I love a yoke sweater! In 1976 I taught myself to knit from a BBC book while living in Glasgow, Scotland. My first-ever project was a yoke sweater out of a loosely spun Scottish yarn (was it Antartex? not at all sure, but that name is rattling around my head). Clearly, I was not a person who would develop her skills in a step-wise fashion!
The sweater looked pretty nice--all natural sheepy colors and a cool ribbed collar--to pat my own back. The problem only became apparent when I put it on: the top was sort of bubbly. It just wouldn't fit. I carted it back to the States, and it stayed with me through several moves because I was so darned proud of knitting a sweater. (You all know what I'm talking about, right?)
Eventually, I decided to get rid of a lot of excess baggage and I held a yard sale. The sweater was set out with all the other stuff I realized I didn't need. An nearly everyone who came to the yard sale grabbed it up! So excited! A nice wool yoke sweater! They would try it on.
They would pat at the excess fabric in the yoke.
I would leap up and shout, "I made that!"
They would take it off and put it back. It's probably still bouncing around Goodwill stores.
Fast forward several decades, and I decided to re-learn to knit. My first adult sweater upon re-entry was Meg Swansen's Aspen Yoke Sweater in unspun Icelandic. A great sweater.
Since then, it's been one yoke sweater after another. Thankfully, I now know how to design them to fit correctly. (FYI: In retrospect it is clear that not enough underarm stitches were set aside in that first sweater.)
One fun thing about yoke sweaters is that there are so many ways to place the yoke decreases. At times it can seem quite complex and hard to predict the result, so I was really excited to hear from Sverrir Pétursson about his program to make designing yoke patterns easier.
Sverrir is the husband and father-in-law of avid knitters, and he created this program as a labor of love to help them create their own designs. But of course, once other people saw it they asked him to make it public.
This free program has a lot of functionality! You can create graphs and see how they multiply out on a sweater; you can set your gauge; you can choose to have patterns on the sleeves if you want, and on and on. The colors used in the graphs are keyed to Istex Lopi colors or you can create your own. Even cooler: You can rotate the sweater to see how it looks from all angles.
Go to this site to read a pdf about how the program works, then go to knittingpatterns.is to download a copy. This takes a lot of computing power, and it runs on a browser plug-in called Silverlight (Microsoft; works on PC and Mac). This is also free and easy to install.
You can find a Knittingpatternsis interest group on Ravelry.
Sverrir, who is a fishing fleet manager in Isafjordur, on the northwest coast of Iceland, is now working on a website that allows you to experiment with changing colors in existing Lopi patterns. Nice. A big thanks to you, Sverrir!
And a reminder: If you, too, are interested in yoke sweaters, there are still spaces left in two of my classes at Interweave Knitting Lab next week: Fair Isle Yoke Sweaters, in which we discuss the Elizabeth Zimmermann method of creating a seamless yoke sweater and then concentrate on designing the yoke, swatching with my collection of 211 colors of Jamieson Spindrift; and Mini-Fair Isle Yoke Sweaters, which also covers the EZ method of creating a yoke sweater, concentrating on the construction issues and dealing with color just a little bit (plus, you come away with a darling sweater sized for an Americal Girl-type doll!).
Amazing what knitting in circles can produce!