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.

Swatching . . . Watching . . . And Thinking

As you consider for your Ella Coat the colors you will use, as you choose yarn type, consider yarn weight, fiber content, and get to the business of swatching, I thought I’d swirl a few things to think about into the mix.

Specifically, drape has been on my mind. One of the things I LOVE, am absolutely enchanted by about my two current Ellas–my turquoise solid one with the Flurries ruffles and the Shepherd’s Wool blue & green striped one is the swinginess of the fabric, the way the coats move when I walk. They are not stiff. . .  they really move with my movements. It makes it fun to walk fast. Or even run.

As you pick your yarn, then, and swatch, please pay attention not just to whether you love the hand of it, whether you are getting stitch and row counts (rows are not as important. . . at least in this instance) and what needles to use, please also pay attention to the movement of the fabric you create when you swatch. It should drape over your hand, swing, move. It should not curl up like a pastry or stand up straight like a spoon in split pea soup too long on simmer. In this sense, be willing to make a generous swatch. I know I said before 24 stitches, but if you are not familiar with the properties of the yarn you are using–it is new to you–then expand your swatch to 68 stitches so you can really see how it behaves.

I am working on a new Ella Coat in Red Barn Yarn, a hand-dyed yarn that is denser than Stonehedge Fiber Mill’s Shepherd’s Wool. It has a lot more structure, will swing less and stand out straight a bit more. I’m ready for this because I like structured clothes. In fact, I have a beautiful evening coat that cinches in at the waist and flares out like a bell. It’s lovely and has a swish that beguiles me. This new Ella will have, I hope, a similar flare, at least in the beginning. It will take longer to soften.

Enjoy this part of the process. . .

 

More About Picking Colors (anytime and for your Ella Coat)

There is lots of advice out there about colors, color combining, picking colors. I will not point you to color wheels and wax on about complimentary colors. It can be very academic and there are folks who can speak that language much better than I.

I have feelings about colors, respond to certain combinations more than others, have my own preferences, likes, dislikes.

I always hesitate to give advice about colors because I have very defined tastes of my own. . . and as I always say to the folks who take my workshops, “your taste trumps mine.”

That said, part of the objective of this Ella Coat Knit-a-Long is to help you unleash your inner knitting artist self. For those in touch with this power, I am in full support. For those who feel well, a bit stifled or maybe a bit at sea with no land in sight, I have an exercise for you.

Many people think that creativity springs purely from the self. One must wait to be inspired. . . But this is not quite the way I think of creativity. Creativity takes work–it is pleasant if hard work sometimes, mind you–and it also springs from living in the world. We can only hold so much in our own minds. If you want to understand how flowers are made, for example, you have to look at them, take them apart, garden them, understand them, and look at them. . . look at them. If you want to sketch the joints of a beetles leg, it will not spring from your imagination . . . you must study in the world.

I listened to an interview of a panel of esteemed writers. The reporter asked them about the creative process and asked if they waited to be inspired. . . they all laughed. Every last esteemed guest positively guffawed. One person finally said, “If I waited to be inspired, I would never produce anything.”

Artistry takes work. Every day.

Picking colors needs, like any artistic production, to arise out of living in the world. Nature is an unequaled painter. She is an endless source of inspiration and has put together some of the most startling and beautiful color palettes you can imagine. Even today as we were driving home from seeing HUGO (fabulous movie. . . magical and beautiful with a wonderful overarching theme about everyone having a purpose) I was seeing Ella coat color palettes everywhere.

Put simply: I don’t start in the yarn store necessarily for a beautiful selection of colors. I start with the throat of the foxglove, the petal of the stargazer lily, the sunset over the Rockies, even in that patch of grass by the road where we drive there are several green shades and above the celadon, the bright yellow-green, the darker bright green of more mature grass blades there is the grey of deciduous bushes and trees, the overcast sky.  I filter out the signs, the brick houses, the shops. Focus on the patch of greens (3 shades) and greys (2 shads). These are the colors for an Ella Coat.

The last day I was skiing in Colorado I skied down the mountain (amazing!). . . through the most beautiful birch forest. The palette was limited: creamy white, creamy grey, bits of chocolate, dark grey, a dark purpley blue. The effect was incredible. It was silent, cold, serene. A beautiful Ella Coat.

Colors in the Close up of a Birch Tree Trunk

The other night as I was talking to Melissa on the phone I kept staring at a box of chocolates across the room. The box was chocolate brown and on the side was a bouquet of crimson roses. A beautiful Ella coat, or many beautiful and very different Ella Coats. I can see a chocolate brown coat with stripes of Berries (only a little), Garnet, Christmas Red, maybe even Antique Rose (but that might be too light . . . I would try it and see how I felt. If I used it, only sparingly because a color so light in a dark field has incredible power).

Extract the flowers from the entire picture and focus on the reds, keeping the dark chocolate. . . Sometimes the pixilation of the photograph helps to extract the different reds in the picture.  Here I see Midnight Lake, Berries, Garnet, Christmas Red, even Hot Pink. There is also gold. . . I would omit this, but that’s just me. Maybe a splash of true gold or pumpkin would be fabulous, maybe not. In any case, it should be used sparingly because in such a palette the color has tremendous power.

Picture the coat in reds stripes, with slender stripes in the darker chocolate and possibly also Midnight Lake. Maybe I would harness the power of those darker colors for the ruffles, or just the tips of the ruffles.

If you see a combination of colors that you love, take a picture, then limit the possibilities by narrowing your attention in the photo. Use the crop tool in Photoshop to focus on a section of the landscape, picture, photo, greeting card image that you like. Here is an example. The first images is of a painting. There is too much going on in this painting for me to want to represent all of these colors in an Ella Coat. I’m overwhelmed. But what about the tree at the top right of the picture.  I’ll limit my focus to that tree.  I love the complexity but limited palette. . . A beautiful grey coat with green stripes at the hem and cuffs, or a striped coat that uses all the shades of green and grey . . . or a green coat with grey ruffles. . . or a green coat with stripey waist or stripey bodice. . .

I’ve highlighted other areas of the picture to show how limiting your vision can make for exciting possibilities and is less overwhelming. . . Those fabulous blue domes with a hint of purple. The darker blue palettes on the buildings, the neutral palette of the building at the center of the painting.

Here are the extracted color palettes:

Blues

More Blues

The Green Tree (you could segregate the lower and upper halves for very different coats).

Neutrals

Here is my challenge to you: Go out in the world, take some pictures. Then crop the picture to focus on a color palette. . . Post your ideas on the Noni Facebook page along with the yarn colors you pulled out of the picture(s) you took. You do not have to knit the colors you find into your Ella Coat, but you will begin to see color combinations you had not noticed, and you will start to notice which ones you like (and which you don’t). I want you to love your coat. And I want you to be the artist of your own color choices.