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What’s in a Yoke?

August 12, 2016

I love fair isle yoked sweaters. The simplicity in the body of the sweater is great relaxing knitting, and the yoke is that pop of colour and fun that make the finished garment a piece to treasure. I’ve knit a few colourwork yokes over the years and I’m definitely not finished yet!

above are the Clayoquot, North Shore, Spotlight, and Goldfish sweaters

Swatching for a Colourwork Yoke

For the Paintbox KAL I am working on the Christmas in July sweater by Tanis Lavallee and I am loving it so far! Part of the challenge for this KAL was to swatch in 3 different colourways, so I thought I would offer up my usual method of swatching colourwork: I knit a hat.

I find when I knit fair isle back and forth (right side, then wrong side) it looks too sloppy, so I prefer to swatch in the round. I also prefer to use a circular rather than double points, it gives me a more accurate idea of my gauge, which is important if I am knitting a sweater. So, I need to cast on at least enough stitches to get around a 16″ circular needle, why not just knit a hat? Turn a swatch into a great gift!

This method of swatching may seem like overkill but it really ensures that your sweater will come out just the way you want it. We have 3 free hat patterns, the Clayoquot toque, i heart rainbows hat, and Barley, that will give you an idea of the number of stitches to cast on for each size and you can just use your main colour to do the decreases.

For example, if I am swatching in a worsted weight I can look at the Barley pattern, see I need to cast on about 78 stitches for a child size hat, work the ribbing, then change to my fair isle pattern (you may need a little increase to make the stitch count divisible by your pattern repeat). I work the fair isle pattern until my piece measures about 6″ from the cast on, then I work the decreases as written (if you needed an increase round for your pattern repeat you will need to work that number of extra decreases in this round). That’s it! Now you have a lovely swatch hat. Give it a bath, a block, and you can measure for gauge, as well as having tried out your colour combo. For your sweater you can make any necessary adjustments.

My Christmas in July

While I would usually go for a swatch hat, for Christmas in July I just cast on a yoke for the smallest size (but in DK weight yarn rather than the fingering suggested). For the wee ones a yoke isn’t really that much more knitting than a hat so I decided to wing it. I can always rip back the yoke if I need to swap out a colour or two.

I started out and immediately decided the 'orange blossom' should not be next to the 'pink grapefruit', they are a smidge too similar

I started out and immediately decided the ‘orange blossom’ should not be next to the ‘pink grapefruit’, they are a smidge too similar

I usually find it hard to hit on the perfect colour palette on the first try (unless, perhaps, I am copycatting the original), so swatches are a necessity for colourwork! However, I’m finding the fair isle pattern for Christmas in July so forgiving, I already love my first two ‘swatches’ (with a few rows ripped back along the way).

My second 'swatch', I went with shades of greens and blues, moving between teal blues and cool greens

My second ‘swatch’, I went with shades of greens and blues, moving between teal blues and cool greens

High Contrast or Blend?

Sometimes a yoke calls for high contrast, like the North Shore I recently finished. You really want to be able to distinguish the trees and mountains. The waves don’t necessarily need to be as high contrast, but you can see the difference between my recent version and the original.

For the Christmas in July though, having higher or lower contrast really just gives a different effect. My warm colour yoke has a ‘blendy’ effect, while my blues and greens give different, more distinct, shapes.

A more 'blendy' effect works well in the Christmas in July yoke!

A more ‘blendy’ effect works well in the Christmas in July yoke!

I’m having so much fun with this pattern, I can’t wait to cast on my third swatch!

If you want to join in the KAL just check in with our Rav group here and hashtag your progress on your favourite media spot with #paintboxKAL

More colourful knits from TCK:




6 Comments leave one →
  1. Monica permalink
    June 14, 2018 5:46 am

    Buen dìa tienen explicaciones del paso a paso en español? saludos atte. Mònica

  2. October 13, 2016 8:19 am

    How amazing and beautiful! I wish i could knit like this. Nice work!

  3. knittedblissjc permalink
    August 19, 2016 7:43 pm

    Love all the colours in this post. I find it challenging to come up with colours to go together, but when it does work, it’s like magic!

  4. Diane Cooper permalink
    August 15, 2016 9:20 am

    I love this idea!! Thanks! More detailed colour work is on my 2016 To learn list (I have already tackled some stripes in a hat, next is something like this!)

  5. August 12, 2016 2:18 pm

    Ah! So good. I love a good blend yoke sweater. The warm tones you’ve chosen are awesome! But of course, you can never go wrong with a cool blue-green scheme.

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