Once upon a time, back in the dark ages before the internet was available to the general population, I purchased a book: Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting. (This is the original 1988 edition I’m talking about so I have cleverly deduced that this was in the late 1980s.)
I flipped through the book and decided I wanted to make the Wave Cardigan. I ordered a bunch of Harrisville shetland wool, matching the colors as best I could to the Jamieson & Smith 2 Ply Jumper Weight the pattern called for. I noticed that the pattern instructed you to knit the cardigan in the round, and cut open the front and the armholes. “How cool, ” thought I, and did just that. I followed the instructions exactly, and the cardigan turned out great. Here’s a photo of it, taken all those many years ago before the days of the digital camera and scanned.
Nowadays you mention steeking to a group of knitters and 75% of them react with horror at the thought of cutting into their knitting. Me? I had no fear because I didn’t know to be scared. Alice Starmore told me to do it, and my experience was that she knew what she was doing. She did.
I blame the internet. People have passed on their fear of steeking in online forums and blogs. And I think a lot of this fear stems from mis-information.
I have steeked quite a few sweaters in my day. When you steek a knit made from shetland wool, it will not unravel. Shetland wool is a sticky, hairy beast, as anyone who has tried to unravel colorwork knitted with Shetland will tell you. If you wet or steamblock your finished garment, the cut edge will felt slightly and adhere to the inside of the work, and it is not going anywhere. I knit the Wave Cardigan in 1989, I think: 23 years ago. I have worn it quite a bit, and the steeks have not unraveled at all.
Back in the early days of this blog, I did a step-by-step demo of cutting a steek and picking up stitches, here. When I get to cutting the steeks for this project, I’ll be sure to document it.
If you want to steek a garment knit with non-hairy wool, you need to reinforce your stitches before cutting. I did a couple of tutorials on these techniques, here and here. And I did an article on steeking for Knitty ages ago.
Bottom line — if you have interest in knitting and steeking a sweater, please don’t let fear of steeking stop you. There are many many internet resources on steeking to guide you if you do not have an “in-person” mentor at your side.
Here is my progress on the back of the coat since my last blog post:
Here’s a close-up of the steek stitches:
When I cut, I will do so down the center where there are two columns of stitches in the same color.
Time to go play with Lucy. She has a paper ball and she knows how to use it!