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September 12, 2020

Our founder Ysolda Teague writes about the design process and inspiration behind her new sweater pattern Abbeyhill.

I began designing Abbeyhill with a stitch pattern, and a completely different design idea. I originally developed the cable pattern for the Llawenydd shawl — when we recently revisited it for some new photos I couldn't believe I hadn't done more for the stitch pattern.

A white woman wears a grey cabled shawl wrapped round her neck, a blue shirt with braces and brown trousers. She leans one one elbow in front of a graffitied background.
a close of of a cabled edge of a grey shawl, the corner of which is held out by a white hand. The model wears a blue shirt with braces and brown trousers.

I began swatching, with the goal of turning the diamond shape of the cables into wedges for a round yoke. 

a sketch of a sweater body with cable design on the yoke and the text 'I started by swatching the cable pattern with the idea of a cabled yoke.'
I enjoyed working out how the cables would grow organically from the neck ribbing, but quickly realised that my ideas were resulting in wedges that increased too dramatically to fit around a yoke, and the initial section was so densely cabled I was worried it would be uncomfortable.
a line sketch of a sweater body with cabled yoke detail and the handwritten text 'The swatched design had too many increases to actually fit around a yoke.'

There were several ways to solve these problems: I could have spaced the initial cables out more, leaving negative space between them at the neckline. Maybe one day I'll try making that sweater, but for Abbeyhill I went down a different path. A couple of years ago my wife and I decided to give each other sweaters for Christmas, without the pressure of knitting them. I received a beautifully seamless yoked sweater from Toast with an interesting subtle yoke, in a gauge I would never knit in. The yoke shaping intrigued me, it was arranged in wedges, or spokes, formed by stacking decreases on top of each other in a feathery sort of way. When I examined it I realised that part of what made it comfortable was that the decreases were closer together over the sleeves and further apart over the chest.

a line sketch of a sweater showing lines coming down from the neck, an image to the side of a small cable detail and handwritten text 'I set the cables aside and remembered a ready to wear sweater with a yoke I loved - shaped with subtle feathered decreases arranged in spokes.'

I set the cable pattern aside and started swatching feathered decreases. I realised that, with some initial counting to set up all the markers for the spokes, I could create a pattern that was very straightforward to follow. The feathered decrease pattern is simply formed by alternating decrease rounds: one with a k2tog after each marker and one with an ssk before each marker.

I considered making a simple stockinette sweater with this yoke design, but I couldn't let go of putting those Llawenydd cables on a sweater, so instead of placing them around the yoke I moved them to the bottom edge, where they blend beautifully with the ribbing.

Creating the pattern presented a few challenges. The first version of the yoke came out much too big: I'd added some ease to the yoke depth so it would drape well, but had overestimated how much was necessary, and the stitch count hadn't been reduced when the sleeves and body were joined so there was a lot of excess fabric. I solved these problems in two ways: I simply reduced how much ease was added to the yoke depth, and I added additional decreases in the first section of the yoke, at the "spoke" markers closest to the body and sleeve joins. Those additional decreases, combined with refining the exact placement of the spokes and some short rows at the neck created a fit I'm really pleased with. There's enough positive ease for the boxy, drapey style, and the fit still looks refined (and is comfortable to wear!)

A black woman with short hair and glasses looks towards the camera with her hands by her sides, she is smiling. She's wearing a burnt orange woollen sweater with cables around the waist above a deep 2x2 rib. She's standing in front of dark blue shop entrance.

Grading Abbeyhill also had some challenges. I grade patterns in an excel spreadsheet and making sure that the yoke directions for every size worked and were clear to follow required some interesting formulas. Round yokes can be amongst the simplest of garments, but across a wide size range the shaping has to adapt to very different relationships between chest, shoulder and neck circumferences. Seeing our preview knitters finished projects, and how happy they were with the fit, made all the hard work worth it. I'm looking forward to using yoke shaping on another design soon.

A black woman leans against a neutral coloured wall beside a window with dark green trim. She is wearing a long sleeved fawn coloured wool sweater with a round yoke. She's looking to the top left of the fram with a small smile and red lipstick. The sunlight is dappled across her face and upper chest.

If you're casting on we'd love to see - use the tag #AbbeyhillSweater so we can all swoon and admire!

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