Dec 23, 2014

Steeks in Handknitted Colorwork Sweaters

Steeking is a term used in knitting to designate a method of conversion of a sweater (usually it's a seamless Fair Isle sweater made in circles) into a cardigan by cutting an opening in the middle front. Also this word is used for a procedure of adding any opening in your knitted garment such as armholes or pocket holes ets. Next step would be to stabilize a cut we just made by creating a picked-up band or vertical band along both edges. Honestly, it's a quite scary procedure, I would't do it without some chocolate consumption to stay calm! But it's so worth it!

First time I was introduced to this technique through one Craftsy class Sweater Surgery by Carol Feller (see - Lesson 5: How to Steek). I love everything about this class! Carol is a charming, intelligent and skillful instructor and designer. Highly recommend this class, mast have for any knitter. It's not a free option though.

Of coarse on YouTube you will find some free video instructions about steeking, like this one:

Recently I've found one interesting article regarding steeking in a newly published issue of Interweave Knits magazine Winter 2015 under this title: Plan Ahead: Best Methods + Finishing Options for Steeks in Colorwork Sweaters by Donna Kay (Pp. 60-63). It it a very helpful article and on the very bottom of it I've found and used a link to discover more details regarding this technique: This article is providing an additional information to the article in the magazine and was written by Amy Palmer. Here are a couple chapters from it.

Reinforcing and cutting steeks

There are several methods for reinforcing steek stitches before cutting, each appropriate to different circumstances. All of them require good light; patience; a small, sharp pair of scissors; and steady nerves.
Unreinforced The traditional steek, worked in sticky Shetland wool in a garment with a very dense gauge, calls for no reinforcement at all. The friction you create as you knit will mat and felt the fabric very slightly, stabilizing the area to be cut and minimizing fraying. Simply cut carefully down the center of each steek, working in a very straight line and snipping just a few threads at a time.
Crocheted Crochet steek reinforcements firmly bind together the sides of two adjacent stitch columns to hold the cut ends securely in place. The method is ideal for sticky or smooth animal fibers still at relatively dense gauges: the applied binding adds security even to yarns that don’t felt readily, but it relies on a firm base fabric to stay in place. Crocheted steeks are not suitable for plant fibers or for superwash wools, since the base fabric must have some natural cling.
Regardless of how many stitches are used in the steek, a crocheted reinforcement is worked only on the three center stitches. Picture the two legs of the V formed by each knit stitch. For a crocheted steek, a line of single crochet binds together each half of the center stitch with the near half of the adjacent stitch. The left side of the steek (with the right side of the work facing) is worked first, from bottom to top. Then the right side is worked from top to bottom.
Begin by turning your garment sideways, so that you’re looking at the steek with the cast-on edge on the right-hand side and the steek itself lying horizontally. Using a crochet hook of the same or slightly smaller diameter than the working knitting needles and a contrasting strand of the knitting wool, start at the cast-on edge and insert hook into the adjoining halves of the left-flanking and center stitches in the first row of the steek (Figure 5). Yarnover and draw a strand of the reinforcing yarn through the two stitch halves (Figure 6). Yarnover again and draw the yarn through the loop, creating a single crochet stitch. Move on to the next pair of stitches above in the steek (or to the left as you look at the steek sideways). *Insert your hook into the adjoining pair of “legs” in this pair, yarnover and draw up a loop (Figure 7). You'll now have two loops on your hook; yarnover and draw yarn through both loops, then move onto the next pair of stitches in the steek. Repeat from * to the top edge of the steek; your steek should look like Figure 8. Cut the working yarn, and pull it through the last crochet stitch to fasten off. To work the right half of the steek, turn the work, start at the bind-off row, and work single crochet through the adjoining halves of the right-flanking and center stitches in the same manner, back down to the cast-on edge.
Figure 5Figure 6
Figure 7Figure 8
When completed, the lines of crochet should slant neatly away from the center cutting site, rather like an open book. Gently pulling the two lines apart will show a ladder of the base knitting—actually the purl bumps of the center stitch. Cut carefully between the crochet lines, taking care not to snip into the crochet itself. The cut edges should be neat and very secure.
Sewn When you use a very-slick-plant or synthetic fiber, sewing is the only way to ensure that a steek will not unravel. Because sewing stitches have no elasticity, some of the flexibility inherent in knitted fabric is lost when you use a sewn reinforcement. Save this method for when crocheting will not provide enough security.
For both handsewing and machine sewing, stitch as close as possible to the cutting line, within one-half or one whole stitch on either side. When you handsew, backstitch with very small stitches that split both the knit stitches and floats (the strands of unused color on the back of the fabric). When you machine sew, set the machine for a small stitch and move in a very straight line down either side of the cutting line. For either method, make as many passes as you deem necessary, though one is almost always sufficient.

Picking up and knitting from a steek edge

Once the steek is cut, you can pick up stitches just inside the cut edge, along the purl channel between the border and body stitches, and work button and neckbands. In a drop-shoulder sweater, the sleeve stitches can be picked up around the armhole between the border and body stitches and the sleeve worked down to the cuff. Figure 9 shows a stitch being picked up at the edge of a steek; notice how the needle picks up the bar between the border stitch of the steek and the first stitch of the body, both of which were worked in the background color. In shaped sweaters, the sleeves may be knitted separately and sewn in along the line created by the border stitch. In every case, the steek flap will naturally fold to the wrong side along the pick-up or seam line. Once all finishing work is completed and the sweater has been washed and blocked, the steeks should be finished neatly by trimming away any frayed ends and tacking down the flap with a simple whipstitch or blanket stitch (Figure 10).
Figure 9Figure 10

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