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Yoke Design (by the seat of my pants)

December 12, 2017

We have just wrapped up an extremely fun KAL focused on our new Strange Brew sweater recipe and Dog Star pattern. Hop to the bottom of this post to check if you won, and check out the Strange Brew projects, and the FO thread for some really exquisite and inspiring knits!

I knit a yoke by the seat of my pants!

This November I participated in NaNoWriMo, a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel (draft!) in the 30 days. It was crazy fun, and in a previous post I wrote about how a big project like that (or like knitting a sweater!) can build grit. Well, the novel project also introduced me to the concept of ‘pantser’ vs. ‘planner’. If you just sit down and get started working ‘by the seat of your pants’ you’re a ‘pantser’. If you spend months making detailed plans before you begin, you’re a ‘planner’. Well, I’ve always considered myself a planner, in my design work and life in general, but while writing, the daily imperative to get words on the page made me reassess… often the magic happens AFTER you get started with your creative work.

For the KAL I had decided to knit a little yoke sweater for my 18-month-old Neve, using the wedge design method described in our Strange Brew recipe.

I used the vivid and lovely Rainbow Heirloom Sweater for my little Strange Brew KAL yoke.

But after choosing some BEAUTIFUL Rainbow Heirloom colours and knitting sleeves and body, I was frankly, a little overwhelmed by the concept of ‘designing in public’ and sharing my process on the internet. I was worried it would be a fail, and I wouldn’t do the project justice!! Hilarious eh?!

a knitter’s procrastination … work on another project instead!

So of course facing uncertainty I dove deep into some knitterly procrastination. I picked up a different project that I’d initially thought would become an Ironheart sweater from our charity collaboration, Heart On My Sleeve. As Ironheart has the same construction and similar stitch counts as Strange Brew, so I decided that it would be a ‘palette cleansing’ project to be playful with before returning to the Rainbow Heirloom project. I had already knit the body and sleeves in part on my new knitting machine, and I was at the point of no return… the start of the yoke!

I chose a rough palette of colours

Most anything would shine with the white sweater body I’d made. I had a few colours in the same yarn (Shilasdair Luxury DK) so I started with two blues, a couple yellows, then added in a gold, pink purple, browns, a grey and a deeper blue too. I guessed I wouldn’t use all of these colours, but that I wanted to have them out in front of me as I knit, to choose from when I changed colours.

I didn’t really ‘plan out’ my colour concept except to decide I’d start with gold against the white, and then lose the white entirely, using pairs of other colours through the yoke (this was made necessary by the fact that I was nearly out of the white!). Having started with the gold, this meant the yellow part of the palette would be the ‘foreground’ and the other colours would be the ‘background’.

I chose a ‘wedge’ size, and sketched the first few rounds

I wanted to stay flexible as I knit. But I knew I wanted to work with a small-repeat pattern that would repeat many times around the yoke, so I decided to start with 8 sts, then eventually decrease to 6, then to 4 per repeat. Strange Brew is designed with 24-stitch repeats, so 8 stitch wedges fit perfectly. I started to sketch up a chart, but I only drew out the first 20 rounds, although my size of yoke would require more than double that.

As I worked, I let my mind wander, and look at the shapes that began to form in the knitting. Almost immediately (after round 3) I decided to go ‘off pattern’, abandoning my chart sketch, and began to create two-tone lozenge shapes with blues, framed by gold and yellow. I think I was inspired by the shapes formed in this hat. Then I threw in the brown, and ended up with strongly contrasting hexagons formed with brown and yellow. I wasn’t sure about that part of the design, but I wanted to see what might come next, so I left most of my stitches on hold, and worked further on a small segment of the yoke, trying out a few decreases, geometries, and other colour combinations.

I slept on it, and then returned to what I loved so far (the two-tone lozenges). I ripped back a few rounds and focussed the design on those geometries, but continued to experiment with colour combinations on the needles.

While there were things that I didn’t absolutely LOVE about the yoke, instead of ripping and changing it further I decided to continue forward. I felt it was more important to get it done (it’s gotten so cold here in Edinburgh) than aim for perfection.

I used this chart; you can see from the column to the right how the foreground and background colours shift and make a more complex effect than if you had worked the design in two colours (as shown in the chart to the right).

In the end, I pretty much love it like crazy! It’s outside my typical colour comfort zone (pink!) and I allowed myself to LEAVE things in that I was uncertain about. I also knit it with very minimal planning, this was somewhat different from my usual process, and I had a load of fun.

back to my first KAL knit

Since I put on my first yoke (and never took it off again!), I was warm while I contemplated how I would complete the first yoke. In the end, I decided to play with the lozenge shape I loved from my first yoke once more, but do things a little bit differently. I offset the rows of lozenge shapes, changed up the order of yellows I used for the ‘frame’, and by doing so broke up the vertical alignment through the yoke somewhat. I also chose to use a lighter background colour between the motifs, so it fades back rather than standing out the way the brown, purple and pink do.

This is the chart I used:

Neve was uncooperative this weekend… so her big brother Max modelled the sweater instead. It’s good to know it will fit her for a couple years!

Did you KAL with us?

Hundreds of knitters joined in the fun on our Facebook Group, and on our Ravelry Group too. But out of the grand total of over 81 entries, we used a random number generator to pick the 5 who would win prizes:

1. mercourier – wins a copy of Mary Jane Mucklestone’s book on Fair Isle
2. Roudynette – wins a copy of Andrea Rangel’s new book, Alterknits
3. KathyDavid – wins a copy of Jane Richmond’s cool West Coast Cardigan pattern
4. Raybaer – wins a TFA Palette by Tanis Fiber Arts (delicious!)
5.  rockinit – wins the entire Tin Can Knits ebook library… so much to knit!

Honourable mentions (because we loved their projects SO much): laurelswift and her awesome Iggy Peck Architect sweater, justlivin because I kind of want to steal her sweater, OurMutualFriendM for finishing 6 sweaters, and gfpowers because I’m a sucker for a fabulous photo, all win a Tin Can Knits pattern of their choice!


More TCK yokes for your knitting pleasure:

North ShoreSpotlight by Tin Can Knits

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Betsy permalink
    December 13, 2017 9:00 am

    I’d like to attempt a sweater using strange brew. My question is this a top down design sweater or bottom up? I’m pretty new to knitting and am working my first top down sweater and finding I much prefer this construction to be able to adjust fit as I go vs a bottom up construction. I love your site and find your resources extremely helpful. I missed your KAL.

  2. Julie M permalink
    December 13, 2017 7:56 am

    I am amazed and inspired by your creative ideas and methods. And with children at home! Your output is truly outstanding. Thanks for all you do for the knitting world and this plodding knitter (one sweater a year if I’m lucky) ..

  3. December 12, 2017 3:23 pm

    It looks fab 😊

  4. December 12, 2017 3:12 pm

    This has caught my eye because I just love the colours but also because it sits on your body crooked. Both sides of your body mimic what mine does. Things don,t sit straight.
    I would love to be able to have a fix for this. I hope you don,t take offence but I know we are not alone and you girls are so good at fixing! Hugs WAH.

  5. December 12, 2017 12:27 pm

    These are wonderful designs! I’m feeling inspired :)

  6. December 12, 2017 12:19 pm

    Good Job Girl!

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