Sunday, 10 January 2016

Fair Isle Yoked Jumper

I have been planning a yoked jumper for a LONG time, and this is in fact the first trial - but it has turned out better than I ever hoped.

So,the story of this. I wanted to machine knit the main (plain) part of the jumper and then add the hand knitted yoke. I aimed to do a traditional Shetland yoke with the decreases being arranged as a tree and not taking place between pattern rounds.

Sounds easy but add to that the fact that I am smaller than a 34" bust and I wanted a good fit. Patterns were few and far between but then Kate Davies published her book of Yokes in 2014. Of course I ordered a copy. It is a glorious book and given me much inspiration. I was even more delighted when there was mention of a machine knit version for the body of the garment.. This was just  what I was looking for. Ella  of Jamieson and Smith ) collaborated with Kate over this and Ella added more detail to her blog. ( – lots of ‘yokes post but the one of Nov 24th 2014 ‘machine knitting for a yoke’ explains Ella’s approach to this.) This again was helpful but not quite what I wanted in terms of getting a yoke to fit a jumper to fit me. Kate likes her necks much lower than I do. I decided a higher neck would upset the proportions of her garments rather.

So progress was being made but I hadn't got a pattern that I could start knitting. So I searched the knitting machine books I had and patterns in these were arranged so that both the body of the jumper and the yoke were machine knitted – I definitely wanted to hand knit a traditional yoke!

Kathleen Kinder wrote a lot about yokes and designing your own pattern, so I decided this was the way forward. I could make a jumper to fit me and then pick up the stitches on a circular needle and hand knit the yoke.

I decided I would start with a traditional Shetland Yoke from Ann Fietelson's book (The Art of Fair Isle Knitting) as these had the tree shaping I absolutely love. She also discusses in some detail the history of Shetland yoke knitting which proved helpful in my planning.

So the first stage was to make a yoke pattern block and then to make the block up in stretch jersey.

Then to try it on my body duplicate ( and me!). I had chosen to make the jumper with a higher machine knitted back than front. Many yoked jumpers seem to have an identical front and back but I decided with my back the higher option would definitely give a better fit. This was encouraging it appeared to be going to fit.

There were going to be two main problems, using knitting needles for the yoke that gave a seamless join between the machine knitted jumper stitches and the yoke stitches. I could work this out by making samples.

What I couldn't work out exactly was if the number of stitches I needed to pick up for the yoke was the number I needed for the yoke I intended to knit. The pattern repeat for the yoke was 46 stitches so this could be quite a problem.

So at this stage, having knitted my tension square I decided that I couldn't plan any more, I needed to start machine knitting.
This worked well. I had a brown alpaca, wool mix from my stash and some glorious colours, also in my stash - from Jamieson and Smith, that would match a skirt I had refitted. (More about that in a later post)

The machine knitting went well.


 I blocked the pieces and stitched them together just above the armholes so that all 4 pieces were joined. Most of the stitches to pick up were on waste yarn but the slopes were formed by decreases. In this method there are more stitches on the front than the back.

So lots of counting and planning at this stage, to establish how many stitches I had and how close this was to the number I needed. I was a few - about 10 short - so I worked out where I could gain these from. Then I used 3 sorts of stitch markers to mark the joins between sleeves and back and front and for the centre of everything. I needed to ensure that the centre of the pattern was the centre of the front and back!

Now to pick up the stitches I decided to have a brown pick up row, then work another row before launching into the pattern. I decided to start at the back of the left arm. I marked every 10 stitches to help with the calculations and all worked well.

Now there was even more counting to establish which pattern stitch to start on to centre the pattern on the centre front of the jumper. I checked and rechecked this. I was now ready to start the yoke. I decided to do a small border pattern to enclose the yoke; this nearly threw me off track. I had chosen a pattern repeat that would go into my total number of stitches but would not go into 46. I didn't realise this initially and thought the worst ... that all my calculations were wrong. Leaving it and letting it mull over in the brain whilst doing something else did the job!

After the edging pattern I decided it would be best to start the round at the start of one of the main pattern repeats so moved round a bit and moved the stitch markers to line up with the start of a tree and a star.

Knitting the yoke went really well, I had recharted it and added my colours which proved invaluable. The only hitch was that my total number of stitches did not coincide with the number in Ann Fietelson's at the end of the decreases. But this was no problem I could understand how the yoke was working and could adjust to suit me.

At the end of the yoke I tried the jumper on the mannequin and it fitted beautifully. So, all that was left in terms of the knitting was to finish the neck. I wanted quite a high neck so did a 2x2 rib to match those of the main jumper body.

There were lots of yoke ends to finish and I decided to try and make these invisible on the inside - this was going to have the best finish I could achieve after all the planning that had gone on.

So , now all I had to do was complete the construction of the jumper. As usual I did this by using a sewing machine with the ribs being joined by hand - again I wanted a join that no- one could see!

Next came the wet blocking of the yoke. I covered the manikin in polythene and this did the job of a jumper board.

So this is the finished jumper .....

Now, of course this is only a trial knit! Next up is to repeat using the meadowsweet dyed wool from the summer - see blog posts of 4-6 August 2015. However, I now feel I understand how a yoked jumper works and when the tension for the meadowsweet yarn is different I will try and enjoy the different calculations and changes this will mean to the actual yoke.

... Then I plan a yoked cardigan...