fair isle yoke

warning: slightly rambly post ahead!

Thank you all for your lovely messages about my last blog, It’s so great that people are really as interested in that time, and that they would go and see sometime I curated?! So thanks again. I also mentioned briefly that I was making a Fair Isle yoke, greatly inspired by all the yokes I was looking at for the exhibition. Big surprise your probably thinking as it seems to be all that I make (ahem.. see here, here and here) BUT this one required a peerie bit more thinking. The classic Shetland Fair Isle Yoke is something of a rite of passage for a Shetland knitter I suppose, and perhaps this post will only be of interest to myself if only so I remember what I did..!


I have amassed a small collection of these old patterns from eBay. Top tip, if you get one, just buy one. they all contain essentially the same pattern, just with different star pattern which can be easily changed. Still I like that it gives you different colour ideas. I have quite a few vintage yokes that I have bought from eBay and charity shops etc, which I love but the main problem I have is the necks are just too high! I think I must have been strangled or something in a previous life because I really hate the feeling of jumpers up around my neck and cardigan band tops stabbing me in the clavicle (not that im dramatic or anything) so I end up not wearing them which is such a waste.

*sob* (although actually these two aren’t too bad to wear)

I had the idea to try to make a yoke but to lower the Fair Isle and eliminate the raglan shaping which is what brings the pattern up so high. (I’m quite the rebel, you know) So far so good? Now maths is not my strong point so one night I happily sat with my calculator and did all my sums. Then the Sunday when I was going to knit the sleeves and body on my machine I thought I’d do a quick check over and realised I’d left out the stitches of one sleeve… (damn you, illegible writing, you swindled me again) A one-armed yoke was not what I was going for. This meant I had a lot more stitches then I required. So after a very helpful twitter message marathon with Kate I ended up with a better plan. If you look at a yoke, more often than not there are six stars, three on the front and three on the back. I added two extra repeats giving me eight stars. This meant it would give me the stitches to have the yoke lower.


I also wasn’t sure whether to start my pattern in the middle of a star or a tree? I casted on 9 steek stitches in the centre back which is where I did all my colour changes, so when I cut it open I cut away all my ends! Genius, if I say so myself. I decided just before I started to begin in the centre of a star so a star was the middle motif on the front and Im glad I did. Its quite clever really the way it works, you knit away then decrease at either side of the tree at specific points which means by the end of the chart you have just a few stitches between the stars.


On Ravelry I listed one of those vintage patterns as the pattern I used but really all I used it for was the stitches to cast on, etc etc (or as we would say in Shetland ‘da loops!’).. I chose the star motif from one of my many Fair Isle books.. because there wasnt one on any of those patterns that really stood out to me. As long as its 25 stitches wide and 25 rows your good to go!

a page from Sheila MacGregor Traditional Fair Isle Knitting book, she happens to be my Dads first cousin.. im destined to be a knitter.

In relation to my colour choices, I scored a few bags of peerie balls of old Shetland wool on my weekly pilgrimage to the Cancer Research charity shop. there were five bags, I bought three of them. No restraint. Anyway, I could spy some lovely old J&S and Hunter of Brora shades that I drool over on the old shade cards so I snapped them up. I was very much inspired by the colours I had been surrounded by while curating the Bod exhibition.


Mmmmm… I used Shetland Supreme shade 2001 as my background for the Yoke. I have matched the blue and one of the oranges up as Jumper Weight shade 71 and 73 but I cant quite match the other orange. For the body and sleeves I went for a hugely underated colour which is FC58, Initially it just looks like a brown but it has flecks of orange and blue and green… you get the picture. You can see here how the flecks pick up in the yoke.


With this sort of thing really my thinking is you have to just give it a go, by knitting the body and sleeves on a machine you are greatly reducing the time spent on the jumper (hence why they are made) Its not that its particularly easy and it still took me a whole Sunday to knit them (the back I had to knit twice..oops) but that is a lot less than months to hand knit them. Which it would have been. Plain knitting with 2ply and 3mm needles..? Id still be on my first sleeve. So I was able to try out what I was thinking and see if it is possible. I added short rows to the back ala Puffins 1 and 2 to bring up the back of the neck and then picked up around my open steek and knit a button band on the back. Which I have since knitted shut because it sits weird, presumably they have these buttonbands to get your neck through the smaller yokes of the classic style but I just like how they look. It also gave me and excuse to buy orange buttons. I like orange.

button band, why you curve?


As for the fit, I’m pleasantly surprised with how it looks,. While I was knitting it I didn’t know if my alternative decreasing would work but it has. This time I wasn’t actually going for three quarter length sleeves but I got them… oh well. I think it is the yoke which pulls the sleeves up but never mind. Or maybe I have long arms. I’ve never actually considered that…… hmm.


Anyway I’m very pleased with my yoke. Its not perfect, but thats ok. The next step is to make my sister a yoke cardigan. But I cant get away with fobbing three quarter length sleeves on her so I will have to do it right. Maybe i’ll have to do a swatch?! shock horror.


I have a busy couple of weeks coming up but hopefully I’ll squeeze in some (personal) knitting time, I have a few Crofthouse commisions and next weekend is the Cancer Research Relay for Life. With my friends I am in a team, and we will be walking all night to help raise money. It is a huge event in Shetland and we always have a massive turnout. Cancer is one of those things that affect all of us and I’m so glad to be able to do something to help (alongside spending all my wages at the Cancer Research charity shop!) If you would like to donate to my team you can do so by clicking here. Thank you so much if you do,

Speak soon! xx

17 thoughts on “fair isle yoke

  1. That is a truly beautiful piece of knitting. I bet it gets lots of compliments. Stranded work is definitely addictive, and there’s something very special about traditional fairisle. (And the FC58 is gorgeous – all those shades intermingling! I fear my bank account may be about to take some damage…)

  2. amazing post! I love the yoke!! I have that book by Shelia McGregor may have yo give that a look through.

    Your sweater is lovely!!!

  3. Math be damned, you did a smashing job! Talk about reinventing the wheel….hate when that happens :) And I like the buttons in the back and the lower front yoke. ORANGE BUTTONS, love orange and these really set them off.

  4. I love the rambling, it sounds like you are speaking directly to me.
    No doubt the jumpers are fantastic. Maybe I need a knitting machine ..I wonder what my husband would think of that idea ….hmmm
    Feel free to ramble again :)

  5. Really flattering version of a yoke jumper, it frames the wearer’s face and neck really nicely – what a difference lowering the neckline makes.

  6. “button band, why you curve?” This made me laugh EG. And I know exactly how you would say it ;) excellent post and the yoke has turned out beautifully! Bravo friend xx

  7. Please, ramble away more? I love your post and I am cursed with the too long upper-arm_ shoulder syndrome for a yoked jumper/cardigan to fit properly, so I will take a good look at what you have done.

  8. Spent my Christmas & New year pondering over knitting these yoked jumpers & feel so inspired, thank you! – can’t wait to get back to my machine! (& dreaming of how I can afford a trip to Shetland again after so long!)

  9. Pingback: 2015 | ella gordon
  10. I have tried to get on to Ravely it just so hard is there any book for sale that has your round yoke fair isle jumper pattern that I can buy? Thanks Heather in Melbourne in lockdown😣 covid19

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