In my last post, I mentioned knitting my first steek. For those not familiar with knitting, when you knit a colorwork pattern, it is much easier to knit in the round because you are only knitting every row and not purling on the wrong side rows as you would if knitting a flat piece. This works great if you are knitting a pullover sweater. But what if you want to knit a cardigan? That is where a steek comes in to play. A steek is a panel of 5 or 7 stitches that is allows you to knit a cardigan in the round. When you are done, you secure the steek stitches and then cut the fabric to make the opening. If you’ve never done it before, it can be a bit daunting!
More about the steek in a minute but first, that steek wasn’t the first time I had to take a pair of scissors to a sweater I knit. That was back in 1987 and was definitely not planned.
I had seen this beautiful sweater by Perry Ellis in Vogue Knitting and wanted to make it for my husband. As you can see from the picture above, it was a cable sweater, knit in many colors with each cable pattern being a different color. I had picked out Brown Sheep and Manos de Uruguay yarn in various shades of blues, greens and purples. I was very excited about making this sweater. The sweater design looks complicated but the sweater itself is knit is one piece. You cast on and knit the ribbing for the back and then begin the cable patterns for body of the sweater. The body continues until you get to the sleeves. Stitches are cast on for each sleeve, with additional cable patterns there. I think there were over 22 different cable patterns. Stitches are bound off for the neck opening and once the sleeves are finished, those are bound off as well and the front of the body continued, ending with the ribbing. Finishing meant just adding ribbing to each sleeve and neckline and then stitching up the side and sleeve seams. Viola: finished garment!
I was so excited when finished and couldn’t wait to see my husband wear it. But when he tried on the sweater, he announced he couldn’t wear it. It was too long, hitting him about mid-thigh, more like a tunic than a sweater. I had made a grave error and only paid attention to the chest measurement and not noticed the length measurement on the schematic. The length was more suited to someone a bit taller. I was devastated. I showed the sweater to a fellow knitter, who told me I just needed to unravel the front and cut the back. What? Cut? Yes, she said, you just need to undo the side seam, unravel the front and reknit the ribbing. But since the sweater was knit from the back up, that side would need to be cut so I could get to live stitches for the ribbing. Gulp! Needless to say, that sweater sat in a drawer for several months before I finally got the nerve up, (with the help of a large glass of wine) to deal with it. (Long before cell phones so no pictures of that process I’m afraid but below is the sweater!)
Compared to all that, a steek was easy! Last fall I participated in the Spark and Spice KAL and made the Spark cardigan by Andrea Mowry. It was my first time taking part in a knit along and was a lot of fun. There was a closed Facebook group for participates and everyone was so helpful. There were videos on how to do the steek and the suggestion of practicing on our swatch. It made it quite painless and even fun!
There were two suggestions for securing the steek stitches before cutting: crochet along the steek or sewing with a machine. I decided instead to use needle felting as discussed in this article on Modern Daily Knitting. It worked out very well and I would definitely recommend it. The only thing I would do differently is to needle felt it a bit longer. I was afraid of overdoing it. The edges naturally curl under but I tacked them down as well. Some folks stitch a ribbon to the inside of the edge but I left my natural. Stitches were then picked up for the shawl collar.
Cozy and warm made with Magpie Fibers Nest Worsted and Spin Cycle’s Dream State, it became my go to cardigan over the winter. I would definitely use a steek again. Apparently, they can be used for neck holes and arm holes as well! That shall be a future challenge!
Until next time…..Kim