Friday 5 December 2014

Review of Yokes by Kate Davies

It's Christmas time for knitters with not one but two pattern books by an outstanding British knitwear designer published this week. The first to plop through my letter box was Yokes by designer, writer and historical researcher Kate Davies.
Picture courtesy of Kate Davies

Before she changed career to full-time knitwear design, following a stroke, Davies was an academic specialising in the eighteenth century. Her questioning mind and academic rigour shine through Yokes, which is much more than a conventional book of patterns.

Yokes have always been a favourite of Davies, and in her book of eleven original patterns of jumpers and cardigans with distinctive yokes she writes: "Yokes are a kind of knitted jewelery. They adorn the shoulders and frame the ace in ways that can work from delicate to dramatic. A carefully blended colourwork yoke might seem virtually kaleidoscopic, a textured oke worked in neutral cables or lace can be a beautifully subtle way of decorating the upper torso."

The reader will certainly see the yoke in a new light after reading this book. Before the patterns Davies writes a number of essays looking at the tradition of the yoke in countries such as Greenland, Norway and Iceland.

Keith Moon (modelled by Kate Davies)
And so to the patterns. The one most suitable for beginner knitters is Keith Moon: a 1960s-inspired Mod sweater with a fabulous red, white and blue yoke. The sweater has a long body and there are delightful red stripes at the bottom of the sleeves and the sweater. The waist has shaping and, if you're like me and have a short and straight torso, it would be easy to adjust the pattern to shorten the body and miss out the shaping.


My personal favourite is Bluebells - a wonderfully-coloured jumper with a bluebell pattern around the yoke, hem and bottom of the sleeves. I am an intermediate knitter and think that I could successfully attempt this pattern. Bluebells is a close-fitting, shorter-length sweater knitted in Jamieson and Smith 2ply jumper weight.

Yokes also contains a number of patterns for cardigans. Take the cover design, Cockatoo Brae, which takes its name from Cockatoo Brae in Lerwick, Shetland, an island where hand-knitted yokes have been produced for over a half a century. The body and sleeves for this cardigan can be either machine or hand-knitted.

Foxglove is another cardigan in the collection. The local flowers seen on summer walks around Davies' Scottish highland home inspired this design. Again it is a traditional Shetland yoked cardigan but she has designed amore contemporary fit, being a shorter length and having bust and waist shaping.

I love the colurs and intricate yoke pattern on this design, but what slightly puts me off is the necessity of steeking. I have yet to learn the technique and the thought of cutting through my knitting fills me with fear.

The beauty of the cardigan's design, however, gives me impetus to go on a 'learn to steek course' in 2015 and improve my knitting skills!

Yokes is a delightful resource for knitters interested in knitting history and perfecting their art. It's a coffee table book that readers will dip into again and again to read the essays, look at the beautifully-photographed images, and work out which design to knit first.  All the designs in the book are on Ravelry here.

In my next blog post I'll be reviewing the latest edition of A Stitch In Time by Susan Crawford.

What do you think of Yokes? Why not add your comments below?

1 comment:

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