When I first started designing top down crochet sweater patterns, I had no idea how to get my numbers and measurements to add up It took a lot of scribbling and swearing to get it to work for the first few designs. I now get a lot of people asking me how to do exactly the same thing so I thought it might be helpful to share some of my approach.
This is a summary of the question I get asked all the time:
How do I know how many increases to work over how many rows to get the right yoke size?
After a lot of research (mainly from knitting resources) and swatching and frogging, I have found a basic approach which works for me and I will outline it below. I want to caveat that with the comment that this is always a starting point rather than a definitive “one size fits all” solution for any round yoke design.
The truth is that, whilst top-down round yoke sweaters are a dream to make (no seams, no sewing!!), I find them a real challenge to design. If you have found a simpler way to crunch the numbers I would LOVE to hear from you!
Although the maths isn’t quantum physics level, there is quite a lot of it involved – especially if you are grading your sweater for multiple sizes. But you need to not be afraid of it – I will explain it as clearly as I can.
My advice is get a pen and paper to scribble your numbers and use a spreadsheet to do the heavy lifting (this also comes in handy when you are nudging your numbers around to get everything to fit!)
If you’re new to crochet garment design, you might want to start with my design basics post How to design a crochet sweater in 7 steps.
This post focuses specifically on top down round yoke sweaters (although the principal is similar for top-down raglan designs), so it is going to assume you have a basic understanding how they are constructed. If you’re new to top-down, you learn more about general top down construction here.
Okay, lets get stuck in!
How to design a top down crochet yoke sweater
1. Decide on your stitch pattern, yarn and hook
Though it might evolve throughout the design process to accommodate the shaping, decide on the main stitch pattern you are going to use.
Make sure your hook and yarn combo have a drape which will be suitable for a garment.
My advice is, if in doubt, go up a hook size!
You’ll need to think about how your pattern can be increased. This may be as simple as working 2 stitches in one but if you have a more detailed pattern you’re working with then it will be more complex.
2. Make a swatch
If you’ve not done this before then you can read this post on how to make and measure a gauge swatch.
If you’re not prepared to make a swatch then there’s not much point in continuing to read. The calculations you will need to make will be based on an accurate gauge measurement.
Note that your swatch should reflect the stitch pattern you are going to use in the actual garment. If you’re turning after each round you can make your swatch flat and turn after every row.
If you’re going to be working in rounds without turning then you will either need to make a swatch in the round too, or you can work in rows but pull a long length of yarn at the end of each row and go back and start the next row on the same side – it’s messy but it works!
This is your chance to cement your stitch pattern and note down your stitch and row multiples which are important to know before you start.
It’s also the time when you should work out how your stitch pattern can be increased. Have a play and see what does and doesn’t work. You will likely change the increase distribution but it’s important to understand your options.
Write down your gauge stitch and row measurements, taking note of any required pattern multiples.
3. Write down your measurements
Sketch out the shape of your design and start working out what measurements you want to achieve. I normally start working on my numbers for one size then do the maths for all the other sizes (normally XS-3X) to check it is scaleable.
You’ll need to know the following measurements for your design:
- Circumference at Neckline
- Circumference at Yoke Split
- Depth of Yoke to split – Distance from neckline to underarm
There are no set numbers for these measurements as they depend on the design style. It will depend how much ease you want for each area (i.e. how much bigger than the body the sweater will be, particularly at the chest and underarms).
How do I know how big to make the neckline?
I use the craft yarn council standards to base my measurements on. However, they do not have a section on collar size – I’ve found this one of the trickiest measurements to get right. I normally work somewhere between 40 – 70cm in circumference depending on the size and neck line style I’m working with.
I prefer to go larger if I’m worried about fit because I hate tight necks and I know I can always adjust on the collar later! That said, crochet sweaters tend to stretch so you don’t want it too big either.
The beauty of top down is…. yes… you can try it on as you go. And with the neck line there is very little frogging if you need to change it after 2 rounds!
How do I know how big the chest / bust should be when I split the yoke?
This is the formula I use
Bust + Ease + (2 x bicep measurement)
Depending on the design, I usually add some ease to the bicep measurement.
Remember you will also have an underarm chain used when you split the yoke to add some extra room
How deep should my yoke be?
Again, dependant on the neckline design and stitch pattern, I use the armhole depth measurement plus a few cm ease as a starting point for this.
4. Crunch the numbers
Take your measurements (which you have written down or plugged into your spreadsheet) and use these with your stitch and row gauge to calculate the following:
- Number of stitches at neckline
- Number of stitches at yoke split
- Number of rows from neck line to yoke split
Once you have these, you can adjust them to meet your stitch and row multiples.
Deduct the number of neckline stitches from the number of stitches at the yoke split.
This will give you the number of stitches you need to increase from neckline to yoke split.
As you also have the number of rows you have to make those increases over, you can get started on working out how to place those increases.
This is where it gets tricky! I don’t have a formula for placing these increases but these are the tips I’ve learned after many many false starts:
- Think about how a simple flat circle increases and try to mimic that approach.
- It’s okay to have non increase rows between the increase rows
- Try and keep your increases evenly spread throughout the yoke
- If you place too few increases on increase rows you’ll end up with a square (so you’re basically working a raglan!) or pentagon or hexagon etc., which can get bumpy when you go to to split the yoke
- I would aim for an absolute minimum of a 6 st increase on your increase rows, though the more increases you have, the more circular your yoke will be
- Plug your numbers into a spreadsheet and play with changing things up until you’re happy with the spread
Ultimately, the decision about how to place and distribute your increases from neckline to yoke is the designers prerogative, an individual choice only you can make.
Once you have a set of numbers you’re happy with, then get going.
If you’re not sure if it will work then give it a try anyway!
My advice is always to experiment, so try out several different approaches.
The top part of the corona vest had 6 increase points as you see, but the body uses increases more often – you can change your increase distribution up to match the style of top you’re making.
I can also tell you that it took me a LOT of trial and error to get this right – even with working my numbers out in advance – so if it doesn’t go right first time, don’t be discouraged!
The maths in top down round yoke sweaters is dependent on so many variables which is why there’s no simple formula. Just go for it until you get a feel for what works. Some times there is just no substitute for experience.
I can’t count the hours I have spent making and frogging yokes but with each one I learn something new.
What about splitting the yoke?
When you split the yoke, you’ll need to know the answers to the following (for each size):
- How many stitches do I need for the body
- How many stitches do I need for each sleeve
- How many chains do I place at the underarm
You can simply calculate the first two from your original set of numbers (again, adjusting for stitch multiples), so you just skip the number of stitches for the sleeve when splitting the yoke.
You may want to consider here where you want your joining seam to be. Some people like it at the back and some like to hide it at the underarm / side seam.
Underarm chains are important to allow movement, but the length of these will also be dependant on the ease you are working with – another designers choice only you can make!
Once you have successfully split your yoke and are happy with the fit, the rest is child’s play! Just work your body and sleeves with the appropriate shaping and you are away!
I talk a little about sleeve shaping in my Garment design basics blog, but if you’ve mastered the yoke increase then you’ll be fine with the rest!
If you’re new to working with round yoke designs, I hope that you find this helpful. A lot of the same principals apply to top down raglan sweaters too but there you are more bound by increasing at the four corners so the process is a bit more structured.
I’m really passionate about demystifying the crochet garment design process, so if you have any questions or tips that work for you then I would love your input. Just pop a comment below or reach out on my socials – I could chat about this stuff all day!