Knavish knitting

Published on Tuesday October 27th, 2009

Three pricks to the conscience in twenty-four hours can’t be ignored. First an off-hand comment from my husband: “Gosh, sweetie, you haven’t updated your blog in a while.” Then a heartfelt note of admiration from a reader on the other side of the world, of which I hardly felt worthy. And finally a call from my father, who checks Blue Garter almost every day for news of his eldest and was beginning to be concerned that I might be sick or sunk in a blue mood.

The truth is I’m just fine. I started a miscellaneous post and lost interest in it before it was done. The post I was excited to write a week ago was about something old-but-new I was trying with my mother’s Three and One sweater. This sweater is in Aran-weight wool, and I was concerned about the bulk of a regular steeked edge at the neckline and armholes. Then I read about Norwegian pseudo-steeks: cutting open your knitting with no steek allowance stitches added in. And there’s this brilliant method of picking up stitches with a larger needle, working a couple of rounds, then going back with a smaller needle, picking up the backs of the stitch heads from the inside and working a couple of rounds on those stitches, then joining the two lines to wrap the cut edge, tidily sealing it up for good and leaving a beautiful finished edge. Of course now I can’t remember where I read about that last part—someone’s going to remind me in the Comments and then I’ll add an update, which is what’s tops about the internet—but I was preparing a nice little photo tutorial for you as I went along.

Then it all went awry. The knitting turned on me, friends.

It turns out that one line of machine-sewn stitches, even if they’re teensy, is not enough to secure a steek edge if you’re not using fine and sticky yarn. I picked up as described and encased my steek edge, but I knew I couldn’t trust it… It looked pretty but felt dodgy, like Mr. Wickham. And when I gingerly gave it a few experimental tugs, the cut floats started to work free. No good. It pains me to imagine my mother’s distress if she were to wear her sweater and the sleeves started to come loose and unravel. I had a few panicky moments where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to salvage the top half of the sweater at all. But I carefully pulled out my work and skedaddled back to my trusty sewing machine. I went over the first line again from the back side, tucking in those wayward float ends. Then I sewed a second line beside it.

Now I had an edge that felt really sturdy, and it naturally wanted to fold to the inside, docile and waiting politely to be tacked down with overcast stitches. So I didn’t fight it. I picked up stitches around the armhole in the usual way and proceeded with my sleeve. Ah well. At least the sweater is saved and still on track to be done for Christmas.

Yes, it’s time to be thinking seriously about holiday gift knitting. I’m not sure quite what became of October, but it’s nearly gone. So Katrin and I finally made a decision about this year’s KAL/exchange. We each had stash yarn that would work for Eunny Jang’s Ivy League Vest, so that’s what we picked. I couldn’t resist casting on right away, and I’m already into the first large band. We both wanted to lengthen the torso of this cropped design, so I’ve started with a size larger than Katrin needs to accommodate shaping over the hips, and I’ll just keep decreasing until I’m down to the correct stitch count for her waist size. I love the browns, teals, and bright pop of new-leaf green she’s chosen.

This pattern means steeks again, though. I’m going to be well practiced indeed, working the Three and One and the Ivy League at once! Anyone need any knitting cut open? I’ll be your girl. Those steeks won’t get the better of me again.

8 Comments to “Knavish knitting”

  1. jane Comment Says:

    Mr Wickham!!! Oh that is just about the funniest analogy I’ve ever heard applied to somebody’s knitting. I might have to try and compare mine to Austen characters more often.
    Happy steeking!

  2. Catherine Comment Says:

    You’re welcome 🙂

  3. Mick Comment Says:

    I’m glad you got the steeks under control! I still haven’t tried this; it terrifies me. Also, you have moved up in my estimation even more due to the P&P reference. Oh, Wickham. What a shady character.

  4. Liesl Comment Says:

    I think you may have read about that technique of sealing up edges in But, I may be wrong about that as she was using the technique on a blanket edge, not a steek edge … Perhaps it was on MaryAnn Stephen’s blog, twostrands She had a great tutorial about this in her Tiger Lily cardigan pattern. Anyhoo, I’m glad it’s all working out in the end. Would love to see pics, but I suppose those must wait until after Christmas! Happy knitting!

  5. Wendolene Comment Says:

    Disaster averted! I’d love to see pictures of your steeks. Since first hearing about knitty forays into steekdom, I have wanted to try the technique myself–but not until I’ve studied several successful examples!

  6. Seanna Lea Comment Says:

    I am just getting into color work now, so I imagine it is only a matter of time before I will have to cut steeks (I keep wanting to type it as steaks). I will have to keep the yarn type in mind when I get to that point in my knitting.

  7. Jodi Comment Says:

    “It looked pretty but felt dodgy, like Mr. Wickham” – best simile ever.

    October flew by in a flash, and it’s rather terrifying to have the holidays in sight already. Ivy League will be gorgeous, I’m sure!

  8. Mary Ann Stephens Comment Says:

    Sorry to read of your panicky steeking moments, but I’m glad you’ve got things under control. Good for you! Before you had cut, I really wish you had clicked through to the next page on my steeking article, just beyond “Norwegian pseudo-steeks”, where I mention “Certainly, machine sewing with a minute stitch length will most reliably lock down each strand at multiple points. In fact, I use 2 rows of machine stitches right next to each other.” I’m sure some folks think I’m a big weenie for doubling my reinforcements, but as you can see, it can really pay off! By the way, you can also find the info for my Covered Steek method on that same page. Hope it helps for your next steeking adventure, sans that Wickham rascal!