Week 11: Finding The Perfect Closure

I’ve been lurking in the Rav forum peeking at what people are doing and seeing some amazing amazing Ella Coats!  I want to own them all for myself, I have to confess! And I want, even more, to see a convention of Ella coats. What a sight that would be!

I could see, already in Week 10, that there is discussion of closures. The right closure for Ella is rather like searching for the right button. It is no easy task. Fortunately, Ella can be worn open for a while or closed just under the bust for a nice effect. The waist detailing also suggests a nice location for an interim closure.

In other words, there is time to find the right thing. . . Sometimes the search takes a while and requires a few false starts or tries. I have, myself, not found quite the right thing for my two Ellas: Red Stripes Ella and Pewter Ella.

I have tried the JUL spiral bridge closure on both. It is dramatic and striking. In short, fabulous. But it is also heavy. Pewter Ella, being a bit more sturdy than Red Striped Ella could handle it. She’s got a very elegant strength to her. So, the closure has moved to Pewter Ella’s back, where it makes quite a statement.

I want something easier and lighter for the front closure. I looked at (and re-produce here) some of the pictures of closures that people have put up in the Rav forum.

There is the conventional subtle cord-covered hook & eye. I took these from one of Beth’s posts. . . These are great if you really don’t want a closure to show. Perfect for the ruffle on both sides Ella.






And here is a little bit fancier version for the person who wants the closure to show but is content to let those curls nestle amongst the ruffles. I also found a gold version when I was poking around on the internet sites that offer frogs.

Want something still traditional but a little fancier? Try this one. I bet you can get it in just about every color there is. Don’t really want it to show, maybe put all the hoo haa on the inside. so just the knot is visible (or not).






Here are some more of the more ubiquitous frogs . . . some smaller and more subtle than others. Picking frogs is like picking buttons (or light fixtures). . . you have to see it on the coat. . ..





I liked this flower frog. . .




This seemed one that would look great nestled amongst ruffles. . . I can see this on a bag, too.

And then there are the fancy, really unusual frogs. . . like the white one below (also available in black). This is a frog that is meant to be the center of attention. I would say one just under the bust. Two at the most. One under the bust and the other at the waist detail.





And then there are the frogs that look as though they could be worn with fancy buttons. Perhaps folks with ruffles on one side and simple plackets on the other would want to choose one of these types. . .

I’m still on the hunt myself, so as I find options I am considering myself (along with decorations), I will post about the search. In the meantime, please keep posting pictures of your beautiful coats and the closures you are considering. You can always use a shawl stick or a wooden cable needle to close your coat in the meantime.

On another note, in the live chat last Wednesday I asked people if they had any particular desires when it comes to bags. I’m in the middle of designing my new collection for Spring and Summer and wondered if there was overwhelming consensus. . . it was ruffles.

SO, I have designed Ella’s Going Out Bag. . . festooned with ruffles and French Anemones . . . I’m casting on later today. And as soon as she can be seen, I’ll post sneak peak pictures on Facebook. She will debut at MD Sheep & Wool Festival in the Noni Booth.

Check back on Wednesday for the first posting about the next Noni KAL:  A beautiful summer project from Noni Flowers.

Ella Week 10: The Skirt Ruffle & Front Plackets

You have have already decided how many ruffles and flourishes you want . . .


I think most of you have already finished the skirt ruffle, but if you have not, please feel free to do that. For those who are following me, here is the picot ruffle again. . . Work to desired skirt length – about 1/2 – 3/4 inch, ending with a WS row.

RS: Kfb across the row.

WS: Purl.

RS: *Kfb, k1; repeat from * across row.

WS: Execute a picot bind off as follows: *Using a cable cast on, CO 2 stitches, BO 3, placing the stitch that remains on the right needle back onto the left needle; repeat from * until all stitches are bound off.



For simple, minimalist plackets, follow the instructions in either the original Ella pattern or the Ella Rediscovered for the button band plackets. These are folded plackets with ruffles. You will want to put button holes on one side (if using buttons) and leave the other side without the buttons.

For the more simple ruffle you see on the pattern cover, please follow the ruffle instructions for sleeves.

For my picot ruffle, please follow the instructions for my ruffle meets ruffle tweak below.

1. A Tale of Two Ellas:

In both original Ella patterns, I have a button band on one side and a ruffly placket on the other.

In my newest Red striped and Pewter Ellas, I have ruffled plackets on both sides and am still debating about different closure methods (more about this in next week’s Week 11 post!).

In both Ella patterns, the front plackets are accomplished before the collar and neck ruffle. We have not done things this way. Thus, the plackets will begin at the top of the collar and neck ruffle and proceed all the way to the bottom of the skirt ruffle.

In order for this to look as though the ruffle was made all in one piece we have to join the ruffly-ness of the placket to the neck and skirt. Best way to do this is to use the technique of short rows.

2. What You Need to Know

Short Rows: If you’ve ever made a sock, and I bet most of you have, you have used short rows. Here is a great tutorial by Cat Bordhi on how to wrap and turn in exactly the manner I want you to do for the plackets. You will see, as you watch the video, that she works through the process by looking at her stitches rather than counting. Because the number of stitches you will be picking up along the front edges varies from coat to coat (but is 3 stitches for every 4 rows), I will not count stitches, nor do you need to.


3. Ruffle Meets Ruffle Tweek: After picking up stitches on the right side per the instructions in the pattern and those above, you will purl the first row.

Row 2 (RS): Work to last stitch, w&t.

Row 3 (WS): Work to last stitch, w&t.

Row 4: Work to last stitch before wrapped stitch, w&t.

Repeat row 4 on both knit and purl sides until 1 inch (2.5cm) before desired placket width, ending with a WS row.

RS: Knit to end, working the wrapped stitches as Cat Bordhi instructs in the video so they will be invisible.

WS: Purl to end, working the wrapped stitches as Cat Bordhi instructs in the video so they will be invisible.

RS: Kfb (knit in the front and back) in each stitch.

WS: Purl.

RS: Kfb, k1 across, with no worries about whether you end with Kfb or k1.

WS: Employ the ruffle bind off of your choice. If you would like to do my favorite picot bind off, here it is again: *Using a cable cast on, CO 2 stitches, BO 3, placing the stitch that remains on the right needle back onto the left needle; repeat from * until all stitches are bound off.

Weave in ends at the end and beginning of the ruffles so that the plackets ruffles are joined seamlessly to the neck and hem ruffles.


Final Weeks of Ella Previewed!

Next Week (Week 11): More About Plackets  Here, I will segue into ideas for decorations, as ways to close the coat should be considered decorative

Week 12: Decorating Ella

At the same time we will begin preparing for some of the knit-a-longs that are associated with the Noni Flowers book. I think we should have a good, old-fashioned VOTE for your favorite project and whichever one wins, wins. . . or should I just pull rank and say we’re going to make the Gossamer Fuchsia Wrap first? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

How I wrote Noni Flowers and Why I Love Daffodils

My book, Noni Flowers, contains 40 knitted flowers (every one of them can be a felted flower or simply a knitted flower) and 6 projects that use knitted flowers as a focal point–that’s a lot of patterns, and not a knitted ring or 6-row bracelet among them. When I started the Noni Flowers book project, I was a bit unrealistic about how long it would take. Somehow I extrapolated how long it took to write one small (not very detailed) flower pattern (that I’ve not published in the book or in my own pattern line . . . and never will) to be how long it would take to write every flower pattern. 2 hours x 40 flowers = 80 Nora hours of design work. I’d be done in 2 hours a day for 40 days subtracting weekends . . .

Somehow those 2 hours never materialized in my day. I would take a pattern order or two or five, ship out some orders, order some inventory that was getting low, do a little packaging of bits and pieces, and pretty soon it’s late. It’s dinner time. It’s time to tuck Soma in. Another day without a flower designed.

Finally, after a long string of such days my husband said, “You’ve got to go away.” We agreed on two weeks.

I made a stack of 50 8 1/2 x 11 pictures of blossoms I had chosen for the book (50 just in case. . . 10 back ups) in full color, alternate views, color palettes. I went to stay in my in-laws lake cottage (during hunting season . . . not a stitch of bright orange in the house!) and my wonderful mother-in-law had stocked the fridge with my favorites. Enough food, just about, for 2 weeks and no serious cooking. I would be home in time for Thanksgiving.

My days were pretty much all the same: wake up and have coffee, my typical breakfast of 1 fried egg and a piece of toast. I would sit down at the dining room table piled with yarn, a suitcase full of yarn to my right, a ball winder and swift attached to a narrow bench behind me. All the lights in the house trained on my work. To my right was the lake, moody and grey, speckled with geese in the early part of the day, frosted with white caps by evening.

I began with the knitted flowers I had worked on before: tulips, pansies, forget-me-nots, but soon realized I wanted to push past what I had already done. Most of the flowers, even if I had worked on them before, were radically revised or completely rewritten, no longer the same flowers.

As I completed each knitted flower, I would take a picture of it on the concrete patio outside (the light inside too dim for good photography) and send it to my tech editor. I would lay the completed, or at times half completed, sample on its picture and put it on the living room floor. As the days waxed and waned, the rows of knitted flowers grew. Some days I could design 3 flowers in one day, sometimes it took 3 days to design one flower. Sometimes I gave up on a flower, vowing to do it justice at a later date. My table of contents changed and changed. My breaks were working on projects, knitting late into the night on easy knitting and watching the sorts of TV I never otherwise watch. Cake Boss. Say Yes to the Dress.

I was not finished in two weeks. I missed Thanksgiving with my family. My mother-in-law had to rent a car because I had her car. I went grocery shopping and made a big pot of soup. I bought a bright orange wind-breaker and acrylic knitted hat and went for walks.

It took two more weeks to be 2 flowers shy of my total. I think I designed, in the end, nearly 60 flowers, but I rejected some along the way as not being as botanical as I wanted them to be. One flower, a Tiger Lily was nearly there but needed more work on the width of the petals to be right. I ran out of time. Some flower I cut because they were too long. Just wait . . . they are spectacular and you’ll see them sometime soon.

What I learned during those weeks of solitude, without even the company of a clock ticking through the house, was that only within such intense solitude, such intentional work, could I have reached the sort of critical mass of detail, time, that allowed me to, for example, render an Oriental Lily in worsted weight merino, a lily that would fool the eye.

Writing the patterns, as Cat Bordhi once told me (and I have never forgotten), is just the beginning. You are only half done. I know this from pattern writing. But a 4 page pattern booklet, 2 or 3 pages of which are pattern and instruction, are nothing compared to 175 pages or more of narrative, knitted flower patterns, project patterns, instruction, knitting how-to for flowers, photographs [all of which my photographer Sully (RA Sullivan) and I painstakingly styled and shot together with one mind and his flawless skill for lighting and commercial photography.

And then there is the testing . . .

And more tech-editing.

And testing.

And reading and re-reading by me, Mary Elliott, Kellie Nuss, Charlotte Tribble, Monica Beard, my editor at Potter Craft, Betty Wong, the Random House tech-editor, the proof-reader, the executive editor at Potter Craft. And then by me, again, and Mary Elliott, again. And Kellie Nuss, again.

Kellie took some amazing pictures on short notice as we prayed for sunlight on a day that seemed bound to offer but a wan sunlight, flirting with bursts of brilliance only to hide again behind a fan of clouds.

Then there were days I almost forgot I had written a book . . . then the mail would come.

I read the express mailed proof, commented on it at a busy time when the time could not be spared, of course, and Soma was out of school but I somehow finished, drove to a Kinkos only minutes before closing (why are such things always so quietly dramatic?!) and prayed their machine was big enough to copy the massive spread (it was, only just, with margins and words cut off), and sent it express, back to New York for a deadline I nearly missed.

And then I proofed what they call “the dummy,” a pdf of how the book will look, layout complete. More comments. More changes.

And then the round where all is complete. A sort of signing off.

And then it is gone. It is at the printer. It is done. A day strangely quiet, strangely unmarked.

Until the box of books arrived in February and Mary Elliott was with me–remarkably and fittingly–and I opened it with her there. She, who had knit every flower twice as though they were her own botanical children. How can love be so big and so wonderful as that sort of devotion? I am blessed by her and by Kellie and by my husband who sent me away and put Soma to bed so many nights when I was at the studio until the time in the morning when you can hear coyotes if you are up to listen. Without such devotion, a book, a funny dumb thing that speaks so much in the right hands, cannot be completed.

It is now, nearly a year and a half after missing that Thanksgiving with my family (and being taken in by Sharon Rutz and her family on that day) and a year since I turned in the manuscript for the first round of edits, that I am starting to see in greater depth and detail the flowers not primarily as botanical specimens but as flowers I live with, flowers that can decorate my table centerpiece, the hair of a bride, the love letters of those separated by long distances.

Today the Daffodils are blooming in my backyard. I will forever associate them with my Soma, because they were blooming in my garden when I brought him home for the first time.

It is the Daffodils that I have yet in the vase in which they were photographed. They greet me each day in the studio. And I still wonder how it is they look so real.

Knitted Flowers in My Garden: Magnolia Stellata

My son and I walk through the garden that surrounds our hours every morning. We call it our garden tour. We look to see what is new, what is blooming. Today I noticed for the first time that my Clematis Armandii is going to bloom. This particular Clematis is a hardy one, with long slender glossy leaves. The flowers are small and white. It is a slow grower, so I have been nursing this one for years now. This Spring it is covered with buds.

The Magnolia stellata or Star Magnolia is bursting into bloom. Every day there are more unfurled flowers. And next to it is a weeping cherry that people slow down to look at. The entire neighborhood waits for it to come into bloom. Spectacular.

This morning, I took some of my flowers from the Noni Flowers book and nestled them in the natural surroundings with their actual counterparts. I have to say I was delighted with the results. Here, I’ll talk about the Star Magnolia.

Magnolias are ancient plants. The Magnolia Grandiflora, for example, came into being before bees existed. It relies on beetles to do the pollinating. It’s stamen is, as you might expect, also ancient. It is woody and can withstand the attentions of insects more forceful than bees.

Magnolias such as the Magnolia Stellata are more delicate than their more ancient counterparts, but they are no less extraordinary and unusual.

Here is my knitted flower in the branches of the tree in my front yard.

This flower, perhaps more than some of the others, is one I can see firmly rooted in home decor. It looks stunning sitting on a magnolia branch in a Chinese Vase.

Even now, in my studio, I have a single flower gracing a sculptural Magnolia branch. It is one of the favorite things in my studio. I love it every day.

I can also see it on a cloche hat positioned right at the ear. I don’ t have this hat, so I can’t provide a picture of this. But I hope you can see this image as I can.

More flowers to come. . .


Week 9: Looking Ahead and Catching Up Because the Skirt Takes a Long Time

This is another catch-up week as you continue, perhaps, to work on the skirt. I have heard from a lot of folks who are at various stages of done-ness. . .

If you are itching to move on to the skirt ruffle,  you may certainly do so. The options are as they have been before.  .  .  If you have chosen a particular finish for your sleeve cuffs and neck, then you will probably want to employ the same technique for the skirt ruffle.

You might think about spicing things up just a tad by doing the last row and the bind off row in a slightly different color to catch the eye and shake up expectations.

For the skirt ruffle above (a conventional ruffle), I just did the bind off row in a very similar slightly more orange color that was dazzling next to the hot pink that precedes it.

Preview of the Rest of the Ella Coat Knit-A-Long:

I think some folks are just steaming ahead if they are working faster than others. Those of us who spend all day in an office (not knitting . . . ) are going a little slower than the folks who have more time to knit. I’ve even had people write to me that they have finished their coats! While I admire your speed. . . you are missing all my remaining tweaks!

So, here is a plea to stay with us. Because here is what is coming up:

After the skirt ruffle (which I will detail next week, week 10), we will return to the plackets (week 11). I have a tweak for them so that the ruffled plackets meet the ruffle at the hem and at the neck for a seamless, looks-like-you-did-it-all-at-once, appearance.

Decorations (week 12): All of your Ellas are unique, but what will make them even more stunning and fabulous, more firmly rooted in the world of art-piece, is the special finishing and decoration you do after your Ella is done.

I know some folks are working on poppy cowls so you are familiar, perhaps, with the Oriental Poppy flower . . . here is what I am working on for my long red Ella. I am picking up stitches (on the wrong side) just above the sleeve cuff ruffle so that you will not be able to see the stitches. I am picking up in the sleeve color at that point. Then I will make poppy petals around the cuffs, right side of the petals facing up, complete with dark splodge in the middle and picot bind off ruffle. Lots of work but I think the result will be nothing less than stunning. I’ve mocked it up here (just below) to see what I think (and you think). . . still in love with it, I have to say.

I’ve added a decoration to the back of my Pewter colored Ella Coat to take up just a tad extra width and add some drama:

Sitting around the table and sharing ideas becomes particularly inspiring at this point. I would like to try to do some of that here. Think of the comments in the Rav forum and the comments below this post as a table we are all sitting around.

Post in the comments here, and post in the Rav forum (I’ve just created a thread) with your ideas, musings, pictures of what you might already have done. Pictures from me later as I execute what are as yet ideas.

I will, for blog postings other than Monday, start talking about the process I went through in writing Noni Flowers at the same time that I share some photographs of my own garden in Springtime.


More KALs Coming After Ella

After the book comes out, we will start working through, KAL-style, all of the projects in the book, so stay tuned for that deliciousness! We will start with that fabulous gossamer wrap with fuchsias dripping from the edges that you see in the opening images on the website. I’ll have kits in lovely colorways available for purchase. . .

AND, I’ve got some more tricks up my sleeve for projects that will compliment Ella nicely . . . More about this on Tuesday (tomorrow), so come back and read the post.

Week 8: The Skirt is Long . . . Weave In Ends as You Go

As you work on the skirt, you will be thinking about length.  .  . Perhaps you have already decided how long to make the skirt so it’s just a matter of trying it on now and again. You will stop when it is just shy of the right length.

I will leave you to all that decision making . . .

This is a plea to weave in ends as you go. I am a confessed leave it all to the end person myself. I come from that perspective. I get all caught up in the knitting and I don’t want to weave in ends or block or do much of anything else (even water the flowers) until the project is done. Then I return to myself and notice the plants drooping in their pots, weave in ends for days, literally days.

I have been working on a new Ella as some of you might know, inspired by the ski hat my son recently requested.

This Ella has even more ends than the last one as I have been changing colors with greater frequency.

My Medallion Travel Bag is full to bursting with balls of yarn. . .

This means lots of ends to contend with.

I have, in light of the suffering before me, decided to suffer as I go. I have gotten out my large-eyed sharp darning needle and my thread nippers and spend some time at the end of each knitting session to weave in the ends produced since the last time I sat down to knit.

I’ve talked before about my technique: I weave straight back from the edge along the same color field, piercing the fibers in that field in much the same way a little mole tunnels just under the surface. My needle is that little mole. . . I think it creates a better “stick.”

When I join a new color at the edge, I tie the new end with the old one in a square knot (stays but better than the granny knot my own granny would not have used as she, too, preferred the square knot). Then I weave in the ends like color with like. I read once that Barbara Walker was not shy about starting with a new strand of yarn in the middle of the row. I have to admit I am of the same mind. If I must use a new ball of yarn in the middle of a row, or get it in my mind to switch colors mid-row, I just start working with the new strand, tie the ends together in a square knot, and weave in the ends going in opposite directions each color with its like color field. I weave in about an inch of the end before cutting off just about 1/16th of an inch from the fabric as you can see just above.

We are thinking ahead to decorating finished Ellas in our Wednesday Ravelry live chat. Join us between 9 and 10 pm EST!

Perfectly Simple Gauntlets Mini Knit-a-Long PART 3 or Alternate Treatments for Finishing the Gauntlets

If you would like gauntlets that are button on, consider making a button placket and a buttonhole placket.

At the moment, this is a blog entry more of ideas than pictures–sorry, visual people!

Here is one idea: A rib will make the plackets flat and they will require no hem.  A 1 x 1 is most simple rib and allows you to work with the 56 stitches without worrying about beginning and ending with the same number of stitches. A rib offers structure, too, and this way, the gloves are completely reversible in all ways. I recommend both plackets being 5 – 6 rows.

Buttons: I’m thinking 3/8 inch in diameter. Space evenly. Count carefully.

Button holes: For small buttons 1 yarn over and an ssk will make a button hole. Knit the yarn overs on the next row. Space as for buttons. Count carefully.

stitches for both sides