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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13 thoughts on “Random Acts of Steeking

  1. Thank you, Sandy for sharing with us! I love your writing style, it is more like a quick conversation with a friend. My knitting goals are all Ravelry challenges: 1000000 stitches, the sock challenges, and 10 shawls in 2010.

  2. Happy New Year!!!

    My 2010 yarny resolutions:
    1) Complete 2 crochet sweaters that are both currently WIP: The butterfly wrap and the hourglass jacket – both by StitchDiva
    2) Complete 1 crochet skirt – must decide between 3 contenders – seriously considering the one in Interweave Crochet’s fall issue…
    3) Improve my knitting skills so I can take on more challenging items than scarves – which means, for me, some sort of sampler project – a throw or a couple of scarves.
    4) Begin to learn to spindle spin (yep – I’m going there – you were right, thrums are a gateway drug) On this one though – I’ll be happy if I just make a start 🙂

  3. Just this week I’d been thinking of asking someone what the great advantage of steeks are– they’ve always seemed scary, and un-necessary. Now I know! Thanks so much, Sandi. You’ve come thru again.
    Best wishes for your new year, and success with your resolutions– particularly Nora’s sweater.

  4. I can’t believe this year is over already!

    My 2010 resolutions are to devote more time to spinning (outside of joining the annual Tour de Fleece), to make at least one thing for me that’s not a pair of socks and to make my mom a sweater.

    There. Now that it’s written down, it has to be so.

    Happy New Year, Sandi!

  5. Happy New Year Sandi – Wow, your fearlessness knows no bounds! I’ve never been brave enough to steek. My fibery resolutions for 2010 are to spin the Polwarth I got at SOAR then to weave a shawl with it, and to knit the Oatmeal Sweater (from the Winter Issue of Spin-Off). Thanks for your good wishes for 2010 – the same to you!

  6. I have two half finished projects to finish, a Cobblestone sweater for my husband, and the Winter Twilight mitts. I also want to make another We Call them Pirates hat in orchid and black,and try the Felicity Hat for myself.

  7. My knitting “goals” for 2010:

    Knit something lace
    Knit something from a chart
    Knit at least one pair of socks
    Work on gifts, esp holiday ones, year round

    I’ll pencil in steeking for 2011!

  8. I resolve to (1) knit my first pair of socks ever (those short needles are a bit daunting), (2) work out the math for converting my knitted skirt for my young daughters (“Mommy you look so pretty – I want one!” “Me too! Me too!”), and (3) figure out where I went wrong in the gauge for the wonderful orange handspun I got from my grandmother’s stash because that pattern and that yarn just belong together. And learn to spin on a spindle. And to use my great wheel. I’m going to have fun!

  9. Hi Sandy–Happy New Year!
    my resolutions are: finish my pair of homespun socks, finish spinning the 3(!) fleeces in storage, and use-up some of my yarn stash and get some gifts made.

    And thanks for the steek lesson….I think I’ll give it a shot on my 2011 list (like KnitNoir)


  10. How are you reinforcing the steek? Isn’t Dream in Color Classy superwash wool? I didn’t think this would hold up that well unless it was seriously reinforced.