Cutting the Steek, Step-by-Step

I did it.

I cut my knitting, and the sweater survived, and no one fainted, and in the end, it wasn't as big a deal as I thought it would be. (Two cups of coffee, max. No chocolate required, not even afterwards. No alcohol required. Strictly PG-13.)

I recommend Eunny Jang's article "Steeks–Cutting the Edge" ("Beyond the Basics," Interweave Knits Winter 2006) as a reference for learning the basics of steeking. I ended up having this article open on the table next to me for every stitch and snip.


Ready to cut!

 

I learned that cutting your knitting is all about the preparation; if you prepare the knitting properly, then the cutting itself is a bit of an anticlimax–a few snips and the deed is done!

Here are step-by-step photos of how I "steeked" the body of my Farmer's Market Cardigan. Just remember: The steek isn't in the original pattern; I put it there as an experiment in converting a flat pattern to knitting-in-the-round. (So far, so good!)



SHOWN HERE:

  • The green dotted line shows the cutting line.
  • The blue arrows point to the purl ridges marking the "foldover" for each edge.
  • You can see the columns of neck decreases off to the side of each purl turning ridge.
 

Step 1: First line of stitching (and materials)

To prepare a piece of knitting for cutting, you need to secure the stitches in the steek panel so they do not come undone when you cut them.

To secure my knitted stitches, I sewed VERTICALLY between columns of stitches, splitting the knitting yarn as I went.

Sewing materials: At first, I tried using embroidery floss and a sharp-pointed needle, as shown here. As I sewed, I noticed that the floss was slipping through the yarn really easily–but I didn't want something that slipped easily through the yarn, as the stitches might just slip on out! I switched to a somewhat sticky sock yarn, and that worked beautifully. (The sock yarn also shows up in the photos better.)

Method: I backstitched from bottom to top of the steek panel, between the two columns of stitches as shown.

Stitch placement: My first stitching line was one full stitch-width away from the cutting line.


 

Step 2: Second and third stitching lines

Next, I stitched two more vertical lines, each one-half column away from either side of the cutting line. I followed the middle of each column of stitches as shown here, again backstitching with sock yarn.

IMPORTANT HINT: As you stitch, pierce the yarn strands of the sweater with the sewing needle. Don't sew between the strands of your knitted stitches, pierce the strands themselves so that the yarn splits. The twist and stickiness of the knitting yarn will help hold the sewn stitches in place.


 

Step 3: Final line of stitching

I made a fourth line of vertical stitches, this time one full stitch-width to the left of the cutting line.

In the photo, you can see three of my four vertical lines of stitching. Remember that you can't see the first line of stitches, as the embroidery floss I used for the first try disappeared into the knitting.

And then I was ready to cut!


 

Step 4: Beginning to cut

Using a small, sharp pair of scissors, I made that first somewhat-scary cut…only to realize that I could Trust The Stitches and snip away happily (but slowly).

Why did I use a small (rather than large) pair of scissors? I found I could get better control and accuracy–it was easier to "aim" the blades so they cut exactly where I wanted them to cut.

TIPS:

  • Go slowly.
  • Snip no more than about two stitches at a time.
  • Place the tips of the scissors carefully between stitch columns, and check before you cut that only the horizontal bars are between the scissor blades.

  Here's a close-up of the scissor placement between two columns of stitches. Note the two stitching lines to the left of the scissors. You can make out one line of stitching to the right, but the other stitching line is hidden.

 

Here's what the knitting looked like as I cut into it.

What about the ragged edges? Remember, the steek panel itself will become a facing–the edges will be turned under at the purl ridge. Then I will whipstitch the raw edges down. The shawl collar and pockets will cover the front edges here so nothing will show.


  Almost there…no chocolate has been needed (yet)…

  And I'm done! The raw edges here are rolling under all by themselves at the purl ridge, eager and ready to become a neat little facing.

  I folded the edges under neatly at the purl ridge in this photo so you could see what it might look like after I have finished whipstitching the facing into place.

 

The fun part: Trying it on

Look: Waist shaping! And hip shaping! And a lovely armhole! The whole sweater body fits perfectly, so my math was a success. Whoo!

 


 

And a final shot of the graceful V-neck! Wait till I add the shawl collar–this sweater is going to be gorgeous.

Oh, and sleeves. Perhaps some sleeves would be nice, too. And don't you love the humble shot with my purple bath towel in the background? Cinema verite, right here in my bathroom.


So what do you think about steeks? Are you nervous about trying a steek for yourself? Or, if you've done them already, do you have any hints for future adventures in steeking? I love to hear from you, so leave a comment and let me know your tips and thoughts for cutting into one's knitting.

I'm do think a couple of sleeves would be good, so I have already cast on for a pair. To amuse myself, however, I might just have to try a pocket. Just for grins.

See you next Thursday!

Till then, I hope you have something truly satisfying on the needles. (What ARE you knitting, anyways? I'm curious to know!)

– Sandi

Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily every Thursday. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits.

 

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