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How to Design a Strange Brew Yoke

November 9, 2018

This post is part of a multi-part series that covers the Strange Brew colourwork yoke sweater recipe! To get the Strange Brew recipe pattern (it’s written for 3 gauges, and includes 25 sizes from baby through women’s and men’s 4XL) click here.

This colourwork tutorial series will cover:

We’ve broken the colourwork sweater tutorial into 10 parts. Start at the beginning and work your way through – or just jump to the technique you need help with!

  1. Introduction
  2. How to choose your size: find the right size for you.
  3. Choosing yarn for colourwork: which yarns work best in colourwork.
  4. Swatching for colourwork: a few different ways to swatch specifically for colourwork.
  5. Developing your custom sweater concept: where to place that colourwork
  6. Gauge in a yoke sweater: understanding where it matters
  7. Using the FREE Anthology pattern: a great way to try out your concepts
  8. Applying colour to stranded motifs: time to experiment!
  9. How to design a Strange Brew yoke: using our Strange Brew recipe to turn your inspiration into a woolly work of art!
  10. How to plan a steek in a Strange Brew sweater: prefer a cardigan? Learn how to plan a steek.

And many other topics too! There will also be posts highlighting some great sweaters that were designed using the Strange Brew sweater recipe pattern.

The Strange Brew Yoke Sweater Recipe allows you to ‘brew up’ a seamless yoke sweater of your own unique design. The pattern guides you step by step, but also includes plenty of room for experimentation and improvisation. A sweater, after all, is just 3 tubes (sleeve, body, sleeve) which join to a single tube (the yoke). And you can knit a tube, right?

I’ve made this body & sleeves as part of our #StrangeBrewKAL – it’s going to be a colourwork cardigan for my son Max… I just need to design the yoke!

This post is one of many in our tutorial series about how to knit or design a colourwork sweater, so it assumes you’ve already made decisions about what size to make, what yarn to use and thus which gauge option to follow. Before you begin your yoke design, you also need to decide what construction method to use (bottom up or top down).

Use the Strange Brew Worksheet to pull out the key numbers from the pattern

Bottom-up: knit it this way to get rocking and rolling before confronting the yoke design step! Cast on now and ponder the yoke as you enjoy the relaxation of knitting the body and sleeves. You won’t get stuck on ‘sleeve island’ and you get to save the best (the colourwork yoke) for last!

Top-down: knit it this way to get into your yoke colourwork pronto! Once your exquisite yoke is done, you’ll bust right through body and sleeves so you can get the sweater on your body ASAP. Top-down also makes it a little bit easier to try things on as you go and adjust lengths.

Once you’ve identified your size, gauge, and construction method, you’re ready to design your yoke. Download a copy of our yoke design worksheet, it will be your guide as you designing your yoke. The worksheet includes a page for bottom-up construction, a page for top-down construction, and a page of graph paper that you can print out for playing around with stitch patterns.

Fill in the key numbers indicated for the section that applies (either top down or bottom up). Pick the instructions and stitch counts that apply to your gauge & size out from the pattern, copying them into your worksheet.

I filled the worksheet with the instructions for my chosen size (4-6 yrs), gauge (aran), and construction method (bottom up). Then I sketched the yoke design on the included chart.

Once you’ve filled in your worksheet, you’ll know a few things:

  1. How many total rounds (approximately) you’ll need in your yoke.
  2. Where (approximately) you’ll work adjustment (increase or decrease) rounds, and what the instructions for these adjustment rounds will be, and the stitch counts in the pattern sections following the adjustment rounds.

I’ve thrown the word APPROXIMATELY in here a lot. This is because it’s very important to know that these numbers are SQUISHY. As you proceed to design your yoke patterning, you can move these adjustment rounds up or down a few rounds without ‘breaking’ the yoke. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good in this endeavour!

Insert patterns into this yoke framework

Once you’ve identified the approximate yoke depth you’ll be working within, and the approximate locations of decrease rounds, the next step will be to choose patterns to fit within the yoke itself.

To plan a yoke incorporating a number of narrow patterns, I would:

  1. Choose the patterns, and decide what spacing to put them at.
  2. Stack them up, to calculate how many of them I could fit into the number of yoke rounds I have to work within.
  3. Decide where to my increase or decrease rounds. These can float up and down within the yoke, so long as they don’t move TOO far from where they are suggested by the pattern.
The draft chart that I created for the yoke sweater I’m making for Max.

How to adjust for a different stitch count

Each pattern section within the yoke is designed to be a multiple of 24 stitches. This is so that MANY stitch patterns will fit evenly without any adjustment; any patterns having repeats of 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, or 24, and some others too (ie a stitch count of 240 is also divisible by 5, 10, 15, 16, 20, 30, 40, 48, 60, 80, and 12, in addition to the above). You can get a list of divisors from an online calculator like this one.

You may have your heart set on a pattern which does not fit evenly within the section’s stitch count. In this case you must adjust the stitch count of the piece before you can work the repeat. Luckily knitting is stretchy, and adjusting a few stitches here and there is easily accomplished. After working a decrease round, determine how many further stitches need to be decreased in order for your patterning to fit evenly.

For example, if your stitch count is 144 sts, but you want to work a pattern with a 10-st multiple, you’ll need to decrease an additional 4 sts to get to 140 sts.

Then on the following round, decrease the required stitches to get to the next even multiple that will work for your motif’s stitch repeat. Just use k2tog or ssk to reduce the stitch count. After the patterning in that section is worked, the next decrease round won’t work as written, as your stitch count will not match the pattern. Thus you will need to decrease a few less stitches on the following decrease round.

Then, if the next step in your pattern was to decrease to 96 sts, by working (k1, k2tog) around (from 144), then simply work that decrease repeat 4 less times, then knit to end, since you’re only decreasing from 140 to 96, so you have 4 less to decrease.

The examples above cover decreases; but the principle is the same for increases in a top-down yoke.

Locating patterns within the total yoke depth

There are different points upon the depth of the yoke that you can place your patterning; and each will yield a different effect in terms of the finished look of the sweater. The example above filled in nearly all of the available yoke rounds, but that’s not the only way to do it! See this post for more details.

The depth and placement of the pattern on the yoke (or on other parts of the sweater) can make for so many great options, all using the Strange Brew recipe pattern.

Design planned, get knitting!

That’s all there is to figure out with pencil and paper – now it’s time to get knitting. If you’re not quite sure about the stitch patterns, yarn or colour combinations you’ve chosen, begin with a swatch, or if you’re comfortably knitting ‘by the seat of your pants’ then just go ahead and get started!

I started knitting the yoke design, swapping out colours as I went. The first pattern (the arrows) went smoothly; I was pleased with the colour combination. To determine how to work the next section, I did a little back & forth ‘swatch on the needles‘ then pulled it out, before deciding on which colours to use for that motif.

We always suggest that a hat or cowl (a functional swatch) gives the best results, and so we’ve designed the free Anthology pattern to allow you to swatch in the same 3 gauges that Strange Brew includes. We have also explained a wide range of other swatching methods that may aid you as you knit your colourful way to yoke satisfaction!

More colourwork inspiration from Strange Brew:


11 Comments leave one →
  1. Ann Allen permalink
    June 16, 2021 12:24 am

    Is there a colour photo of a jumper that shows the short row shaping? I’ve only knitted raglans before, and put the short row shaping at the neck,

  2. Kathy Eshnaur permalink
    February 1, 2021 11:32 am

    I am a bit confused about leaving out the short row shaping. Im working on Dogstar and want to omit it for a toddler, but it seems as though the neckband will be too loose. One woman on ravelry did that and she ended up with a huge floppy neck

    • February 1, 2021 1:30 pm

      Hi Kathy – I don’t think the two things are necessarily connected. You can just skip the short rows. If you find the neckline too wide for your liking you can work further decreases in that last round before the ribbing to tighten it up.

  3. Oona permalink
    October 30, 2019 9:30 pm

    I’m almost a year late finding this post, but it’s exactly what I was looking for. Thank you so much for these clear and helpful thoughts about the designing process. Headed over to look at the rest of your patterns and ebook offerings.

  4. Olivia permalink
    November 19, 2018 10:22 am

    I just purchased the ebook and thanks so much for the yoke design worksheet!

  5. blackcashmere permalink
    November 11, 2018 8:52 am

    Love this! I would love a post directed at making a cardigan with these designs. A bit intimidating, but fun to learn.

  6. Kris permalink
    November 10, 2018 7:07 pm

    Where is it that I can find how to make a Strange Brew sweater into a cardigan? I’d love to do this for my 2 yr old!

  7. Jess permalink
    November 10, 2018 8:19 am

    A wealth of information once again. Thank you so much!

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