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!

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

  1. I wound up re-doing yesterday after reading your post about fit. SO glad I did! I am making my own size, CO a few extra stitches, did an extra set of increases…BUT, it is a perfect fit! It was worth it to start over (the 3rd) and do the math to get an Ella that is perfect for me!

  2. Great information and tips on fit. Could have used it a little earlier…maybe attached to last weeks post…so I don’t have to start a 3rd time.

    • I am feeling your frustration Sierra. I’d like to offer you a word of encouragement. I have been knitting for many, many years and find myself in new territory as I knit Ella. You see I have had to pull out Ella over a dozen times, and got up again this morning to find with a heavy heart I will be last every week we knit. But then I had a bit of a paradigm shift, wether or not I rip, knit, rip, rip, rrrrriiiipppp, and growl, when this is all done I will have something I know is as flawless as I can knit it. And what keeps me in this is that if I can knit Ella with one hand, anyone can knit Ella.
      Just a little word to encourage you to persevere and not grow weary!

      • Well, I’ve been knitting for years and have given 99% of my finished sweaters to Goodwill because they are always too large. This time I went down a needle size (size 8) and I’m doing the Size 40 coat with the 2″ allowance (my chest measures 43″) but my back is small. I’m really at a loss (even with all of Nora’s input and she is the greatest) because I don’t know how to measure this on the long, long cable (the stitches move.) I’m going to measure for the upteenth time and see if it looks right. If not, I will just do what I think is right and hope for the best. This is no one’s fault but my own. All I can do is try!

      • Hi Melissa – Thanks for your response. I will not grow weary on this challenging start. I am now on my 4th time. 3rd time look great, had gone down a needle size, looked like I was on gauge…still 2″ bigger than should be. So now I am casting on fewer stitches (since I am already knitting the smallest size). I am determined to make it right! I, like you, know that, in the end, I will have a beautiful garment that I will love and cherish. Do not fear, you will not be last. I am sure that I will be there with you. And, not to get too personal, but knitting with one hand? Did I miss something here? Again, I do so appreciate what you and Nora are doing here. I had planned to knit the Ella this winter, so this KAL is certainly a gift to me. So much fun to have “partners in crime” knitting the same thing at the same time. I love all the tips and input from everyone. It is so beneficial.

  3. Great advice Nora. I sometimes just forge ahead and hope for the best. Not always the best plan with something as involved as a coat. Thanks for making me slow down and measure. Now let’s get to the shoulders I want to knit more on this coat!

  4. I’m going to start over. I had a feeling that the size I chose was too big. Now I know for sure it is. Since I’m going to start over, do you prefer the M1L and M1R instructions?

    • Hello, I think the slanted increases that are mirrored are more elegant, like thoughtful infrastructure most will never notice. You know they are there and it makes the garment more beautiful. Nora

      • Thank you! I’m so glad to catch this now. I would not have been happy with the fit had I kept going. I don’t think I was understanding the 2″ ease thing. This is going to make a big difference. Thank you!!!!

  5. When you measure the armholes which in my case should be 91/4 inches, is that from thedecrease start or does the measurement include the underarm? Thanks!

    • Hello Lee Ann,
      You measure from the BO stitches to the shoulder. Best to go straight up from the BO and then use a strait edge or your eye to see what the measurement is at the shoulder. This gives you the armhole depth. Nora

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