Posts Tagged ‘Fiona Ellis’

Design Inspiration with Fiona Ellis – a study of lines

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015
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For the blog post this month I’m not going to be exactly “changing tack” but hoping to show you another way that I look at the lines formed by cables. If you have read my blog posts in previous months then you already know about my photo collection. This month I want to show you some photos that I have taken which I think show how a simple line or lines can become really interesting.

Design inspiration for Fiona Ellis, WEBS 2015 Designer in Residence. Read more on the WEBS Blog at

Firstly here is a definition of how line is seen as a design principle- taken from an exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Museum that I saw earlier this year.

Design inspiration for Fiona Ellis, WEBS 2015 Designer in Residence. Read more on the WEBS Blog at

When I spot an example of interesting lines I try to move around the subject and take several photos from different angles trying to get shots that play with the way that the lines interact with each other. Here are just a few of them. Do you notice that the carpet pattern (bottom right) combines some of the same combinations of lines as the railway tracks? (by the way it was a dis-used track- I don’t want you to think I was risking my safety to get the shot). The photo in the top left corner is about parallel lines, I love how the spacing between each changes throughout the image.

Design inspiration for Fiona Ellis, WEBS 2015 Designer in Residence - Changing Tack pullover. Read more on the WEBS Blog at

Spending some time out in Vancouver by the ocean I started looking at the patterns “drawn” by vessels moving across the water. Now I must admit these observations didn’t become much more than a kernel of an idea. So rather than coming up with my own cable pattern, or re-inventing the wheel, I went back to one of my all time favourite already established cables. This is the smaller one used in Changing Tack. I love how this one zigs back & forth with each cord moving at a slightly different speed to allow them to cross over each other. It reminds me of watching a yacht tack into the wind. Not moving in a straight direct line from A to B, but zig-zaging, all the while aiming towards a specific point. This is where this sweater got its name.

If you have been following my work you will know that I love asymmetry. I know that it doesn’t appeal to everybody and that in some people it can cause him or her to shudder – I’ve seen it happen. But I couldn’t let my year as Designer in Residence go by without including an asymmetric design. So I decided that it needed to be an exercise in subtle asymmetry, one that might even tempt those lovers of symmetry.

Design inspiration for Fiona Ellis, WEBS 2015 Designer in Residence - Changing Tack pullover. Read more on the WEBS Blog at

Changing Tack has the patterning arranged so that an even number of small cables is divided, but not in half (symmetrically), rather three placed on once side of the larger cable and just one on the other side. Then I played with the larger cable, changing another tired and true pattern, changing it so that it is no longer symmetrical about the horizontal axis, the upper section does not mirror what happens in the previous rows. I hope that these playful tweaks give just the air of asymmetry without being wildly so. By the way if even this challenges your love of pure symmetry you can always work the pattern by placing two small cables either side of the larger one and mirroring the lower (or upper) section of the larger cable.

I can’t wait to show you what I’m working on for the November pattern release!

Designer in Residence – Changing Tack from Fiona Ellis

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015
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Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence. Her fifth design, the Changing Tack Pullover, in Valley Yarns Brimfield - learn more at

September always seems to sneak up on you. The last heatwave of August rolls right into the first frosts of autumn.  To celebrate the changing of the seasons why not knit Changing Tack, the newest pattern from our  Designer in Residence, Fiona Ellis. The Valley Yarns Brimfield is a gorgeous blend of extrafine merino and silk with a shine you won’t believe. Be adventurous and use the peridot color in the sample or try one of a dozen other shades.

Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence. Her fifth design, the Changing Tack Pullover, in Valley Yarns Brimfield - learn more at

Changing Tack is a perfect between-season sweater, inspired by traditional cabled sweaters but with a modern twist. The pattern placement and repeats are set asymmetrically on the figure-flattering silhouette to give an updated look. The slightly flared sleeves add to the feminine appeal. Knitting with Valley Yarns Brimfield takes this pullover to the next level with gorgeous stitch definition and a wonderful sheen from the silk.

Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence. Her fifth design, the Changing Tack Pullover, in Valley Yarns Brimfield - learn more at

Five gorgeous patterns already this year. Where does the time go?! You have just enough time to knit Changing Tack before we reveal the final design from Fiona in this Series. Which design has been your favorite?

Design Inspiration with Fiona Ellis

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
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My goodness half of my Designer in Residence year is over and my fourth pattern was just launched! So I just did a quick review of what I’ve chatted with you about over the past few months; geometry, the humble I-cord and Morphing Cables. I guess it’s time I talked a little about how I find my inspiration. The best way I have found of generation my ideas is by taking photographs. Back on Sept 1st 2007 BI – that is “Before Instagram” (I can hardly believe it), I committed to taking photos to illustrate my journals. Up until that point my photo taking was more haphazard, but from that day on I have tried (and mostly succeeded) in taking a photo every single day. This kind of practice helps you develop a more artistic view of the, mostly mundane, everyday things that surround us. Or put another way it forces you to look at things that you see all the time (and mostly overlook) in a new light.

Ironwork - design inspiration for Fiona Ellis, WEBS 2015 Designer in Residence. Read more on the WEBS Blog at

As you can imagine I have amassed quite the collection of photos over these past 8 years. And through this process my fascinations have become very apparent. I have become very aware of my re-occurring themes/sources of inspiration. Collar Your Dreams springs from one of my favourites – ironwork, and more specifically the Eiffel Tower. OK you got me…the Eiffel Tower is hardly mundane and everyday, but the practice of looking at those objects transfers into my picture taking when I’m somewhere exotic like Paris.

Design inspiration with Fiona Ellis, WEBS 2015 Designer in Residence. Read more on the WEBS Blog at

I’ve used ironwork as an inspiration source many times, but what is a little different with this design is that I wanted to incorporate the openwork feel that the tower, for me, epitomises. It’s not just about the lines, but the spaces in between the lines. There is almost a lightness or airiness to the structure,and that was what I wanted to try to capture. If you have ever been lucky enough to see it up close, maybe it has struck you as it did me, that when you walk around it each vantage point produces yet another beautiful curve or line with amazing geometric shapes nestled in between the main structural braces. So I placed arcs of eyelets holes between the cables, cables that I hope capture something of the graceful lines of this beautiful structure. If you are interested in hearing about my latest fascinations I would love for you to join me on my website on the 9th of each month when I post about what I’m currently finding inspiring. This month it’s all about my recent trip to the UK.

Designer in Residence – Collar Your Dreams from Fiona Ellis

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
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Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence. Her third design, the Collar Your Dreams Cardigan, in Valley Yarns Valley Superwash DK - learn more at

Wow! July already and with all that glorious, hot summer weather, but before you know it a chill will settle into our evenings and the leaves will begin to change color as Autumn approaches. Once it does you’re going to wish you had a fantastic cardigan to ward of that cool weather. Fiona’s newest pattern as our Designer in Residence, Collar Your Dreams, may just be that perfect cardigan!

Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence. Her third design, the Collar Your Dreams Cardigan, in Valley Yarns Valley Superwash DK - learn more at

The Collar Your Dreams cardigan is the experienced, or adventurous, cable knitters dream, intricate and fun with just enough challenge! The cables, that incorporate eyelet holes alongside the crosses, were inspired by iron work and form shapes reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower. This multi-season cardigan sports a shawl collar worked in short rows and elegant, feature waist shaping.

Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence. Her third design, the Collar Your Dreams Cardigan, in Valley Yarns Valley Superwash DK - learn more at

Knit in Valley Yarns Valley Superwash DK, with over 20 colors to choose from this one is sure to become a favorite wardrobe staple! Which color will you choose?

Designer in Residence – Made to Border from Fiona Ellis

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
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With the warmer weather finally starting to settle in we couldn’t be happier to present the latest design from Fiona Ellis, Made to Border! This cute little cap sleeve cardigan is perfect for throwing on over a tank top or light summer dress. The main feature of this design is the border patterning which morphs into gradually diminishing cables. The top is completed with simple edging and a knitted tie closure.

Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence. Her third design, the Made to Borger cardigan, in Valley Yarns Northfield - learn more at


Made to Border will soon become your go to layering cardigan! The silk content of the Valley Yarns Northfield gives your stitches shine which enhances your stitch definition, a total plus with cable work, while the baby alpaca give it the softest halo, and the merino ties it all together into a springy yarn that is a joy to knit.

Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence - learn more at

Which of Fiona’s designs is your favorite so far? Which sweater are you working on?

Fiona Ellis – In praise of the humble I-cord

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
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Designer in Residence Fiona Ellis joins us again this month to tell us all about her love affair with the i-cord, which just happens to be one of the stunning features in her newest pattern release, In the Loop.

In the Loop the 2nd design from Fiona Ellis in WEBS' Designer in Residence series - read more at

I have loved making the humble I-cord since I was a little girl. Like many of us, I had one of those spool knitting toys. For some reason, & I never knew why, it was called French knitting when & where I was growing up. Mine was like a doll so you needed to make a few inches of cord to be able to see the colour change. It would keep me amused for hours. Then, once I had made yards and yards of the stuff, I would sew it into mats for my grandmother. I even made ones as big as door mats. I graduated to “proper” knitting at age 5 when I was taught by my Gran…maybe she already had enough mats by then. Then in design school I learned that if you set one set of cams to slip on a knitting machine you could make cords even more quickly, and carry on a gossipy conversation at the same time (13 ladies in my studio at the time). In this environment it was called rouleau cord. Once I had made it (and found out who was dating whom) I set about finding creative ways of using it in my designs. That fascination with cords hasn’t left me. When I moved to North America I discovered they were called I-cords in hand knitting circles.

As I delved deeper and deeper into designing cables I saw that adding cords to cables was a perfect marriage. I have experimented a lot with embellishments projects by adding cords mostly to give the knitted-in cable cords the appearance of spilling out of the fabric. If you think about it an I-cord is really part of a cable that hasn’t yet been set into the pattern….or is that just me? Many designs later and too many experiments to count I continue to use I-cords as an embellishment for cable patterns. They can be used as ties, to neaten the front edge of a cardigan, to gather a cuff or lower edge [Re-gathering Intentions], as button loops instead of a button hole, or as belt loops, and in the case of “In the Loop” as a feature at the neckline. Here I imagined the cables separate from the fabric, link around each other before settling back into the neckline.

Collage of designs from Fiona Ellis featuring i-cords - read more at

The method for working this is fairly simple: when you reach the stitches that will become the cord (two in this case), you slide them onto a holder such as a safety pin and cast on the same number to the main fabric just like you do when working a thumb on a pair of mittens. Once you are ready to work the cord it is necessary to increase the stitch count from two to four so that it will look the same size as the knitted-in cord. You work the I-cord as usual until it is the desired length, then decrease the stitch count back down to two. To attach the cord you work one stitch from the cord together with one stitch from the fabric – twice. Then all you have to do is weave in the ends.

Just in case you thought I might stop at playing with simple I-cords. A few years ago I began to think; if cords are good, then adding other embellishments to them, such as whimsical leaves used here on these mittens [Woodland Leaves], must be even better!

You can see more of Fiona designs that feature i-cords here and here.

Designer in Residence – In the Loop from Fiona Ellis

Friday, March 6th, 2015
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It’s time to reveal another wonderful design from Fiona Ellis. This time around we have a stunning transitional sweater in a vibrant color that’s perfect to help shake off those winter blues.

Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence, her second design the In the Loop sweater in Valley Yarns Southwick - learn more at

In The Loop is a longer-line fitted top with cap sleeves worked in Valley Yarns Southwick in the rich African Violet colorway. Both the back and front feature an intricate cable pattern that incorporates textured stitches within the loops. And the neckline has a unique I-cord feature which gives the appearance of the cable pattern spilling out of the fabric and looping around on itself, while the cap sleeves have simple rope cables.

Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence - learn more at blog.yarn.comWear In the Loop with a bold print skirt, pair it with a long-sleeve t-shirt and some khakis, or a flirty floral top that peeks out at the hem and a simple denim skirt. This one is a great wardrobe staple that you’re sure to keep coming back to.

Ready, Set, Knit! 387: Kathy talks with Fiona Ellis

Saturday, January 24th, 2015
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This week Kathy talks with WEBS 2015 Knitting Designer in Residence, Fiona Ellis. Fiona’s first design in the series, the I Feel Vine cardigan, is available now.

Ready, Set, Knit! ep. 387 - Kathy talks with Fiona Ellis about the WEBS Designer in Residence program - listen now at

To learn more about the Designer in Residence Program read our blog post here, and to learn more about Fiona’s design process read her blog post here.

Steve’s Yarn Picks of the week:


Sign up now for the WEBS Mystery KAL or Mystery CAL classes before they fill up!

Upcoming Events:

Our 9th Annual Pre-Game Event is coming up on Feb 1st – It’s free but be sure to register!

Join us for a Yarn Tasting with Cascade Yarns on Feb 12th.

Don’t miss your chance to meet and talk with Norah Gaughan on March 7th!

Be sure to check out all of our upcoming Events here.

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Fiona Ellis – a Designer in Residence in her own words

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015
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Artist or designer in residence programs are set up to foster close ties between an artist, their work and a particular establishment or organization. They are devised to allow time & space for the artist to explore their work, maybe even from a new perspective. It helps builds a closer relationship between the artist and the establishment and also allows everyone to see the behind the scenes workings and progress that ultimately leads to the end product. So I was absolutely thrilled when the wonderful people at WEBS invited me to be one of their Designers in Residence. The team at WEBS and I are hoping that our collaboration will foster not only wonderful patterns to showcase their gorgeous yarns, but also give knitters some context to those patterns along with some fun peaks behind the scenes. The pattern that I came up with for the January launch includes three ideas that are part of my designer philosophy or involve an aspect of my work that I have been recently developing.

Shapes & Motifs

Way back in school I hated mathematics. So it amuses to see how much, and with what relative ease, I now use those principles that I struggled so hard to learn. Somehow the fog surrounding them just lifted once I applied them to knitting. Case in point; when I’m designing a shape or motif I lean on simple geometry to figure out the angle of the line. Even a curved line, when you break it down, is in fact made up of the hypotenuse of series of triangles. And you have no idea how smart it makes me feel to be able to say that!

A sample graph for charting stitch increases from Fiona Ellis, 2015 WEBS Designer in Residence - read more at

Let me explain a little further. If you need a steep angle for your line you move (add or subtract) by just one stitch at a time each row. If you need a shallower angle (closer to horizontal) then you move by two or maybe three stitches at a time. The real fun begins when you use these angles in combination with each other to create different shapes. I have been using this rule (see how bossy I’m getting about this now) for quite some time to design non-symmetrical, organic looking shapes such as Paisleys. These kinds of shapes, rather than even geometric shapes like triangles, diamonds etc., require the incorporation of several different angles to create the curved line that defines the overall shape. The leaves I have incorporated into the I Feel Vine cardigan are an extension of this experimentation.

A sample chart, with knit swatch, for charting curved lines from Fiona Ellis, 2015 WEBS Designer in Residence - read more at

Using needles to changes gauge

I know that you all do gauge swatches. And also follow the instruction that tells you to change your needle size so that you obtain the same gauge that my test knitter used when making the sample. But have you thought about how needle size, along with stitch structure, changes the fabric that you are creating? I know many of you have, and understand the effect, but for those of you who might be new to the concept here is how I used this principle for this cardigan. Apart from allowing for achieving correct gauge, the other cool thing about changing needle sizes is that you can use the changes to create different fabric properties within the same garment. I did this for the ribbed section of the I Feel Vine cardigan. Ribbed fabric is very elastic and causes the fabric to compress widthwise. This is why it’s often used for cuffs when we need a snug fit at the lower edge of a piece. Combining this type of structure with a smaller needle for that section produces a lovely snug, but comfortable, waist shaping without having to change the stitch count at all.

A collage of inspiring floral imagess from Fiona Ellis, 2015 WEBS Designer in Residence - read more at


For me a project isn’t over until all the little details have been dealt with; the seaming, closures, and finishing details. In some cases I need to take a less is more approach. There is quite a bit of patterning within each garment piece of the I Feel Vine cardigan so to add bulky or attention-grabbing bands I felt would have taken away from the design. I wanted the focus to be on the mid-section & the leaf patterning above. The closure for this cardigan therefore had to be minimal but elegant, so I used a “pick-up & then bind off immediately” trim with button loops that are created during the bind-off.

I do so hope that you like the design and enjoy making (and wearing it).

– Fiona

Designer in Residence – Fiona Ellis

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015
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We’re so excited about our new Designer in Residence program for 2015! We’ve teamed up with two truly talented designers to bring you gorgeous knit and crochet designs that showcase some of our favorite Valley Yarns. This month we’re debuting the I Feel Vine Cardigan from knitwear designer Fiona Ellis and we’ll have a new design from her each odd numbered month of the year. And we’ll reveal the first crochet design from Doris Chan in February to be followed by a new design from her each even numbered month this year!

Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence, her first design the I Feel Vine Cardigan in Valley Yarns Amherst - learn more at

This long-line cardigan worked in Valley Yarns Amherst is perfect for all seasons; cozy for the chilly months but also great to slip on over a sleeveless top in warmer months to fend off the chill of air conditioning. It’s clever use of stitch patterning utilizes the elasticity of rib patterning at the waist and cuff to give gentle shaping. The rib then morphs into a unique leaf pattern & finally into eyelet lace stitch work which adds to the overall femininity of this garment.

Fiona Ellis WEBS 2015 Knitwear Designer in Residence - learn more at

We asked Fiona to tell us about about her process and inspiration, and to give us a bit of a sneak peek into what we can expect to see throughout the year.

Tell us about your design process. Do you have design ideas in your head that inspire you to search out the right yarn or do you find a yarn and let the design grow from there?

I keep an on-going archive, of sorts, for design ideas and projects that I want to work on. So mostly it’s the idea that comes first and then I search out the perfect yarn for the project/design rather than the other way around.

Where do you find inspiration? Do you hike? jog in the city? take your camera everywhere you go? have a studio full of inspiring color and images?

I find inspiration everywhere so I always carry a camera (or my phone) and try to bring a small notebook with me wherever I go. I find inspiration can strike at very strange times – sometimes it’s at 3am! And I find it’s a process that you can’t really command. The ideas just seem to appear of their own accord and can sometimes be fleeting or hard to pin down. So I end up with pockets full of ideas scribbled on coffee shop napkins because I forgot to bring my notebook with me that day. On the other hand I also have this mindfulness practice of taking a photo every day even if nothing seemingly exciting is happening. I’ve been doing this since Sept 2007 and have found some great ideas have emerged from this habit of encouraging myself to closely observe the world. I believe that somehow the two elements work off of each other.

Tell us about your design aesthetic. What can our customers expect to see from you this year?

I studied fashion knitwear design at University so my aesthetic has a lot to do with current (wearable) fashion trends in terms of garment silhouette. I have been a knitter practically my whole life so I like pattern-work that challenges me, though I do try to include sections in each project where there is less challenge, that way some parts of the project can be carried around or worked on in front of the TV (or even in a bar maybe).

Tell us about your favorite Valley Yarn, is there a Valley Yarn you are excited to work with?

It’s so hard to choose because they are all great and each one perfect for specific projects. So I’m going to choose Amherst for entirely personal reasons- see my answer to the next question.

How did you discover Valley Yarns, what is your history with WEBS?

I used to live in Massachusetts very near to WEBS, but this was in the days when I designed for ready to wear fashion houses, before I designed for the independent home knitter. I used to shop at WEBS for my personal projects but I had moved away from the area before I became intimately acquainted with the Valley Yarns.  Since then I have used them when they have been selected for magazine editorials such as the designs I have done for Twist  Collective, Knitters Magazine and others: Sugarbeach in Longmeadow,  Blue Helix in Colrain, Athabasca in Northampton,  and Paula in Stockbridge.

What designers do you like/follow? Are there designs you wish you had time to knit/crochet/sew?

I tend to look at couture designers and my most favorite is the late Alexander McQueen. In terms of knitwear designers that I admire, boy this is actually a long list. I admire so many of the designers working today, but if I had to pick just one I would chose Norah Gaughan. She always comes up with such eye-catching and wonderful designs, ones that I’m almost jealous that I didn’t come up with the idea myself. If I had time to knit for myself from somebody else pattern it would definitely be one of Norah’s…or maybe an Alice Starmore pattern.