Random Acts of Steeking

Last time, we left our intrepid knitting heroine (that would be me) discovering (after knitting roughly 3800 stitches, of course) that she had unwittingly added extra ease to the hips of her Farmer's Market Cardigan.

We also left Our Intrepid Heroine admitting that she had added a steek to the front of her cardi, a factoid that left the commenters begging for more. I wrote up a nice, loooong postie covering both the shaping and the steek, beauty and the beast, as it were…and this morning as I read it over, I realized it was all just a bit too…serious…given the fact that today marks the final day of 2009. The way I figure it, given the year we knitters have had, today we ought to PARTY.

So let's save the shaping discussion for next week, and talk about The Steek, because I gotta say, putting a steek into your sweater when you've never done a steek ever in your entire life and you're just completely winging the whole thing and you're fervently hoping that no one like Meg Swansen is reading your blog (Hi, Meg!) because maybe this will all end up as a huge yarniful flop calls for a whole lotta knitting chutzpah.

And I think that kind of chutzpah calls for a party, don't you?

So let us continue with our Great Farmer's Market Knitting Adventure, and celebrate The Day of the Steek.

Sandi's Steekiness

A steek, for the uninitiated, is a panel of stitches knitted in place of an opening in your sweater, a panel that will later be cut open and sewn to the inside so it will not show. Front openings, necks, and armholes are the most common locations for steeks. Steeks are usually added to sweaters knitted in stranded colourwork, converting a flat-knitted piece into a piece knitted in the round, allowing the yarns to be carried gracefully across the entire back of the piece, and ensuring better tension overall.

In the case of my cardigan, I added a steek because I purl about three times more slowly than I knit, and with huge swaths of back-and-forth-in-rows stockinette stitch in the body and sleeves of this cardi, I was concerned that my purling speed would cause me to finish the sweater by, oh, around 2013. (Not acceptable. Am cold now. Want pretty sweater ASAP.)

So I threw in the steek, converting the back-and-forth, knit-and-purl stockinette stitch of the body to all knitting-in-the-round stockinette stitch. Kind of gutsy considering I'd never done a steek before. Woo!

And now my knitting FLIES. As you read this, I am working the bust increases 🙂 Wheee!

Steek-y Technical Specs: At the end of Row 22, I placed a marker, cast on six extra stitches, placed another marker, and joined the last one of these to the first stitch of Row 23, being careful not to twist my knitting. I worked Row 23 (now Rnd 23) as a usual right-side row/round until the last stitch of the round–the one stitch before the beginning-of-steek-stitches marker. I purled that last stitch, slipped the marker, knit the six steek stitches, slipped the marker, purled the first stitch of Rnd 24, and continued with Rnd 24 as a right-side row, working all stitches as established.

The one-stitch garter stitch border in the knitted-flat version has thus become a purl stitch before and after the steek panel in the knitted-in-the-round version. This will give me a nice clean turning edge later when I cut the steek and turn the panel under to sew it to the inside of the cardigan.

What about the first 22 rows that did not have a steek panel in place? Not a problem. I read ahead in the instructions, so I knew what was coming: After the body is worked, I'll be picking up stitches along the front edges for the pockets and the shawl collar. I can pick up stitches whether there is a steeked edge or not; the steek itself won't show if I am careful. So I'm fairly certain the steek conversion will work out in this particular sweater. Cross fingers.

And what have we learned, Dorothy? I learned that it is OK to experiment mid-sweater. Want a steek and didn't think of it until Row 23? No problem. Read the instructions (ALL of them, ALL of the way through, no skimming allowed) to see if adding a steek is a possibility given the design and construction of that particular sweater. If it is possible, then put on your fearless, and work out how to incorporate the steek into your knitting.

So that's how I'm ending up 2009, a year of huge changes for me personally and professionally, a year of challenges and a year of really great yarns, both the kind you knit with and the kind you tell to friends over clicking needles. Thank you, each and every one of you, for sharing this momentous year with me, for telling me your stories, and for listening to mine.

Do you have a knitting resolution for 2010?

I've thought about it, and I'm going to make a couple of resolutions for my crafting life for the new year. First, I want to finish at least two sweaters for myself, the Farmer's Market Cardigan and Nora's Sweater (yes, that is my next big project!). Second, I want to finish up the lace shawl design I've had in my notebook and (deeeep breath) submit it to Interweave Knits. (Yes, that makes me nervous. Yes, even I get nervous about submitting designs to IK. I mean. Eunny Jang is one of my knitting heros. Yes, I work with her, but still. Eep!) And third (because good things always come in threes, right?), I want to spin some lovely yarn and then knit something wonderful out of my very own handspun yarn.


There you go, my three knitting resolutions for 2010. What are yours? Leave a comment and share what you want to be knitting (or spinning, or crocheting, or ??) in 2010.

Here are my three wishes for you in 2010:
1. Be fearless.
2. Be joyful.
3. Knit your heart out!

– 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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