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.
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.
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!)
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.
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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