14 March 2008

More Than One Way to Skin a Sweater: Bottom-up Yoke

Remember that beautiful snowfall a couple months ago? Well, my North Georgia Knitting Guild presentation was supposed to be the following evening. As the name implies, that guild meets north of the city. It was a wee bit cooler there and the snow a bit heavier, so the meeting was cancelled. I'll be doing this presentation at the April meeting instead. In the meantime, I thought I'd post most of it here. This is a series of illustrated examples of how to make sweaters without knitting separate flat pieces that are then sewn together.

My first example is a yoke sweater. This particular yoke sweater I knit maybe five years ago for my gaming friend Karen. Karen was going to an anime convention and wanted to dress as a particular character, Yukari. I started with a picture of the character and a little knowledge about yoke sweaters. (For more reference on this type of sweater construction, read Elizabeth Zimmermann Knitting Without Tears, reprinted 1995 or Susan Mills & Norah Gaughan The Best of Lopi, 2002.)

Yoke sweaters are easy. Typically, you cast on in ribbing at bottom and work around in a circle. At the underarms, stop. Cast on one sleeve at the cuff and work to underarm. Stop. Repeat for other sleeve. Now put everything except a few underarm stitches on one circular needle. From this point, the yoke is worked smoothly to the top, usually by decreasing eight stitches every-other row. A few short rows across the back to bring up the back of the neck, a collar around the top, and all the finishing that is left is a little Kitchener stitch under each arm.

This example knit with Takhi cotton classic was a little more complicated. The cotton was chosen for its cost, the proper range of available colors, and comfort in Atlanta's environment. A sweater like this would probably work better in a light-weight wool. I started at the cuffs with a very wide ribbing. I should point out that I was mimicking the drawing -- the anime artist made certain drawing simplifications that I copied into the costume sweater. A more functional sweater would have a better ribbing at the bottom and cuffs. The wave pattern was done in short rows and, since it began in the sleeves, had to be carefully calculated to join the pattern smoothly. Also, I started with the mistaken belief that the yoke was a simple Fair Isle pattern. Uh, no. When I got to the diamonds in the yoke I realized that I couldn't work them in Fair Isle because the elements are too wide. Thus, I worked the yoke in circular intarsia. There are reasons you can find commercial patterns written for Fair Isle but not for circular intarsia. Still, it can be done! The neck and collar weren't difficult because they were all in the same color. Working most of the sleeve in plain stockinette without increases was a blessing, because I badly estimated the sleeve length. After Karen tried on the "finished" sweater, I was able to unpick a row in each sleeve, knit a couple extra inches, and seamlessly Kitchener each sleeve back together.

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