The Yoke’s on Me

Note from Steph: I am an idiot. After very carefully sorting the guest blogs from That Laurie, I then equally carefully posted them in the wrong damn order. That Laurie is to gracious to say anything about this, so I am just copping to it. Today I bring you the second of That Laurie’s guest blogs, which is actually the first of That Laurie’s guest blogs except that I posted the second one first instead of the first one first. Please go back and read the second one after the first one so that things make more sense and so that you can have the full effect of the genius that is That Laurie. My apologies. I’m a little brain dead. I promise to try harder.

Today we celebrate the yoke sweater, which I often knit from the top down. Basically, I will extoll the joys of yoke knitting and its eminent suitability for many body types, while I stealthily lure you in thinking that top-down construction is worth the effort that goes into the calculations. After all, my very first all-handspun sweater made of all handspun was a top-down, yoke sweater!


And, just for fun, here’s a better look at the all-important yoke. It is less complicated than it looks because I used Mosaic stitches rather than two-color knitting:


Before we proceed, an admission: I am a pear. Among the body types that Maggie Righetti explores in her very useful book Sweater Design in Plain English I am a classic Anjou, perhaps a Barlett, with my upperworks smaller that my ample backside. And the pearness of me is more noticeable because I have narrow shoulders as well. In Chapter 6, Righetti’s book identifies the different possible body shapes and explains in detail how to get the pertinent measurements; Chapter 11, “Choosing the Most Flattering Design for the Wearer,” addresses what particular uses of light and dark colors, stripes AND, most key, what sweater designs work best for which shapes.*

Unless you are an hourglass (and therefore can wear practically anything, darn you!), you can get useful ideas from this chapter. And, if you are a pear like me, you will read and read only to discover that the one real piece of advice she gives is that the typical Icelandic yoke sweater and the “Bottom-Heavy Hourglass Figure” (I prefer “pear”) are “a natural, made-for-each other combination” (128). Later, when explaining how to design an Icelandic yoke sweater, she makes the statement still more general: “the whole family of Icelandic designs with their radiating, overlapping, and concentric diamonds is flattering to almost all types of figures” (328).

Now, you might think from this introduction that I will regale you with stories of spinning and knitting Icelandic Yoke sweaters. But, no! For all matters Icelandic, visit Cassie at Too Much Wool. I am sure I will get to Icelandic patterns, but I haven’t yet. As some of you already know, I have a SLIGHT tendency to take information, patterns, fiber in a different direction than intended. What I take from Righetti’s analysis is that, whatever yoke inspires me, I should gravitate toward it. As long as I keep my narrow shoulders in mind!

One of my favorites is Meg Swansen’s Spiral Yoke sweater, shown below in “conventional” form.


You can tell that the shape works on me. However, you cannot SEE the yoke detail unless you look more closely because it develops very cleverly from traveling stitches:


I wasn’t TOTALLY conventional in knitting this sweater even though I chose the adult sweater design in Handknitting with Meg Swansen (pp. 24-35). I started on a provisional cast-on from the waist and knit UP, knitting and joining the sleeves before the yoke, so I could work through the way the spiral sections were formed. Then I knit down from the waist! The handspun originated as a Shetland moorit fleece from Joe Miller here in Maine, and I did not have a lot of it. The fact that I sometimes am not sure whether I have enough of my handspun to finish up a sweater as I would wish—one HUGE factor in my tendency to knit from the yoke down!

Tomorrow: (Or yesterday, if the blog mistress is a raging idiot) The Rainbow Spiral: Wherein I worship at the altar of Meg again but play with dyeing, spinning, and the two-color version.

*Lily Chin also has a useful article on “Fits that Flatter” in the most recent Vogue (Fall 2007, p 46+).

57 thoughts on “The Yoke’s on Me

  1. Thanks Laurie – as always, a wonderful tutorial on knitting. Now I have a bunch of books to go buy, since I’m lovin’ that spiral yoke sweater…

  2. Heh, heh! My clever lack of numbering on the guest blogs is all part of the evil plan to delay the “quiggling around” and keep you folks interested.

  3. Steph, you’re not an idiot. Yesterday’s post made sense by itself. Happy book finishing.
    Laurie, you’re right about the yoke design. No one would guess that you’re not a classic hourglass. Since I’m a– well, a classic hourglass with narrow shoulders and a big butt, I’ll have to remember that.

  4. Well, thanks to you Laurie, Schoolhouse Press has just made another sale. I’m gonna knit me that sweater now too. And then my girlies will want their own, and then my mother….This really gets in the way of Christmas knitting.
    And Stephanie, this is not the time to be hard on yourself. It takes too much time. We love you and are so pleased that you have a blog babysitter to keep us entertained so we don’t act up while you are crunching the space-time continuum.

  5. I’m always awed by sweater knitting. I’m almost done with my first cardigan. I want a yoke sweater…but am scared to death of it. That and lace. I’m venturing out, little by little, into lace…but yoke sweater? frightening!

  6. The blog mistress has a book to finish. The blog mistress did not post the photos upside down, sideways, or backwards. There are no unintentional photos of tattooed ladies in this blog post. The blog mistress has done enough and should get back to the book.

  7. I feel like a horrible philistine for saying this, but I actually like the single-colour spiral yoke in this post better than the one with the (beautifully spun and technically superior!) rainbow spiral! The single-tone brown would be so cuddly and autumnal for the season.
    I hope your writing goes well, I continue to sympathize and wish I had more speed inducements to combat my lethargy! We all know you can do it 🙂

  8. Reading her comment above, I have fallen even more in love and awe with That Laurie. She has an evil side! How delightful!

  9. Steph, it’s just that your brain is full. You can’t help it.
    (In the words of the classic Gary Larson Far Side cartoon — the student in the back of the classroom — “Teacher, may I be excused? My brain is full!”
    Laurie, in any order, I greatly enjoy your blog posts, speaking as a Bosc, a top-downer who is still learning to tweak fit, and a Meg/EZ aficionado! Tomorrow’s/yesterday’s post is/was gorgeous and inspiring!

  10. As I remember, last year at this time you had a secret deadline, as well. Happy First Anniversary (a little early)! I’m heading to Cape Breton this weekend and will, of course, be visiting Baadeck Yarns (with your latest autographed book for Pat). Good luck with the writing.

  11. Steph, your IQ (Idiot Quotient) is perfectly normal, certainly superior to some people’s. I speak as a person who got to work this morning and realized that she had to go all the way home and back to work, this time bringing her laptop.
    Laurie, I am built the same way and have always avoided raglan sweaters on the ground that they minimize my already minimal shoulders so that I look like a Playskool person. Do yokes not do this? (I have Righetti’s book btw, but I’m not sure I agree with all of it.)

  12. Wheras I am celebrating your imminent brain-death because I want someone for company in this corner where I have to alternate remembering to blink and then to swallow — anything more complicated, like the number five, is RIGHT. OUT.
    Laurie, you are the only person in the whole world who has ever convinced me there could be any reason other than sheer perversity to knit top down. I’m not converted, but I now grant the theory. In theory.

  13. Well, we’re talking about starting sweaters backwards, right? It’s only fitting (fitting, get it?) that the posts be out of order too. It’s backwards day. Embrace it. Pancakes for dinner!

  14. Thanks for the information on the yoke sweaters. Steph – I read yesterday’s post in a hurry and kept feeling like ‘something’ was missing but I didn’t have time to figure out what. Thanks for the explanation/confession and thanks for getting “that Laurie” to fill in.

  15. We need a web address for a FREE pattern!!! Top-down, yoke sweater. I have to do this, starting today. I am ready to start knitting a new sweater that I just finished spinning the fiber for!!

  16. Ooh, I like that second sweater – and I love knitting with wool, and love loose sweaters so — I think that’s been added to the list. I may even have to tackle knitting from the neck down . . .

  17. EEK! These yolk sweaters are making me even more desparate to try a Bohus, but the teeny needles are scary (and enticing. How bizarre).
    Contemplating now. 🙁

  18. For another reason was searching your blog noticed an an old entry to your blog, 2005, about bindweed. Didn’t want to send a comment to an entry so far back.
    You mentioned, apologetically, in a confessional tone, that you use (gasp!) RoundUp. FYI, RoundUp’s probably the most benign herbicide. Much better than 24-d et-c.
    Mary @ Elihu Farm, who met you a few yrs ago in NY at Linda Diak’s booth.

  19. if i was even thinking about a top down
    garment would it be helpful to learn
    by makeing a baby garment-only only
    if i was thinking about it-

  20. Steph – You’re so hard on yourself! We don’t mind the mix-up at all, it keeps things interesting.
    That Laurie – You rock. I need to make that sweater now! =)

  21. Hey Stephanie, you’re so not an idiot! I mean… with the book deadline and the kids, I wouldn’t have remembered to post it at all! At least you got it to us and that’s all that counts.
    That Laurie- You are amazing! I love your sweaters!

  22. It’s nice to know that someone else’s life is as chaotic as mine. Major renovations at home and student in midst of roommate issues, student that constintly needs car, trying to juggle 2+ jobs. Knitting is the only thing keeping my sanity in tact. Thanks for the distraction. Enjoying the posts even in the wrong order. Keep them coming.

  23. Oh Stephanie, bless your heart. I mean that. I read yesterday’s post, and thought something was off, but I thought, maybe that allergy medicine I took finally kicked in, so I went to take a nap. See how well that works? You make a boo-boo, and I think it’s me! I wish I could get my boys to think like that! Seriously though, that was kind of cool. Maybe, when you have more time on your hands, ( ha, right, when would that be) you could think about doing that for a week or longer. Like when you go on vacation or something, tell us about how you got back first, and then backtrack. Only don’t tell us you’re backtracking. Ok. I think maybe that medicine’s kicking in again. Or I’m just getting loopy.

  24. Excellent tutorial! I have never knit anything from the top down except for a raglan doll sweater once…Time to give it a whirl!
    Thank you!

  25. The nice thing about getting the first post second and the second post first is that now they’re in order when you open up the blog.
    I’m sure you planned it that way, Stephanie.
    I love your sweaters, That Laurie, but I imagine my sloping shoulders would put me in the category of the few who cannot wear a yoke sweater. It’s kind sad. I think it would be a great, simple colourwork practise.

  26. Thank you, That Laurie. You always open my eyes to some new possibility (though I usually have to hit the knitting reference books to keep up with where you take us).

  27. I am dying of curiosity as to what “quiggling” is, as it is very like my maiden name. (which means “distaff” in Irish– what are the odds?) No wonder I turned out to be a spinner!

  28. Thanks That Laurie and Stephanie! I now know (or hope at least) that there is one style of sweater that will work for me…my hard lean body (up until I was 30-something) has gradually become pear-shaped. And I somehow missed the “Fits that flatter” article in my issue of VK (I was so turned off by the IMHO poor photography), so I’m glad you pointed that out to your readers. Any chance you might post/blog the actual pattern for your SYS? (I am majorly math-challended and develop dyslexia while knitting 🙂 P.S. Love your hand-knit, hand-spun SYS.

  29. Gary Larson’s cartoon is/are brilliant – “My brain is full”. It’s perfect. (I should have it framed and put it up in my kitchen!)
    That Laurie – thanks for the inspiration. Guess tomorrow’s the day I find out what quiggling is……

  30. Finally – blog entries that are readable by scrolling down to the next entry.
    Which should be the logical way to have them – because one scrolls DOWN to read an entry.
    Happy knitting,

  31. Ahh, these are gorgeous sweaters, wow. One note on the hourglass thing. You can be an hourglass shape and still be, alas, too buxom to wear yoke sweaters all that successfully. V-necks and deep round necks are pretty much it for me. When I move back to a colder climate, I’ll be investing in scarves or well, just looking bad and too busty in my handknits!

  32. I can’t tell you how much money reading this blog costs me. I just went out to amazon and ordered the Meg Swanson book with the spiral yoke sweater.

  33. What beautiful sweaters you knit, that Laurie!
    Unfortunately, like Joanne, I am too buxom an hourglass to wear fancy-yoked sweaters. My bosom gets enough attention without extra advertisement.
    I will go further and say that the idea that hourglasses can wear anything is pure bunk. Empress waists and A-line styles, so beloved by pears, just make us look pregnant. Lots of pants and skirt styles don’t fit us well because of the difference between waist and hips. Straight blazers, double-breasted jackets, most cardigans, tunics, loose t-shirts, dresses without shaping, dropped waists, and trapeze styles don’t suit us at all. We need shaping, and we need it to be in the right places.
    Rant over. Deep breath.
    I love to knit sweaters with round yokes and often knit them for my sons and older daughter. For myself and my hourglass-shaped younger daughter, however, I do better if I do top-down set-in sleeves or a modified raglan.

  34. I did pick up a lot of things that didn’t sink in on first reading of what should have been the second post. And I’d reread some of it yesterday trying to get everything there. Sometimes it’s good to be pushed to do such stuff.
    I really look forward to the set-in sleeves post. I want to do a yoke sweater or two for the construction, but I fall in the exagerated hourglass shape with somewhat broad shoulders and a bit too much bust for certain styles plus real hips. I add shaping to the body of most sweaters that don’t naturally do so on their own.
    I’ll have to contemplate where best to end a yoke on my body shape. I got the yarn for Jared’s Cobblestone (IK Fall 07), which is based on EZ’s bottom up EPS, but plan to make it for me with a more scooped neck. That does seem to help with the look on me of a chest-empahsizing sweater.

  35. I am in awe!
    That Laurie,
    Your knits are amazing. Thank you for taking the time to inspire us all both on and off the internets.
    Love and Laughter,

  36. Oooh ooh ooh! I’m totally sold in the spiral yoke sweater now! Where did I put that issue of Spun Out?
    P.S. to Ms. Harlot: I must be more brain dead (brain deader?) than you . . . I didn’t even notice!

  37. “mosaic stitches rather than two-color knitting…”
    I have no idea what that means, but it holds out a ray of hope to someone who’s never been able to carry the other color such that it doesn’t squinch up the whole sweater.
    Tell me more!

  38. Never fear, dear Stephanie!
    The blog scrolls from the top down, so it makes perfect sense. It’s the REST of the posts that will seem out of order!
    Laurie–that is some impressive knitting and calculating you do!

  39. Mmmmmmmmm…gorgeous sweater and handspun. I’m still dubious about yoke sweaters for me. Not only am I a pear with narrow shoulders, but they’re rounded and *slope*, too! I avoid raglan sleeves like the plague, for instance; I’ve *seen* what they look like on me, and it ain’t pretty. I like the look of yokes, but it’d be a necessity to try one on and get some photos while wearing it before I’d knit one! Maybe with Fair Isle being big this year, I can find one to try on… Another fascinating post, Laurie, thanks!
    Chiming in with the chorus – Stephanie, stop beating yourself over the head and don’t sweat the small stuff! Breathe. Have some chocolate. Coffee. Screech. Whatever. We’ll enjoy Laurie in whatever order she’s in. Do you really want a bunch of worried knitters showing up at your door and lecturing you on taking care of yourself? (Well, maybe if we all were great housekeepers, family-wranglers and router guarders… [g])

  40. Presbytera is exactly right–look at how good you are at getting the photos up and correct and at choosing a guest blogger who is so inspiring. (And frightening –I really do want to knit a sweater. Maybe I’ll dot hat instead of writing a novel in November for Nanawrimo.)
    I’ve started posting a lot more pictures on my blog and THINGS keep creeping into them. Typically cleaning products but the occasional bottle of detangler appears, too. It’s very discouraging.
    Anyway, here’s to you and the book!

  41. I just wanted to thank-you for visiting Wichita, Ks. I never thought I’d see you in person. I appreciate your “grass root” attitude and life style. You would fit in perfectly here in the mid-west. You have an unusual spirit. One that is admirable.

  42. After succumbing to my initial reaction of wanting to laugh at the best laid plans of Woolpigs and Harlots…
    Still am madly in love with these sweaters!!

  43. I’m not an hourglass… Well I suppose just an hourglass that dumps its sand all in one go. =( Hooray for non-curves!
    But it’s okay, we all do stuff like that. I wrote down the wrong place for my first class this morning, so I was panicking for no reason at all since I arrived at the right one anyways.

  44. I knitted a yoke top before and it looks pretty good.
    I may attempt a second piece to see if it continues to flatter my skinny frame. 😛

  45. That Laurie–I’m still goggling over all those excellent looking sweaters.
    Steph? If you leave your ‘sposta’ on too long, it burns out. We all forgive you.

  46. Right then blog mistress: It’s Friday morning, I know you’re awake and I’m rather desperate to find out what quiggling is, and how the word could/should be used properly in contexts other than knitting because I’ve grown quite fond of it and would like to toss it (seemingly) carelessly into conversations.
    So let’s get that post up (now) soon, shall we? After all, you have a lot of work to do today, and I wouldn’t want you to have to interrupt the flow of it to take care of the blog. (See? thinking of You. Really. Your happiness being my only concern after all)

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