Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Zen and the Art of Steeking

(Or how not to make a mountain out of a knitted molehill).
The thought of cutting into a perfectly good knitted item to insert a sleeve or zipper strikes fear into most knitter's hearts.  Knitting books wax melodramatic about this, describing that you'd need to go lie down in a dark room with a cold compress, or have a glass of wine or three post-steeking.  I'm here to tell you it's not that bad.

Have that wine before you steek, and you'll see just how swimmingly it will go.  (Actually, we have a saying in our knitting group:  friends don't let friends knit drunk.  When someone brings that up, we all laugh, raise our glasses in a toast and put down our knitting.  Don't tell our husbands, but I think they're on to us already...)

That aside, here's what I learned from my first steeked Lopi project:

You don't need more than 3 steek stitches to work with.  I had 4 and all that amounted to was a waste of wool.  Next time, I'm using only 3.  Purl these 3 steek stitches, which leads me to my next tip:

When you come to your first steek stitch, purl it into the back of the loop.   This will twist the stitch and tighten up the previous knit stitch, namely your last knit stitch before the steek.  It's not imperative, but it does create a nicer, tighter finish.  You'll notice in the photo below, the last knitted stitch before the steek is a bit loose.  (In the photo below, I have pulled all my ends to the front of the steek so they wouldn't get caught in the sewing machine foot inadvertently).  Next time, I'm purling that first steeked stitch through the back of the loop.  No more loosey-goosey edge stitches.  I wish I knew that before, but there you have it.  Live and learn.
If you're changing colour on the row, it's sufficient to purl the central stitch (i.e. your second steek stitch) using both old and new colours together.  My particular Lopi pattern was well-charted, and even told you which colour to make the first and last steek stitch.  I just followed the instructions and it became quite clear after a few rows that there is some rhyme and reason to the colour logic.  This also meant if you're changing from colour A and B to colour C and D for example, you won't have more ends than necessary to weave in.  (As it was, this particular sweater was akin to the End Weaving-in Festival - there weren't a few ends to weave in, there must've been a hundred!)
This weaving needle from my knitting arsenal proved beneficial.  It's so easy to thread, it made quick work of all those pesky ends:
I remember buying these at Zeller's, three different sizes to the pack.  They are distributed by H. A. Kidd in Toronto, and if you ever come across this item, buy a few packs.  They're cheap, and you can dole them out to fellow knitters when they remark what a great idea it is.

Here's a look at the back of the sweater, and the photo that made me realize I should have just knit the whole bloody thing as a pullover and saved myself some agony:
Ain't she purty?  I'm really happy with this project, and it's not even finished yet!  (Yes, I know I threatened to have it finished by July 21).  Deadlines, schmedlines...

Since my Dad has an ancient Lopi cardigan, I thought I'd borrow it and have a gander at how it was finished.  (There's nothing like reverse engineering...)

Behold, here are the machine stitches hidden by the crocheted-on border:
See how the wool's been cut close to the machine stitched line?  This sewed edge will ensure that all the wool is held together.  Lopi's tough wool; it'll hold, and once the crocheted or knitted edge is on, the ends are going nowhere.  If you're a sewer, you'll also notice the size of the stitch, as well as the tension.  The stitch is relatively large, and the tension is loose; if your sewing is tighter, you'll risk distorting your sewn and cut edge.

Here's a look at the crocheted border on this sweater:
Still, I'm not sure if I'll crochet a border or make a knitted I-cord edge.  I have all of fall to think about that, don't I?  And yes, Delusional is my middle name, now that you mention it.

Here's a look at the edge, post-sewing, pre-cutting.  Instructions said to sew up each edge twice.  I follow instructions, ergo, we have 2 rows of stitches on either side of the steek:
I had to sew these from the bottom edge up toward the neck.  Somehow, logic dictated I should sew both seams from the neck down, but try doing that on a sewing machine.  Ain't gonna happen - I had to feed it from the bottom up.

And yet another, post-cutting showing the nice, straight edge.  So far, so good:
So, why isn't the damn sweater finished already, you may be asking?  Well, I tried a couple of variations of crocheted edges.  None of them were quite up to snuff.  I changed wool colours, I changed crochet hook sizes, but I wasn't satisfied with any of the permutations.  And then, (how these things happen is a total mystery to me), the two skeins of wool I intended to use were run through the washing machine by accident:
Yarn barf extraordinare, people.  That's why the freakin' sweater's not finished yet!  I'm blaming the cat, yeah, the cat...

So stay tuned for the never-ending Saga of the Saga.  One knitted I-cord edge, coming right up!  This one will be in a different colour.  Now if only I could remember where I placed that skein for safe keeping, I'd be one step ahead!

Maybe I should go interrogate the cats...


Robin said...

That is such a beautiful sweater. I'm impressed, I really am.

I've never heard of steeking before but the glass of wine before steeking sounds delightful. hehe

Shim Farm said...

Thanks for the compliment! I really enjoyed making it, and will definitely make another. I love Lopi, it's got to be my favorite wool.

I have a few more details to do, and the sweater's done...I can't wait to show it off!

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