Wednesday, 27 June 2012


I must have talked about steeking here at some point. It's one of those odd things about being an internet knitter, you feel like everybody knows but actually there's a massive swathe of people who do just pick a printed pattern and knit it in whatever yarn (and even colourway) is on the pattern - I'm sure you lot have heard of steeking so maybe I'm preaching to the converted but I'm going to proceed as if you haven't because maybe you haven't and then I can be helpful!

So steeking. Essentially it means cutting your knitting. Mainly, it'll be to make a jumper, knitted in the round, into a cardigan but you can also steek necklines, armholes or pockets (and I'm sure a fair few other things too).

You can make any pattern into a steeked pattern. If you were to make a cardigan into a steeked pattern you'd cast on the full number of stitches for the fronts and the back plus five or five or six extra stitches at the centre front and then knit happily along in the round (you'll have to do something for the sleeves, we'll talk about that in a minute). When you get to the end, you'll secure the steek (we'll talk about that too), chop, pick up stitches for a button band and bish, bash, bosh, you've made a cardigan. Dead easy!

Maybe a little bit more conceptually difficult, but not actually any more difficult, is a neckline. Imagine a v neck, something like this:

You've knitted happily in the round up to the v neck (let's ignore the armholes for now, I promise we will get back to them...). What do you do know?

Well, you'll knit to the point of the V:

Cast on five or six stitches using something like a cable or backwards loop cast on and carry on with your life until you're back to the beginning of the round. 

Then you'll knit to four stitches before the V, do a k2tog, k2, knit across the steek stitches, k2, ssk (or something like). You'll carry on in this manner, according to the pattern or from your brain, until you've decreased as you need to for the v neck. Then you'll carry on straight until it's as long as you need it to be, essentially, knitting the steek stitches as if they're not important. 

If you cast off, you cast off the steek stitches like normal. If you put stitches on hold, then put the stitches on hold but cast off the steek stitches. 

It'll look very odd. Don't worry. 
The red box is the steek stitches, the green line is your k2tog's and the blue line is your ssk's. 

Make sense?

You do the same thing for a round neckline but you'll have to cast off (or put on hold) some stitches before you cast on for the steek. 

The purple bit is the cast off, the red is the steek, the green the k2tog's and the blue the ssk's. 

And, funnily enough, the same thing again for an armhole:

Or even a pocket (I won't traumatise you with any more of my paint drawings...).

So, you can do all sorts of shaping around a steek, not just straight up the middle of a jumper. 

Then what do you do? Well, you reinforce it and then you cut it!

How to do you reinforce? Well, first thing, some yarns don't need it (apparently...). Sticky yarns, like a good old fashioned Shetland yarn, that felt as you look at them. I also suspect that the Lopi wouldn't need it, but I never got round to testing that. I tried no reinforcements with this Rowan yarn (can't remember which one and it's been discontinued anyway so it doesn't really matter) back in the day and I can tell you for free that it bloody did need reinforcing!

I should have thought harder about it. 

You can crochet the reinforcement. I found this blog post about that. It's the first and only website that really explained crochet steeking in a way in which I understood so I hope that helps. I was going to do it with my Oranje but I couldn't find a feltable yarn that would work on that project. So I ended up using a: 

Hand Sewn Steek Reinforcement: 

Please bear in mind here that I'm no expert on steeking or sewing, I've just been asked a number of time in the shop if I could explain what I did so I am. I'll answer any questions I can though, if you have them. 

  • I attached the thread at the bottom of the steek with a couple of tiny stitches. I made sure that my thread was at the back of the work. 
  • I came up to the top through the left leg of the stitch that I'd chosen, and down to the back through the right leg of that stitch but I didn't pull it taut so there was a little loop of thread on the top of the fabric. 
  • I moved to the next stitch, coming up through the left leg of it, I made sure that the loop from the last stitch was caught in this motion, then I tugged that tight. I moved my needle down through the right leg of the current stitch and didn't pull taut leaving me a little loop of thread at the top of the fabric again which I used in the next stitch when I repeated this bullet point from the top. 
  • (Can you tell I really dislike sewing?)
  • It is important that all of the stitches have been sewn through - no cheating. It is also important that you sew through the legs of the stitches rather than around them, you want to be splitting the plies for the best 'grabby' effect. 
  • I did the same thing again on the other side of the steek.
  • It looked like this: 

Neat, ey?

Once you've got that far you can chop with wild abandon! There's not much to it - I suggest you use sharp scissors and go slowish that you make sure you're always going up the same ladder of the stitches (either in the middle of two legs of a stitch or between two stitches and either way, right in the centre of the steek stitches). But that's easy, see?

Snip, snip!

You can also reinforce your steeks using a machine. You need to set the stitch to as small a straight stitch as it will go and do the same thing as we did there. Again, you need to make sure that all of the stitches are caught so by the sounds of it a lot of people run it through a machine twice. For me, it would also be useful to make sure not to sew the back and front together... I'll try it and some point and see. 

Reinforcing the steeks means that you can just about steek anything, including acrylic! I can't say I'd recommend something shiny and sleek like silk, rayon or the Patons Cotton but it's only time and yarn - why not try it yourself?

Once you've reinforced and cut, you'll most likely need to pick up stitches and knit something like a button band, or a neckband or maybe a pocket. Do it. All you need to do is fold the steek under and pick up stitches along the side. Dead easy. 

Once you've done that, it's just a case of folding under the steek and doing something like blanket stitch over the top of it to keep it in place. I guess that's another kind of reinforcement. Reading through the projects for Oranje, a lot of people are sewing a ribbon over the top of the steek stitches to keep them in place and make them look lovely. I'll do it at some point, when I get a day off and I'm not galavanting around the country or writing 20 million blog posts...

I think my little steek adventure turned out wonderfully: 

The top left is when it was still a jumper and I love it! I do believe I'll make another one at some point and keep it as a jumper. I saw a fair few beautiful 4plies yesterday in Bristol so we'll just have to see!

Lily certainly appreciated it: 

Always where she shouldn't be...

Love Eleanor. :)

1 comment:

  1. This is by far the best demonstration of how to steek!