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Strange Brew Improvisation

January 10, 2019
For Christmas this year, I had the ambition to make a family of yoke sweaters using our Strange Brew Recipe. I finished two of the four I had planned in time for the photo… that’s not bad, right? Luckily I had a dozen other yokes to choose from, so we are well cozy in wool!

For me, 2018 was ‘the year of the yoke’. I’m sure that applies to many knitters out there, right? Yokes are so hot right now, and it’s easy to understand why. Once you knit one… It can be difficult to stop!

As a designer, I was SUPER excited to publish our Strange Brew yoke recipe pattern, because it meant that I could knit just about ANYTHING… using a single pattern. I could knit it a little differently each time, depending on my mood and inspiration.

My Sweater

This Strange Brew yoke sweater is a knit that I improvised on the needles. I cast on, working from the top down, working with a palette of yarns that interested me! I followed the Strange Brew instructions for cast-on and initial increase of a sock-weight top-down sweater.

This has been my most-worn sweater for the past 6 months, ever since it came off the needles! I’ve just bought some more so I can make another one in the same yarn – De Rerum Natura Ullysse – but a different colour, so that this one can have a rest once in awhile!

How I worked out the yoke design:

Because I was working the yoke by feel, I began with a 4-stitch repeat, with a vague plan to add stitches to the repeat, to eventually arrive at an 8-stitch repeat, and thus double my stitches, by the time I’d worked about half of the yoke depth. Tip: A wedge chart that doubles in stitch count by half-way through the yoke depth is generally a solid bet.

As I worked, I switched out one colour at a time, creating an alternating pattern of rectangles. As long as I liked the combination of the yarn that I added in, I would continue, without too much thought as to an overall plan for the yoke. Only at one point, in the centre of the pattern, did I begin to break my own rules, creating a set of little squares that alternated with the background colour.

Once I’d worked half-way through the pattern, I had established a palette of colours I liked, and from that point on I simply used each of them once more, to bring a cohesive and intentional look to the finished design. Using the forest green as the final colour also helped tie the design together, as it was the CC colour I had begun with at the neckline, and its low-contrast pairing against the navy means it creates a blendy edge to the colourwork.

As you can see here, the wider columns of colour (which have the little navy boxes inset within them) are formed mainly of lighter colours, and so they stand out against the deep pink, navy, and olive green of the narrower columns of colour. This effect of ‘columns’ could be enhanced or diminished using colour placement.

The wedge pattern, thus developed, had only increased from 4 sts per repeat up to 7 sts per repeat. I went a little off-piste and added in some raglan shaping points while I did the short-row shaping at the back of the yoke, and working a few extra rounds to get the desired yoke depth.

The stockinette body and sleeves of this jumper I completed on the knitting machine, which means they are seamed. I shaped the body with waist shaping, which is an option given in the Strange Brew pattern. I made the body a little bit cropped, and the sleeves are a little bit long, so I fold them back most of the time.

I REALLY love this yarn. De Rerum Natura Ulysse is soft but sturdy, and comes in INTERESTING colours. My next Strange Brew sweater in this yarn will have this fabulous red-orange heather as the main colour.

De Rerum Natura Ulysse

The yarn is De Rerum Natura Ulysse, a sport-weight yarn that I used when I made the child-sized samples for the Compass sweater and Compass cowl designs (from the Strange Brew collection). I really love this yarn to bits. It’s a French & Portuguese grown and milled merino that’s been woollen spun, and it comes in a sophisticated palette of subtle heathers. I found that the fabric pilled quite a bit at first, but after the first time I shaved the sweater, it has looked great and has not produced many more pills. A sweater in this yarn is the perfect weight for me. I find it soft enough for against-the-skin wear which is great for me because I usually wear tank-tops under my sweaters.

An ‘odd duck’ palette – pushing my boundaries out

The palette I chose was a bit of an ‘odd duck’ for me. With the exception of the navy MC, these are not colours I’m usually drawn to; either on their own, or in combination! But developing the Strange Brew recipe pattern and collection has given me a framework in which to push my skills and experience in combining colours outside of my comfort zone! Frankly, it’s much more interesting for me to attempt combinations I’m uncertain of than it is to stick with tried-and-true palettes. While this means more ripping and re-knitting, it’s also more satisfying when I land on a combination like this one that really speaks to me!

Navy, Olive, Fucsia, Orange, Pale Blue, and Pale Pink… who would guess this would work?

I’m sorely tempted to cast on and make another just like this in a different palette, because the process of making this sweater was just so fun and satisfying, and I’ve hardly taken it off since it was finished in the spring.

Design your own yoke sweater!

We’ve put together a host of tutorials that can guide you as you use our Strange Brew recipe pattern to design your own colourwork yoke sweater, including a tutorial on planning a steek, just in case cardigans are really more your thing!

More colourwork from Tin Can Knits:

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2019 11:35 am

    Lovelyh sweater, of course! Did you do short rows on the back under the yoke design?

  2. January 10, 2019 11:05 am

    You’ve mentioned using a knitting machine a couple of times and I’m intrigued as I know nothing about them. I love planning and knitting interesting sweaters, but the long slog of stockinette can kill my enthusiasm before I finish a project.

    • March 2, 2019 8:37 am

      Yes! It’s especially great for me because I love the design side, and I love the finished jumper, but don’t have as much time for stockinette. I’m gonna do a post about how I’ve been learning and using my machine some time soon.

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