Knitting Skills – You’ve got to be “yoking”

I’ve reworked a jumper dress for a client from a pattern she liked in a knitting magazine, with a yoked top. The design process has been involved from start to almost finished as the original pattern was for a 4ply jumper with fairisle yoke knitted on 3.25mm needles. I was presented with a bag of Rowan Coccoon – a beautifully soft yarn with a fantastic drape – which is a chunky weight. So step 1 was to knit up some tension swatches in the yarn to both give me a point to work from to resize the pattern and to show the client the stitch patterns I had in mind. We finally settled in a diagonal rib pattern worked over multiples of 6 stitches for the bottom hem, cuffs and neckline, the rest of the dress being knitted in stocking stitch – so a wonderful quick grow project for the evenings!

I’d only done one yoked pattern before – a matinee jacket where I was able to follow the original pattern but substitute the stocking stitch base for lace, then work the yoke according to the pattern. And from that one attempt I thought I had the concept of yoke knitting understood and filed away!
However when it came to this jumper I suddenly realised it might be a touch more complicated, especially when I remembered I’d have to use some stitches from the body and sleeves to form the under arm area.  So I duly borrowed a book, grabbed pen, paper and a calculator and devised a pattern I could use!

But last night disaster struck when I realised that I’d not written the instructions clearly enough and that the book had been sent home to its rightful owner. So off I went to google, font of all knowledge etc, only to find that althoguh there were lots of patterns and a couple of videos, the majority were for knit from the top yokes, not knit from the bottom – so the instructions made no sense to me!

When working a yoked garment, its important to ensure that you leave a certain number of stitches held or reserved to form the under arm. In a top down jumper, this isn’t a problem as you pick the stitches up when you work the sleeve from shoulder to wrist. But for bottom up garments you need to either cast a certain number of stitches off on both the body and sleeve to shape the bottom of the armholes or pop them onto a safety pin so you can graft them together with kitchener stitch once the garment is complete. As I like seamless knitting as far as possible, I’ve decided to go for the kitchener stitch approach. If you’re not sure what kitchener stitch is, there’s an excellent tutorial here

But I thought I understood the principle from one tutorial on E-how, that used a series of written instructions to explain and proceeded to to “save” half the stitches on each sleeve and hence the equivalent number from the body for joining up later- but when I did the maths and looked at the way it sat on the circulars I could instantly see it was wrong. I ended up with fewer stitches than I needed for the wide neckline! As this was the only bottom up tutorial I could find I was back to square 1!

My next step was to hunt through the magazines and find the original pattern – once I had, having finished kicking myself for not doing it first of course! – I sat down again with pen, paper and calculator and got working out. I realised that I only needed 9 stitches from each sleeve, and hence section of the body to make this work. And using pen and paper I realised I then had the correct number of stitches to create the top as per the rest of my working out! However the only way to ensure the jumper looked good was to take everything off the needles and layout the sections in order, whilst frantically praying I wasn’t going to get any stitches making a run for it!

Once I’d done this I managed to get it all back onto the circulars and safety pins and get clicking! That was until dec row 1, when another maths error came to light – this time working out the number of stitches between the decreases – but fortunately this was a simple error to correct and I will still end up with the correct number of stitches for the shoulders.

The decreases are worked out so that the yoke creates a conical shape which pulls the jumper into the shape of the body. What I found worked well for me was to work out how wide the yoke needed to be at the bottom and at the top – by working back from the original pattern, converting sts to ins. I then used the tension for the coccoon yarn to calculate the number of stitches at the bottom and top. From here I started playing with numbers until I discovered a number I could divide by 6 – the number of decreases per shaping row I wanted to use for this design that was within 1 or 2 stitches of those suggested by the previous calculation. I then worked out the number of rows I needed for the depth of the yoke, and the difference between the number of stitches at the top and bottom.  From here I could calculate the number of rows between each decrease.

Yoked Neckline – Basic Rules

This is for stocking stitch yokes only!!

1. Know your tension so you can calculate the number of stitches to reserve for the under arms – most standard patterns ask you to cast off or reserve between 4 and 12 (I reserved 9 at each armhole and side body point)

2. Once you know the base line stitches you’ll be left with, choose how many decrease points (darts) you want – this is normally between 6 and 14  (I chose 6)

3.  Divide the number of base stitches by the number of darts you want – if its not a whole number you’ll either need to do a shaping row where you decrease stitches down to the closest whole number that you can divide by the darts or adjust the number of darts you’ll have. Remember the more darts, the faster the decreases happen too! ( I needed 161 sts to make the pattern work, which is what I had once I’d completed the first row)

4. Using your tension calculations work out the number of top stitches you’ll need to create the neckline you want – round neck, polo neck or wide. (I need 119)

5. Divide the number of top stitches by the number of darts. If this isn’t a whole number, find the nearest one and work out the fit from there. Ideally you do not want to be doing any extra shaping once you have finished knitting the yoke.

6. Work out the number of stitches you need to “lose” by subtracting the no of top stitches from the no of bottom stitches ( 42)

7. Divide this by the number of decrease points, to give you the number of decrease rows (7)

8. Measure the depth of the yoke to the neckline  and use this to calculate the number of rows you need to knit to complete the yoke

9.  Work out the distances between the yoke shaping – but do not count the first row where you joined the yoke up – this is the foundation row. You might want to make the rows closer together as you reach the top, especially for a round necked jumper (I used 5 rows until the final shaping, where I used 3)

10. Once the yoke is the shape / size you want add your neckline trim and cast off

11. Join the under arm sts together using kitchener stitch

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One thought on “Knitting Skills – You’ve got to be “yoking”

  1. Pingback: Handmade Monday 79 – A Week in the Life…. « bitsandbobscrafts

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