Ok, not really... I swear, they aren't bad!
Today, I'm sharing about my latest adventure into the magical realm of steeking. This technique is featured in one of my upcoming designs, the Study Break shawl, which will be published in the November edition of Knotions--just a few days from now. (Be sure to sign up at Knotions for all the details when the issue goes live on Saturday!)
I know lots of knitters stay far, far away from steeks, but I find them super cool. I mean, you cut your knitting and it doesn't come apart. How cool is that?!
I had a 'hit-the-ground-running' kind of intro to steeks a few years ago. I'd knitted a lovely raglan-sleeve sweater, that was supposedly to gauge, only to find that once it was finished, it was 8" too big. And 8" too big everywhere--bust, arms, waist. Well, on my petite frame, and since it wasn't meant to be oversized, it wasn't going to work. The yarn was just sticky enough to be a bear to try ripping it back, and so I decided to give steeking it a chance.
A knitting mentor and good friend of mine gave me lots of pointers on how steeking the sweater should go, since I had absolutely no clue. (She LOVES steeks.) I was intimidated, but willing to give it a shot. I really, really wanted to wear that sweater.
Now, I hadn't knitted this sweater with any extra stitches that would be steeked, or any twisted stitches or anything to get it ready... it was just way too big. Because my sweater was knitted from the top-down, I knew I could take the bind-off at the body out, and do the same with the sleeves, and twist some stitches from there. (The steek method I was using at the time required twisted stitches on either side of where you cut the steek, and then you further reinforce with crochet.)
I took out the BO edges on both sleeves and the bottom edge. I unraveled the specific stitches that I needed to twist, and pulled them back up, twisting as I put each stitch back on. It took hours. Once I finished that, I reinforced further with single crochet.
When I cut up the sides of the sweater and the underside of each sleeve, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was hoping for decent results, and that maybe I would be able to seam it so it'd be wearable.
Sure enough, it worked perfectly. I cut down the seam of stitches, and between the twisted stitches and crocheted reinforcements, the yarn didn't budge. I seamed the sweater back together with mattress stitch on the outside of all of the twisted stitches and crochet portions, which created a hefty seamed edge for the wrong side of the sweater. But, it worked!
The sweater fits, and I'm proud to say that I am no longer intimidated by steeks.
So, for this upcoming shawl design, when I was working on the preliminary sketches and concept, my first thought was to steek it.
But, which steek method? Crocheted? Sewn? A hybrid, something like what I did with my sweater?
I initially ruled out the crocheted steek because I wanted a minimal edge, nothing bulky. My design already called for worsted/aran weight yarn, and I didn't want to make the edge of the shawl any larger than necessary. I figured a sewn steek would be the best option.
I had swatched with appropriate yarn and needles as I was ironing out the details of the design, and I actually used the crocheted steek. It was bulky then, and that was part of why I decided to change to the sewn steek for the sample itself.
However, I wanted to practice on a swatch before the actual shawl, because after all, you don't want something to go wrong with the entire project, right?!
I worked a swatch with two repeats of the chart across, and one full repeat of depth. I added extra stitches, just for the steek panel, and marked them with safety pin stitch markers so I could easily reference them for sewing. A bind-off later and a bunch of ends woven in, I was ready to start sewing.
I ran some waste yarn through the line of stitches that would be cut so I could easily tell which stitches needed to be sewn. Carefully, I put some tissue paper underneath the swatch, changed the settings on my sewing machine so that the stitches would be very short, and ran the swatch through the machine.
I put two lines of sewn stitches in each line of knit stitches that needed reinforcement. One on each side of the stitch (each 'half'), so it would be clearly caught. Technically, you only need one sewn line of stitches since you are using a sewing machine... but I'm extra cautious...
Next, came the sharp scissors (and good light). I cut the line of stitches, one stitch's 'ladder' at a time.
I spread out the swatch, and it turned out exactly like I'd hoped: the stitches stayed put, the yarn was where it should be, and it was sturdy without being too bulky at the edges.
Do you love steeks? Comment below with your favorite steek method and if you have or haven't steeked before, tell me about it!
Thanks for reading,
Next week's post: read more about how I finished up the edges so they look pretty and polished!
PS: Don't forget to sign up at Knotions for the entire issue and be sure to follow me on Instagram for pics of the completed shawl!
Hi, I'm Emily, nice to meet you!