Happily for all of us who enjoy stranded knitting, sweaters with circular colourwork yokes are extremely popular at the moment. And a number of new designers are infusing this traditional Scandinavian style with some much appreciated freshness and creativity.
But of course creative freshness ushers in a fresh set of issues! And there are knitters who find themselves having some very specific fit problems with this popular style of sweater.
1. that the colourwork section of the yoke feels too tight, even if the floats are kept appropriately loose and the section meets gauge, and
2. that the underams sit too low
The combination of these two issues can make the sweater feel constraining, to the point that it is difficult to move one's arms. Not exactly ideal! So how to avoid this?
Okay. So firstly, let me say that I have not actually seen any of the patterns I am referring to. My observations are based entirely on the sweaters people are knitting. And when I look at those sweaters, I notice two consistent themes, which I will address individually:
1. The depth of the colourwork motif exceeds what would normally be the wearer's yoke depth.
The way I see it, this is a manifestation of row gauge variability. In other words, the knitter's row gauge exceeds what the designer envisioned, and there is no way to alter that without also altering the knitter's stitch gauge, if that makes sense, since the two are connected. So instead, I can see two potential solutions. The easy but disappointing one, is to omit rounds from the bottom part of the colourwork section (we are assuming a top-down sweater construction here), allowing for the sleeve separation to happen earlier (i.e. higher up). The aesthetically nicer, but more difficult solution, is to place the colourwork higher up on the yoke. The reason this is more difficult, is that it involves making decisions regarding where to place the yoke increases, which would otherwise happen before the colourwork begins. Which brings me to the second theme...
2. The colourwork motif does not appear to incorporate increases (assuming the sweater is worked top-down), which are instead made only above and below the colourwork section.
Now: Ideally, a top-down circular yoke construction will incorporate increases consistently throughout the yoke, as shown in the drawing on the left.But incorporating increases into a colourwork chart can be awkward, and disruptive to the motif's aesthetic, and so it is understandable that designers might want to avoid it - placing the increases before and after the colourwork instead, as shown in the drawing on the right.
And if the colourwork section is only a narrow band, it is fine to leave that part without shaping; the yoke will block out evenly. However, the deeper the colourwork chart, the more likely it is that the fabric will look (and feel) uneven if increases are not incorporated into that section. When it comes to the sweater designs in question, I suspect that the colourwork is borderline too deep to start with, and that the knitter's row gauge (which is deeper than the designer's) pushes it over the edge to being properly too deep.
Am I being confusing here? I know this post is a bit more technical than previous Fit Clinic topics. So if you have any questions about what I am trying to say here please ask in the comments and I will try my best to explain better!
So what is the general solution? If you are not confident in altering the colour section of an existing pattern - either by omitting the bottom rounds of the colourwork, by moving it higher up on the yoke, and/or by adding shaping to the colourwork chart, I suggest looking for a pattern where the colourwork section is shallower, sits higher up on the yoke, and/ or incorporates yoke shaping.
For example, here is a (free!) top-down pattern which meets these criteria:
Iðunn, on Knitty
And a (free!) bottom-up pattern that meets them as well:
Ryðrauð, on ravelry
Because the thing is, no matter how hard a designer might try, they cannot accommodate all body types (what I mean by this, is that your individual anatomy might require a shallower yoke depth than the designer planned for). And neither can the designer always anticipate inconsistencies in row gauge. So in the end, it is all about choosing the type of pattern that works for your body shape and for your knitting style... and, ideally, lets you move your arms!