How I do Yoke Shaping

There are very few things more disappointing than finishing a sweater only to find out it doesn’t fit. I knit my first sweater almost a year ago and I have learned a lot of things about sweater shaping since.

That first sweater is in the bottom drawer of my desk at work and only sees the light of day when the air conditioning gets so bad I start to wonder if my office was magically transported to the arctic. In all honesty the sweater isn’t that bad. There are really only two things that I really don’t like: the yoke shaping and the collar.

Me in the sweater we don't talk about.
Me in the sweater we don’t talk about.

The problem with the yoke is that I followed a basic sweater pattern instead of my own sense. I knit the sweater from the bottom up and the pattern had me do all of the decrease rounds at the very end, in the last two inches of the yoke. So from where I joined the sleeves to about two inches before the neck hole I was just knitting plain rounds. The problem with this method of sweater shaping is that most people aren’t shaped this way. When I finally put my sweater on I had all this extra fabric in the upper arms/ chest region that just gets bunched up.

Now when I knit a sweater I spread my decrease rows out over the entire yoke. I usually stagger my decreases so that closest to the neck I decrease every other round and the farther from the neck the more plain rounds I add between decrease rounds. At the bottom of the yoke where the body and arms meet I usually knit about an inch of plain rounds, without decreasing, just so that the wearer’s arms have plenty of room to move.


When I made this gray sweater for my mom I knew I wanted to the yoke to be ten inches deep. I split my yoke shaping into three inch sections, with an inch of plain knitting at the bottom of the yoke. I knit this sweater from the top down so my shaping rows were increase rows rather than decrease rows. So for the first three inches, the section closest to the collar, I increased every row, for the second three inches I knit two plain rounds in between each increase row. For the last three inches I worked three plain rounds in between each increase round.

The result is a more sloped shaped yoke, which for me at least, is closer to the actual shape of my body. I have been a lot happier with yokes shaped this way. Of course this shaping method is specific to raglan sweaters and sweaters made form worsted weight yarn. With different yarn weights the total number of increased or decreased stitches is going to change and so is yoke depth. Regardless I always spread out my yoke shaping so that the shaping takes place over all of the yoke rows and not just a few rows closets to the collar.

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