How to adjust a top down yoke

There is no such thing as standard body shapes. We are all unique. Even if a pattern for a garment provides explanations for several sizes, the indicated measurements will never exactly match with all existing body shapes. Even our posture has an impact on how a garment fits. And then we should take ease into account: some prefer to wear clothes tight around their body, others only go for large, comfortable clothes. Hence the need to adjust garments. It’s fairly easy to do with a top down construction.

Céleste, my Tunisian crochet top down garment
Tunisien crochet top down Céleste – work in progress – checking the yoke adjustment

Top down

Top down sweaters and cardigans (worked seamlessly from the top) have this huge advantage that you can try them on at any time while you are making them. No need to wait until the full garment is done to check whether it fits or not.

Top down garments start from the neckline around which the yoke gradually grows to shape the shoulders and the bust at the same time. Then, usually, the work is divided into 4 parts, i.e. 2 sleeves and the front and the back of the body.

Céleste, Tunisian crochet top down garment
Division of the yoke in 4 parts: front, back and 2 armholes

Armhole depth and ease

When you reach the end of the yoke, before you move on to the division for arms and body, try it on and see if it fits. You may find that the standard size reported in the pattern is not exactly right for your body. Consider 2 aspects:

  • The depth of the armhole is linked to the length of the yoke (number of rows).

If the underarm section is too low, undo a few rows.
If the underarm section is too high, work a few more rows without increases.

  • Ease around the arms and body is linked to the circumference of the yoke (number of stitches in last row) and a few additional stitches at the underarm section (added when you work the division for sleeves and body).

If arms and body are a wee bit too big, a first option is to add less stitches at the underarm section (but always keep a few stitches).

If arms and body are really too big, another option is to undo a few rows including increases. Then work these rows again but this time without increases.

Céleste, my Tunisian crochet top down garment, in progress
Too large! I have to undo the last few rows and work them without increases.

Try it on

It is not always easy to assess whether the yoke fits well or not. The best is to work the division for sleeves and body, plus 2 or 3 more rows for the body. Then try the garment on. You will have a more accurate indication on whether the garment fits or if some adjustments (and which ones) are necessary.

Céleste, Tunisian crochet top down, in Whirl by Scheepjes
Céleste, a Tunisian crochet seamless top down garment, made here in Whirl by Scheepjes

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