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Book Review: The Art of Circular Yokes

Circular yoke sweaters have become hugely popular over the past couple of years. It is no wonder then that Interweave has jumped on the bandwagon by publishing an entire book dedicated to the round-yoke structure. The Art of Circular Yokes: A timeless technique for 15 modern sweaters (2019), edited by Kerry Bogert, contains a thorough section on dissecting the math behind this sweater style and — as the extended title suggests — 15 garment designs by today's leading circular yoke masters.

The Math

The book opens with a 15-page chapter on the math needed to design your own circular yoke garment. Written by Holly Yeoh (who has also contributed a pattern for the book), this chapter goes deep into round-yoke construction and walks you through the necessary calculations to make when designing circular yoke patterns. The book gives very detailed instructions on how and where to measure yourself and how to apply this information in your garment design. Huge props for Interweave using both metric and imperial measurements throughout the book.

All this information can be applied to both top-down and bottom-up designs — it doesn't matter which way you knit!

The opening chapter also briefly touches on improving circular yoke fit with short-row shaping. The math is there: the book details how to calculate the number of short rows needed. But it then glosses over the actual application: where to place the short rows and how to do them.

The Patterns

Then come the patterns. As stated, the book contains a total of 15 garment designs: 3 cardigans and 12 pullovers. None of the cardigans feature colorwork so there is no steeking in this book.

Margaret Holzmann's Dover is knit from the bottom up and features a traveling stitch pattern on the yoke (Art of Circular Yokes, Interweave 2019).

What I love about this book is the variety in yoke styles. The book ventures beyond the traditional lopapeysa style colorwork sweater with a wide assortment of different stitch patterns and techniques used in the garments. Round yokes don't all have to be variations of the classic outdoors-y jumper. Out of the 15 designs, five are colorwork garments, three feature lace on the yoke, there's two a piece with cables, slipped stitches, or knit-and-purl texture patterns, and one with twisted stitches.

Garment constructions also vary: there are eight top-down designs and seven knit from the bottom up. I was actually surprised by the number of bottom-up garments but I'm sure the folks at Interweave wanted to have an even balance represented in the book.

With colorwork sweaters you sometimes see a hybrid, best-of-both-worlds construction in which you cast on provisionally for the yoke and work it from the bottom up, then pick up stitches and work the rest of the garment top down. As far as I can tell, there are none of these in this book.

Jennifer Dassau's L'Heure Verte features short rows both before and after the yoke pattern (Art of Circular Yokes, Interweave 2019).

I'm a little obsessed with short rows in circular yoke sweaters so I also did the stats on that. Out of the 15 garments featured in this book, four don't use short-row shaping in any form. In six designs short rows are used to raise the back neck and in three to lengthen the back yoke. Only two designs — Emerge designed by Andrea Cull and L'Heure Verte by Jennifer Dassau — use both methods to improve yoke fit.

The book closes with abbreviations and an illustrated glossary for the special techniques used in the patterns.

The Styling

The book really embraces the word 'art' in the title, hard. Most garments are styled in sleek ways in front of starkly-colored backdrops. Many of the models wear heavy make-up and pose with ornate gilded frames to really drive home the art museum feel.

Just relaxing with this massive picture frame, as you do. Sigríður by Paula Pereira (Art of Circular Yokes, Interweave 2019).

This is definitely not one of those feel-good, cozy books you want to leaf through on a chilly fall morning while sipping a cup of coffee. No, we're all modern and angular and fierce in this one!

What is going on with this pussy bow? Scallops by Mone Dräger (Art of Circular Yokes, Interweave 2019).

Some of the styling choices in the book actually make me raise a few eyebrows but I feel this is the subject for another blog post.

The Verdict

One of these is not like the others. Altheda by Jennifer Steingass (Art of Circular Yokes, Interweave 2019).

I'm going to contradict myself a little bit here. Despite singing praises for the book for not going the traditional colorwork yoke route, my favorite design in the book is, still, Jennifer Steingass's Altheda, a top-down colorwork sweater knit in unspun Icelandic wool in Jennifer's feathered signature style. And it's styled very differently compared to the rest of the sweaters.

The stitch pattern on Stella Egidi's Modern Art is reversible. Can you spot the difference to the cover photo? (Art of Circular Yokes, Interweave 2019).

Another favorite is the cover sweater, Stella Egidi's Modern Art with a geometric, textured stitch pattern that is fully reversible. I love it when designers think of details like that.

Now this I could see belonging in an art museum. Morris by Jennifer Wood (Art of Circular Yokes, Interweave 2019).

All in all, I found the math section incredible thorough so if you've ever wanted to design a custom-fit circular yoke sweater, I highly recommend checking this book out just for that. But if you're not into math, there's plenty to knit in the book using the patterns offered. Some veer towards familiar, some are truly works of art.

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Susanna Winter is a knitwear designer, creating timeless and elegant pieces with clean lines. She has been knitting for over 20 years, knit blogging since 2007, and designing knitting patterns professionally since 2016.

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