Knitting Techniques: Finishing Steeked Edges
I got a text the other day from one of my knitting friends. it went like this:
Friend: Hi Kathleen! Have you done steeking??
Friend: Sounds scary! CUTTING your knitting! May need your help!
KC: I’d be glad to help and support you through the process. The first cut is the hardest, but then it’s empowering and fun.
Friend: I’ll take your word for it!
We have an appointment to CUT THE KNITTING!
Steeks are one of the scariest knitting techniques, along with cabling without a cable needle (those stitches are hanging free!) and ripping back lace (was that a yarn over?!?). But steeking is also a wonderful tool to use when working Fair Isle knitting patterns or knitting stranded colorwork because you can knit the whole thing in the round. There’s lots of info out there on how to knit and cut a steek, but not much about finishing the raw edges the steek leaves. This is where Interweave Knits comes in. Donna Kay wrote a fabulous article in the winter 2015 issue of Knits, all about steeking, cutting a steek, adding an edging, and finishing the raw edges. I’ve excerpted the edging and finishing portion here; I think it’s really interesting, and I hope you will to!
After the Cut: How to Finish a Steek
Steek is a Scottish word that knitters use to describe a group of extra stitches cast on to bridge an opening in a circularly knitted garment—such as a Fair Isle cardigan’s front, armholes, and neck. These stitches may also be referred to as “cutting” or “extra” stitches, depending on the style of sweater. Treated like a seam allowance, the steek usually is not included in the main pattern or the finished measurements. The Kittery Point Cardigan shown above uses a steek at the front opening, allowing the body to be worked in the round and then cut open in finishing.
To stabilize the front of the sweater, you need to add some type of edging. The edging can be picked up and worked or knitted separately and joined to the fronts after knitting.
Picked Up Band: Any pattern that will lie flat can be used as an edging. Stitches can be picked up and knitted between the body and steek or by going under the outer leg of the steek stitch adjacent to the body. Use a needle one or two sizes smaller than the garment needle to pick up and knit along the edge, keeping in mind your stitch-to-row ratio: typically three stitches for four rows for a single-color sweater but as close as one stitch per row for a Fair Isle sweater. Practice on your test swatch: too many stitches will result in an overly long band, causing the front to droop; too few stitches will pull the bottom up, shortening the front. It takes less time to practice on the swatch than to rip out a band with a hundred or more stitches! Work the buttonband first, determine the buttonhole spacing, then work the buttonhole band.
Vertical Band: A vertical band can grow out of the bottom band or be worked separately and joined. Any pattern that lies flat can be used, including I-cord. Work separately on needles two sizes smaller or pick up stitches along the edge and attach the band as you work. When the band reaches the neck, leave the stitches on a holder with the yarn attached. Sew the band to the body using mattress stitch, sewing between steek and body. When you reach the top, you can adjust the length. Determine the buttonhole spacing and work the buttonhole band to match.
Once the steek is cut and the edging worked, you can choose how to finish it.
Faced: For a neat, reinforced edge, pick up stitches along the front and work the edging in pattern or stockinette stitch. When the band is the desired width, work a turning row (purl ridge on the right side) and knit a stockinette-stitch facing. Fold the band to the wrong side on the turning row, tucking the steek inside, and slip-stitch into place. If the steek is wide, you may choose to trim it back to reduce the bulk. This band’s reinforced edge works with any steek and looks great on the wrong side. Steam press the band on both sides to reduce the bulk and to help it lie flat. This method is great if you’re going to use snaps, metal clasps, frog closures, zippers, or hooks and eyes.
Turned Under and Stitched: This technique creates a neat finish for a steek that has been secured with crochet or sewing. Fold the steek to the inside, tucking the cut edge underneath so the stitching is no longer visible. A steek knitted with vertical columns will fold easily. Using matching yarn or needle and thread, slip-stitch the band in place, catching the wrong side of the garment every couple of rows. Press the folded steek with a damp cloth and an iron, being careful not to press the ribbing.
Raw and Trimmed: No matter what edging has been worked on the sweater, if the steek is firm enough, it can be trimmed and left unfinished on the inside of the work. Leaving the steek unfinished is a good choice for a crocheted steek, leaving the crocheted edge intact. Fold the steek to the inside toward the body and steam press it in place, avoiding the edging. This treatment has the least amount of bulk. With wear and washing, the steek will continue to felt on the edges and attach itself to the inside of the sweater.
—Donna Kay, Interweave Knits Winter 2015
The facing edge is my favorite. I love Fair Isle cardigans with metal hook closures, and that edge is perfect for those.For the rest of this article, and so much more, get our entire Interweave Knits 2015-2016 Collection. You’ll get amazing patterns that span the year, plus in-depth articles about knitting techniques, like this one on steek finishing. The collection also includes the 2015 issue of Knits Gifts!
Get your collection today and cast on.
P.S. What’s your favorite way to finish a steeked edge? Leave a comment below and let me know!