STEEKING. It means that you will be cutting stitches that you just spent hours (if not days) knitting. Crazy, right? I had never heard of steeking until I started knitting in January. While watching an instructional video on YouTube, it recommended a steeking video. Curious as to what it was, I watched in amazement as a carefully knit sweater was cut straight down the middle. From that point on, I was fascinated by the concept but did not take the opportunity to try it myself until this month.
Why would you cut your knitting? Steeking was developed by knitters of the Shetland archipelago and is particularly associated with Fair Isle knitting. The idea is that you can knit a cardigan sweater with frequent color changes and never have to turn your work to the back where all the colors are being carried. You essentially knit a tube in the round and make cuts for the front of the sweater and/or arm holes. If you use a particularly sticky wool and change colors correctly, you can cut your sweater without any extra reinforcement. If you are using a fiber that has been processed (such as a superwash), you will need to reinforce your stitches with a line of single crochet or with a sewing machine. After the sweater has been cut, the knitter can pick up stitches down the middle to create a button band to finish the garment.
I have read a lot about steeking and have watched several instructional videos. Elizabeth Zimmermann used steeking quite a bit and describes the process throughout her books. Intrigued, I was determined to try it myself. About a month ago, I received a digital download of the Tin Can Knits book Road Trip, which featured a steeked sweater. After knitting their Caribou sweater pattern (as I mentioned in my post about cables), I decided to try their Clayoquot pattern and experience steeking first-hand.
Clayoquot is a lovely sweater, featuring a Fair Isle design that I really love. I had previously purchased some Cascade 220 Superwash in “Ruby” to make a sweater for my two year old son, Jonathan. Since I had just knit the Caribou sweater for him, I decided to knit Clayoquot in the 6-12 mo size for my baby boy, Christian. I looked at all different colors to use for the Fair Isle patterning, perused project pages of other knitters, and finally decided that I didn’t want to knit with multiple colors. I wanted a simple red sweater. Now, I realize that the beauty of their design is in the patterning, but I wanted a versatile sweater that could go with everything. I loved that the pattern included pockets (my first time knitting them) and I would get the chance to try steeking with a sweater I could knit in just a couple days. I also feel that to become adept at stranded knitting, I need to teach myself how to “flick” the yarn with my right hand so I can knit a color in each hand. While it is on my list of things to learn, I’m still trying to improve my speed with Continental knitting.
If you are trying steeking for the first time (and every knitter SHOULD), I highly recommend reading up on it first. The lovely ladies of Tin Can Knits have an excellent blog post which I read repeatedly before making the first cut (and you get to see pics of a super cute baby!).
Here is a brief shot of my steeking experience: 1. Sweater knit in the round with the middle five stitches prepped for steeking. 2. Two lines of single crochets down the front to protect the stitches. 3. Cut down the middle of the stitches. 4. Steeking is complete.
Add a button band and some buttons and, voila!
Christian has a sweet little sweater now and it took just a couple of days. I’m glad I started with something so small, but I now have the confidence to steek in the future. It no longer intimidates me and I love that I can knit it all in stockinette with very little purling. And now a few pics of my own cutie in his newest sweater: