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?

26 thoughts on “Week 3: Making the Ella Sleeves

  1. Perfectly amazing tutorial again my friend! Now i know what i need to do when i reach the sleeves…if I ever get out of week 1!… LOL Glad you said to be fine with my own timeline…

  2. Hi Nora – This looks great. I have been having some concerns about the sleeves, anticipating that they would probably be next. I was concerned about the stripes matching, and wondering if the sleeves could be knit from the top down, or thinking I would want to do the skirt first so that my sleeves could match the striping sequence. However, I really like your approach that the stripes only match from the bodice or even from the armhole shaping. I have never been much for “outfits” and the ella coat with sleeves completely matching may have turned out to be a bit overdone for me. So, this approach will be perfect. Thank you! I was wondering if the sleeves could be knit in the round up to the cap shaping. Are there concerns that I am not aware of that would make this a bad idea? Would it create problems with the cuff and ruffle? Again thank you. I am looking forward to this next week and my sleeves developing!

    • Hi Sierra, You raise a terrific question. . . My only concern (and the reason I didn’t work my sleeves in the round) is that little jog at the intersection of one row and another. I have tried just about all the tricks people claim to have to eliminate that jog and none has worked to my satisfaction. When I seam, I know I can match the stripe perfectly. If this jog matters not to you, by all means work in the round.

      And this goes for anyone else: go ahead and work the sleeves in the round if you choose to. It does not present problems with knitting down to correct length at the end or with the sleeve ruffle.

      If anyone has any amazing and magical tricks for eliminating that color jog, please share!

      • When you get to a color change in the round, the first of the new color stitch – put the right tip of the needle in the stitch below AND the presented stitch…it evens out pretty well. (Not that I’m doing stripes myself.) My next question/suggestion: I love pockets in sweaters, both patch and knitted in at the sides. Have you done that in any of these coats? I’d like to add them to mine. Any thoughts??

      • Thank you, Sue, for sharing this tip with us. I think I’ve tried this before but it is worth trying again! I appreciate you weighing in. As for pockets, I like them too but I have not put any in any of my knitted garments. They would be easy to insert if there were a side seam. . . you could separate at the side seam when doing the skirt if inclined and knit the pocket in there.
        Anyone else have some ideas for pockets, patch or set in?

      • Hi Nora – Thanks for the reply to my comments about knitting in the round. Eileen (of Meadowfarm) and I have been exploring pockets. We came upon one that is really appealing. It is an inset pocket that will be on the fronts. It will be kind of a “shield” shape similiar to a triangle with a garter transition from pocket to coat. The top edge will have a small ruffle to tie in with the ruffle edges. We will try to get it all worked out in the next week and send it to you for your comments. It will work with stripes or solids. I think it is going to work splendidly and am excited about adding it to my coat!

      • Hi Sierra,
        I love your pocket idea! I can’t wait to see how they turn out. Here is my something to think about comment: as you move through your day and put hands in pockets of other clothes, where do you want your hands to be and at what height in the garment/on the body? Use garments you have and like the pocket fit of as guides as you go through this process. Do you like your hands slipped in to the side? In front?

        Maybe you’ve already thought all this through, but I was just thinking that the importance of lifestyle and habit of inhabiting pockets can’t be overstated and should inform the placement. A good thing to think through carefully. . . One of those measure multiple times before setting in stone by cutting, or, as this case may be, by placing.

    • Hi Virginia,
      I have the single crochet version described in the Ella Rediscovered pattern.
      I personally prefer the method that employs waste yarn. Here is a YouTube tutorial that is visually very easy to follow (my personal test). I turned down the sound and could see exactly what she was doing. Check it out:

    • I think you can block when you choose. You can block as you go, or block when you finish. Some might choose not to block. What do you think you will do, now that you know the ball is in your court? In response to your question, Melissa is putting a little blocking poll on the FB page . . .

      • Well, I will have to ponder this as I stare at the bodice while knitting the sleeves. I thought maybe it would be easier to set the sleeves in if it was nice and straight and blocked but on the other hand my measurements for the armholes are spot on at this point (9″) so….what is a knitter to do?!

    • AAAAAAAHHHHHH!(The sound of passionate approval followed by textual backup!) I love these boots. And yellow! Must post after receiving and wearing with Ella pictures! Can’t wait! O, so many boots. . . so few feet! Need more hands to knit more matching Ellas . . .

  3. Hi Nora,
    I would love to start my sleeves on the round, but I really don’t know how to do it. I know this type of sleeves are called ” set in” cuz of the shape. I did my 1st Ella and I noticed my sleeves are boxy and I would not like to happens to my 2nd and
    3rd Ella.

    Please help me!

    • Hi Dora,
      I think you are striping your sleeves, yes? If so, you will want to read the advice, in the comments on this blog entry, about eliminating the little color job in the stripes.

      If you are not striping, you need not worry and just join and work in the round, placing a marker where you join so you can identify the beginning of the round. Then just follow the pattern as written.

      I don’t know exactly what you mean by the sleeves being “boxy.” Does that mean they were too big? Or does that mean that you didn’t do the bind off and sleeve cap shaping? Sleeves will often look “boxy” when there is no shaping, but they just end and you bind off. This is called a dropped sleeve and in this case, the body of the garment has no shaping for the armholes either. This kind of sleeve is most often found in fair isle sweaters where shaping for the sleeve would be a bit tedious with a steek.

      • Thank you Nora! I think my problem in my first Ella was the sleeves were too long for me. I will follow the patterns as you designed, but I will make sure the length is perfect for my size. Thank you for all your support, you are a great teacher!

        Dora 🙂

  4. On the topic of pockets, I’m heavily considering inserting a small “key” pocket into a row in the skirt somewhere. Not sure if I’d like it to be altogether hidden, or if I’d put a little ruffle at the top, or maybe even a flower on it. I’m leaning toward hidden…
    Just knitting a small 2×2 or 2×3 lining and knitting it in..just big enough for a key and drivers license. If I went as big as 4×3 then it would be big enough for a phone, but I don’t think I’d want things weighing in the pocket. (that’s what Noni bags are for anyhow 🙂 ) The key pocket is nice if I’m going over the neighbors or around the block and don’t want my purse.
    Here’s a thought Nora, what about a tiny kisslock bag on a long crossbody chain to match our Ella 🙂

  5. I am glad to see that I am not the only one who is taking my time. I am really enjoying all the tips and posts. I have been knitting for 50 years and I learn something new every day. Thanks for the tips,

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