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+).