are knitting it is not simply informative, but layered with inspiration and perspective. Making a habit of checking their blogs and supporting them through your comments will be assets to each of you during this KAL.

So are you excited? Ready? Can’t wait for Monday? (truth be told, I can’t wait either!)

Ella Does New York!

Ella, Nora, and Melissa in New York City!

What could be better than going out walking with Ella for the first time in New York City?!

What Started it ALL!: The Ella Boots in NYC

I spent some time there weaving in ends, praying over her shorn places (checking glue repair, checking knot repairs). Had to borrow scissors from the hotel front desk

The walk through the lobby (and around town) was very gratifying I have to tell you!  Ella gets lots of attention!

Nora with Long Ella & Shameka with Short Ella

Especially in New York where I hear tell everyone wears black. . . but not us.

For more pictures, check out Shameka’s blog. . . we spent a day with her at Vogue Knitting Live. What a blast!

More on Stripes: How many colors are enough?

How many colors are enough. . . it’s a good question. And it requires a thoughtful answer. I’ve got an answer but not enough time to do a lot of swatching to show the answer–sorry about that! Bags to design, an Ella to knit!

I think quite a bit of mileage might be gotten out of just two colors. On the one hand, this seems almost impossible, but if you think of stripes not just as colors, but as differently sized bands of color, then the options increase greatly and the power of two colors expand in kind.

You see, if you set up all your stripes as the same width the eye searches for the pattern, figures it out, and the brain finishes with your coat.

If, however, you play with width and resist the urge to map out your stripe pattern on a graph (2 pink, 3 blue, 2 pink 3 blue. . . ), instead forcing yourself to do different things all the time, the mind not only stays busy as you are working, but the mind is more interested in the results. It searches for the pattern, can’t find it, searches again, searches again. The lack of a predictable pattern keeps you interested.

I have written about stripes before in this blog and urge you to look at those old posts in the next few days. They can be mined not only for colors and ideas but also for stripe width inspiration. In one (the set-the-table-myself place mat, the perfect fit laptop bag), I used many colors.  More than 11 in one of the laptop bags, I think. In another perfect laptop bag, there were  fewer colors and while the pattern does eventually repeat, the repeat is so long that the eye will have to search a long time to find it.

Here are some pictures of those projects to give you ideas.

Even non-matching stripes can look great.

Green & Brown Striped Laptop Sleeve

I can’t tell you how to combine your colors or graph out a stripe pattern for anyone. I can, however, tell you what I do and urge you to try it.

I put the different colors I like in a box. Then I pick out a group of colors I like together and line them up on the floor (or on the tray table of the airplane last October and November when I was traveling a lot) I work with the color I come to. When I have worked through all the colors in the line, I rearrange them in another line I like. All the while careful to vary the widths of the stripes:  3 of this, 2 of that, 7 of this, 5 of that, then 1, then 6, then 2, then 4. . .  I do this over and over. If I’m tired I look at what I’ve done, pick out a combination I like and do it again, but with a difference, reorder slightly, make sure all the widths are different.

Remember, your taste rules. If you don’t like it, don’t do it.

Always Buy Knitting Insurance:  Ok, a non-sequitor: if you are making an Ella coat with the tweaks I advocate on the blog, you will need more yarn than the pattern calls for. I recommend purchasing between 2 – 4 skeins extra in colors you like. At least 2 – 3 for the ruffle. Better to have more than enough and use some for flower decorations or Ella Diversions than run out and regret.