The Bucket List: Yoke Sweaters

As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been a bit more absent on the blog in these past few months than usual. I could blame the recent move to Vancouver, followed by starting a new job with lots of travel to Northern Canada. Or I could blame a renewed interest in reading actual books, and trying out new hobbies, such as brewing my own kombucha (it’s so much fun!). But, the truth is, it’s not entirely due to any of the above things. More so, it’s pure lack of  motivation.

And so, in an effort to rediscover my knitting mojo, I’ve decided to scroll through the depths of Instagram, Ravelry and Pinterest in search of some knitting inspiration. One knitting trend that I have noticed in the past week floating around the knitting world is the yoke sweater. It’s cropped up in my Instagram feed more than once, and I can’t help but admire the beautiful and creative colour combinations from knitter’s everywhere.

You might notice, as you scroll down the patterns below, that there are two designers that are featured more than once: Jennifer Steingass and Caitlin Hunter. Each of these talented designers had too many gorgeous yoke sweater designs to choose from, and I couldn’t help but include more than just one!

But before we get into the individual patterns, let’s go over a few basic concepts of yokes.

First off, what is a yoke sweater?

A yoke sweater is a circular sweater that is typically knit from the top-down (but can also be knit from the bottom up) and are often featured with a geometrical pattern around the neck. Karen Templer’s article on round-yoke sweaters is also worth a read for further discussion on their construction.

What’s the difference between a yoke sweater and a lopapeysa?

Lopapeysa is an Icelandic word that combines “lopi” (an Icelandic wool) with “peysa” (meaning sweater). A wool sweater. Lopapeysa is used in the English language to refer to the typical Icelandic sweaters that are characterized by a geometric design around the yoke, and are traditionally made in Iceland using a soft Icelandic wool called “lopi”. The definition of lopi in Icelandic language refers to a roving Icelandic wool, but is used in English to refer to Icelandic wool that is loosely spun and commonly used to knit lopapeysa sweaters.

Sidenote: If you want to buy some Lopi wool for yourself, it is sold at a very reasonable price and can be purchased online here.

Therefore, a lopapeysa is (at least in the English usage of the word) a yoke, although a yoke is not necessarily a lopapeysa.

You can delve further into the history of Yokes (including the lopapeysa) below:

Now, onto the patterns! Traditional circular yoke sweaters sometimes get a bad rap for their lack of shaping (making them mainly unisex), but the designs featured below all appear to include shaping necessary to create flattering designs.

Telja by Jennifer Steingass

First up is Telja by Jennifer Steingass (also known as knit.love.wool on Instagram). As described on the Telja Ravelry page, Telja is “inspired by traditional Icelandic circular yoke sweaters, and is knit in the round from the bottom up. Short rows are worked on the back of the sweater to bring the front of collar lower than the back. The stranded yoke is worked, and the neckline is finished with an applied i-cord.”

The image below was knit and photographed by @fran.made.

Photo credit: @fran.made

Below is another beautiful colour variation. I love the subtle blues and greys!

Photo credit: @knit.love.wool

Fern and Feather by Jennifer Steingass

Fern and Feather is another beautifully modern yoke design by Jennifer Steingass. It is described by Jennifer as follows: “A top-down Icelandic-inspired stranded yoke sweater. This pullover is worked seamlessly from the top down, starting with a simple rolled neckline. The yoke is knit in stranded color work, then short row shaping is added to the back of the sweater to shape the shoulders and neckline. Gentle waist shaping makes for a flattering, feminine fit.”

Although only one colour for the yoke is suggested, I love this two colour variation knit by Treehouse-Nisse below!

Photo credit: Treehouse-Nisse

Here are a couple of other colour combos, featuring a bold solid colour with white for the geometric pattern (the yellow version was knit by Ravelry user chomolari).

Arboreal by Jennifer Steingass

One last pattern by Jennifer Steingass! Arboreal features a beautiful leafy design on the yoke that is perfect for fall. The variation below, knit by pharidust on Ravelry, is a lovely colour combo in mint green and white.

Photo credit: pharidust

Strange Brew by Tin Can Knits

Tin Can Knits has a multitude of beautiful yoke sweater patterns on their website: just check out Clayoquot and North Shore to name a few! Their website also provides a wealth of amazing tutorials and techniques to try. This time they’ve come up with the Strange Brew knitting pattern, which allows you to design your own yoke sweater pattern! Just check out this Strange Brew variation by NinaEl – the design is stunning and the colour combination couldn’t be more perfect – that orange just pops!

I feel tempted, oh so tempted, to let my creative juices flow with this Strange Brew pattern and some lopi yarn …

Birkin by Caitlin Hunter

Birkin was featured in the second issue of Laine Magazine. As described on the pattern Ravelry page, the sweater is “knit seamlessly in the round from the top down and the body is gently shaped into an A-line by changing needle sizes. The yoke design features a border of a delicate leaf pattern, which encases a 3-color floral motif and optional bobbles to provide subtle textural interest. The sweater has 3/4 length sleeves and a dropped back hem for a modern look.” 

Photo credit: Jonna Hietala

I could totally see myself wearing this while working in my garden. Now all I need is a garden (and some crazy fast knitting skills) to complete the look. 😉 There are also some gorgeous black and white variations on the Ravelry project pages that I find very appealing.

Zweig by Caitlin Hunter

I am a huge fan of everything about this next sweater by Caitlin Hunter of Boyland Knitworks. The sleeve shaping, colour and texture all seem to mesh together perfectly into one seriously stylish sweater. Caitlin describes it herself as follows: “Zweig is a fingering weight yoke sweater worked from the top down featuring lace, colorwork and texture on the body. I love the relaxed beauty of a yoke sweater, and the way the drape of fingering weight yarn is flattering and comfortable at the same time.”

Photo credit: Boyland Knitworks

Sunset Highway by Caitlin Hunter

Sunset Highway is not your typical sweater. It is unapologetically unique in so many ways. I was curious to read more about Caitlin’s inspiration for this design: “There is nothing quite so romantic as a road trip along the coast, with sunsets blazing in all their glory as you drive with the windows down and ocean breeze in your hair. That ocean breeze can get chilly though, so having a lightweight sweater tossed in the backseat is always a safe bet. Find your favorite speckled sock yarns to knit this unique slouchy sweater with a colorwork yoke and sleeves. Choose similar colors to fade from top to bottom, or get crazy with bright contrasting tones! you can never go wrong with a good speckle from your favorite indie dyer. this oversized sweater will quickly become your comfiest go-to summer layering piece that will transition beautifully into the fall.”

Humulus by Isabell Kraemer

When I first saw this sweater, I thought to myself: “that pattern looks an awful lot like hops!” – before realizing that Humulus is actually latin for hops. It’s not always that our inspiration comes out so vividly in design, so kudos to Isabell on this one. Seeing as my partner is a craft beer aficionado, I feel like he would approve of this seamless top-down sweater. And reading Isabell’s description just made me want to knit it even more! “Humulus (the botanical name for hops) is a lovely sweater that celebrates the elegant hop flower, its flavours and its decorative qualities. The plant is described variously as zesty, piney, earthy and floral. This sweater encompasses all of these with its delicate colourwork pattern knitted in a warm and slightly rustic yarn. It is like being wrapped in a hug.”

Photo credit: lilalu

Are you feeling inspired?

7 Comment

  1. Mélissa C. Tremblay says: Reply

    I love this list! I have been wondering what a yoke was for years! I really want to make myself one of the sweaters with feathers or leaves!

    1. Merci Mélissa! I have to admit, given my limited knowledge of sweaters, I only had a faint idea of what it was prior to writing this! I think I’m also really attracted to them right now just because they can be so colourful – and I love seeing bright spots of colour amidst neutral browns and greys!

  2. Hey Susanne! It’s definitely sweater weather here in Newfoundland so I’m grateful for the inspiration…can’t help but think a yoke sweater is perfect grafitti knitting garb, now if only someone would Knit me one! I’m happy to hear you’re enjoying life in the big city too!

    1. Thanks Rock Vandal! Ahaha, yes I would not complain either if someone wanted to knit me one! But I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon 😉 I love seeing your graffiti knitting over on the other side of Canada – Vancouver is definitely in need of some yarnbombing over here! So far I haven’t found any yarnbomb Vancouver groups … but I’m still looking 🙂

  3. Alice says: Reply

    Isn’t Birkin wonderful? The leaves motif looks so beautiful around the shoulders like that. I’m also really taken by the monochrome versions. I like Humulus and Fern and Feather because they have that same delicacy as well.

    If you’re looking to get some knitting mojo back, I can’t think of a better project! I knit a lopapeysa years ago, it’s by no means perfect and I only wear it occasionally (it’s very warm and nobody else seems to keep their homes/offices cold enough to enjoy thick wool sweaters like I do, pff), but it’s still my favourite sweater. There’s just something about it that really satisfies me as a knitter, if that makes any sense.

    1. Thank you Alice! And that last comment, although I have yet to knit myself an actual sweater, makes perfect sense. 🙂 I’m definitely feeling the temptation to go out and grab some lopi now and put it to work using the Strange Brew pattern (plus it helps that lopi is super affordable)!

      I completely agree that it is a shame that people don’t turn the temperatures down in offices / at home and just wear thick wooly sweaters instead! Just think of all the energy we would save! So glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  4. “A lopapeysa is a yoke, although a yoke is not necessarily a lopapeysa.”
    Wow, it’s not a yoke, I’m learning so much here!

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