Steeks, Continued: Of Facings and Frayed Edges

Feb 4, 2010

Are you ready for the next installment in my adventures knitting the Farmer's Market Cardigan? Sure you are!






Last week, I was so high on the whole cutting-my-knitting-experience that I blithely typed the following bit of knitterly hand-waving:

Remember, the steek panel itself will become a facing–I will turn the edges under at the purl ridge. Then I will whipstitch the raw edges down.

Once I sat down with the actual sweater body to work on the actual front-edge facings it became clear, once again, are-you-bored-with-hearing this-yet, that nothing is as easy as it seems.


 

There were two tasks ahead of me with respect to the facing:

(1) Secure the frayed edges in some neat, tailored sort of way; and

(2) Stitch the facing down to the sweater without it being seen on the right side of the garment.

 


The dilemma: I'd never seen a steek facing done in real life. I'd seen photos of pretty grosgrain ribbons sewn neatly along front edges, and I had a few blog entries and Internet articles showing how to stitch things down with blanket stitch or whipstitch. But no step-by-step photos, no detailed instructions.

I was not born with the knowledge of steeks imprinted in my synapses. I require tutorials. I require hand-holding. (I also need to have this sweater done in time for the fibre retreat I am going to at the end of February, but that perhaps is a different level of need...)

And then one blogger mentioned knitting a facing by picking up stitches along the frayed edge. She even described knitting a pretty little design into her facing to complement her lovely sweater.


A knitted facing?! I could KNIT a facing? No one said anything about a knitted-in facing. In fact, I had been planning to use grosgrain ribbon to cover the cut edges of the steek. I just hadn't found the perfect matching grosgrain ribbon yet.

But a knitted facing...And that's when the lightbulb went on. Suddenly, I could see the whole process, and how one did it, and what it would look like (and the fact that my sweater could be done in time for my retreat. Yay!). I grabbed a swatch I'd done with the sweater yarn, and pelted upstairs for a bit of a rummage through my yarn bins.

I wanted to use a thinner yarn for the facing in order to reduce bulk. I chose a lovely handpainted merino sock yarn (Koigu) in complementary colours and a needle size that corresponded to the sock yarn's weight (size 1.5 U.S./2.5mm). Note on colour choice: Normally, I might have chosen something that would blend in a bit more, but for purposes of photography, I figured a little extra colour couldn't hurt. But still: Pretty, yes?

 


 Inserting a Knitted Facing

   


I picked up the vertical loops one full stitch-width away from the purl turning column.

 

Step 1:

Pick up and knit stitches along the cut edge of the sweater front.

How many stitches? I picked up three stitches for every two vertical loops, given the standard ratio of knitted stitches being about a third higher than they are wide.

The truth is that I just winged it. I never counted, I just picked up stitches and adjusted the total until it laid flat and "looked right." (I trusted myself and since we're all fearless knitters here, you can trust yourselves, too.)

 



 

 

Step 2:

If you are like me, you pick up stitches with the right side of the work facing you. Thus, the next row is a wrong-side row.

Work the first WS row as a KNIT row, so that it produces a ridge of bumps on the right side of the work. This will help the knitted flap you are making to lay flat.

 



 

 

Here you can see the purl turning column of the steek, indicated by the blue arrow.

Notice how there is one full column of stitches to the right of the arrow. This is the column of stitches between the purl turning ridge and the picked-up stitches for the facing.



  Here's what it looks like all along the right-side edge of the right front of the sweater.


 

Here's what it looks like from the wrong side, in case that is helpful.

Look at all those spiky raw edge thingies. My cool knitted facing is going to cover those and rock the planet. Promise.



 

Step 3:

After working that first knitted (wrong side) row, turn and knit the next, RS, row.

 



 

Step 4: Work in Stockinette stitch (back and forth in rows), until the facing covers the raw edges and extends past them by at least one-eighth to one-quarter of an inch.

Step 5: Bind off LOOSELY (use a larger needle for this if you need to) on a RS row.

How many rows did I work? About ten; my facing measures seven-eighths of an inch total.



 

Step 6: Block your sweater when all the facings have been knitted.

Step 7: Fold the facing and the edges of the fronts to the wrong side, pinning in place as you go. Be careful to follow the purl turning ridge, ensuring that the purl ridge is the "hinge" exactly in the middle of the fold.

Step 8: Steam the facing and the edges down. Be careful not to scorch your knitting–be aware of what type of yarn you are using and what kind of heat it can tolerate before you do this step.

Step 9: Let the knitted fabric dry and cool completely after steaming. Seriously. LET IT COOL COMPLETELY, preferably without moving it.


Aaaaaannnnndddd....we'll stop there. (I know, I am such a tease.) I have to knit the facing for the left front, and figure out a graceful way to stitch these facings down. I'll report back about this next week.

Have any hints to add to this process? Do you have photos of knitted facings you have done? Leave a comment and share with us!

Till next Thursday then: Knit your hearts 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. Or, if you're on Twitter, follow her tweets: alpacasandi.










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Comments

on Feb 10, 2010 2:11 PM

This is great!  I LOVE the knitted facing.  I have never liked the sewn in ribbon facings.  They create a stiff area in the sweater which has a different kind of movement from the rest of the garment.  The knitted facing will move much like the rest of the sweater fabric.  Thanks so much for the step-by-step and the great photos!

MegM@7 wrote
on Feb 7, 2010 3:06 PM

Steeks have always seemed so scary to me that I never have considered doing one.  Thanks for showing me how.  I love your blogs, I always learn something!  Thanks!

Anonymous@2 wrote
on Feb 6, 2010 3:51 PM

Great tutorial and i  totally agree about  winging the number of stitches you pick up - you are so right! The ratio could be considered a guideline,, but be sure to check the actual  ratio for your project, it's very easy:

our actual ratio would be determined by your column vs row count on your swatch if yo umade one, or better yet, on the garment itself, near but not right at the steek. .  if 8 st and 12 rows give a 4x4 square, then the ratio is 2:3. If it is 12 st and 16 rows, the ratio is 3:4 and so on. Things like colorwork  tends to change the ratio, it might even come out 1:1

The ratio method alone might work if you use the same yarn and stitch pattern for the facing, but it also might not..

If, like this example, you use a different weight yarn with different size needles, then the garment and the facing each has it's own ratio. Even if they both have a ratio of 3:4, three stitches of the heavier yarn will not equal 4 rows of the lighter, and vice-versa.

And so, in the words of a fearless knitter- Wing It! Thanks for the  great article.

Chris@147 wrote
on Feb 6, 2010 6:14 AM

Are the raw ends of the steeked stitches left raw and just covered up with the facing?  Whats to stop the stitches from un raveling over time?  It seems something should be done with these stitches to avoid that.  I've never steeked my knitting, but this just seems wrong to me.

ALA wrote
on Feb 4, 2010 12:11 PM

I love the idea of kntted facings - it seems like it would be more flexible and move with the rest of the sweater better than ribbon. Plus, I'd rather knit than sew!

LauraS wrote
on Feb 4, 2010 11:59 AM

Your clear explanations make this seem so...do-able. Many thanks!

AstridB wrote
on Feb 4, 2010 10:56 AM

Ooo, that is so clever! And pretty!

DebbieC@62 wrote
on Feb 4, 2010 8:30 AM

Elizabeth Zimmerman is a proponent of knitted facings, and she suggests not casting off - just attach the live stitches down to the inside of the garment so that there is not the extra bulk of the cast off.  I really appreciate your sharing step by step - I'm a quite new knitter and learn everytime I read your blog!

SelahIsrael wrote
on Feb 4, 2010 8:00 AM

Have you thought about using a fuse-able interfacing, maybe the tape kind?