Wrong Side Out: Gettin’ Steeky with It

The Prairie Wind Cardigan from Interweave Knits Fall 2017 is a stunning autumn-colored stranded cardigan with a steek up the front. Stranded colorwork is always so gorgeous on the outside, but have you ever taken a look at the inside of a colorwork sweater? The strands make an equally lovely pattern, with streaks of color running parallel to one another. Colorwork sweaters are almost pretty enough to wear inside out!

stranded colorwork
Notice that, in the Prairie Wind Cardigan, there aren’t any long floats stranded across the back. The designer, Amy Gunderson, avoided long floats by using small stitch repeats and tacking the longer floats as she worked. This is the best way to work stranded colorwork, as short floats are less prone to snagging.

stranded colorwork

This cardigan is worked entirely in the round and then steeked, or cut open. You can see where the stranded knitting changes from the elaborate stitch pattern to simple columns of colors. These stitches are cut open for the steek. There are a couple of ways to work a steek:

The Checked Method

This is more or less what it sounds like: you work the stitches in a checkerboard pattern. This makes a tidy steek that lies very flat under the bands.

stranded colorwork

The Striped Method

In this method, the two colors of yarn are worked in a vertical stripe pattern. This is the method I generally use, and it’s the method used on the Prairie Wind Cardigan. It provides a very distinct vertical line, which makes it easy to know which column of knitting you’re cutting into when you open the steek.

stranded colorwork

Once you’ve finished the project, the steek is usually reinforced with a crochet edging or sewn with needle and thread prior to cutting. However, on this cardigan, the designer chose to live dangerously—she simply cut the steek without any reinforcements! Cutting without reinforcement can be risky, but because this cardigan is worked in a non-superwash wool, the stitches prefer to stick together rather than ravel, making this a safe approach to steeking.

The last step in the steeking process is dealing with the cut ends of the yarn. Again, there are a few ways to address these yarn ends; in this case, the designer chose the simple but elegant method of using a needle and thread to sew the steeked edges to the inside of the cardigan. It’s very subtle; it’s hard to see her tiny stitches!

The next time you see a stranded colorwork cardigan at your LYS, take a look at the wrong side and see how they handled their floats and finished their steeks. Or dive in and try steeking your next project. Get your steek on!

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One Comment

  1. Myriam G at 8:10 pm October 7, 2017

    The Prairie Wind cardigan is so there, on my to-knit list. I don’t have time to tackle it now – you know, Xmas knitting and all – but it’s going to be self-indulgent knitting for me, after the Holiday. Wish me luck with the steek!

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