My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


A Sloppy Frozen Mess

That’s what yesterday was.

I will spare you my entire public transportation rant. If you read any news stories from Washington DC, you’ll understand. But I’ll tell you this. It was not a good feeling, being on a train, inching slowly across a bridge over the Potomac River, going 3-4 mph due to icing on the third rail, particularly when we were close to the other side, the driver announced over the intercom, with relief in his voice, “It looks like we’re going to make it!”

That is all.

(The metro-savvy and observant among you will realize I was on the Yellow Line for that trip. That was after being dumped at National Airport by a disabled Blue Line train.)

Going into work yesterday was a very bad idea, transportation-wise. But a good idea work-wise as all sorts of problems cropped up that I would not be able to deal with from home.

And then the federal government closed early, due to the ice storm and the transportation problems likely.

But I went home a very cranky girl. Seems to be my modus operandi these days.

My mood improved almost immediately when I got my mail. There was a package from Rebecca in France. Inside, beautiful stitch markers! This one:


And two of these!!!!!


Are those the cutest little stitch markers you’ve ever seen? Thank you Rebecca!

Lucy decided to remain inscrutable in the face of all that cuteness!


Felted Kitty Beds!

I’ve added some more photos to the gallery, so be sure to check them out. Thanks to those of you who’ve sent me photos.

And a felted kitty bed question from the comments:

Does practically any fun fur type yarn work with the felted kitty bed – that is, is it a safe bet to put any fun fur yarn with the bulky yarn and felt the project? Are there fun fur yarns I should stay away from when I felt?

I think any fun fur should work. The trick is to hold it with your “regular” feltable yarn and knit them together for as many rounds as you want for the edging. The feltable yarn felts, and the fun fur goes along for the ride, as it were.

Abalone Update

I’ve completed the left front band on Abalone. See?


And started the right front band.


The neckband is knitted first. Then each front band is knitted separately. If this were corrugated ribbing, I would have steeked across the bottom and knit both bands at the same time. But it’s two-color garter stitch, so it behooves me to knit back and forth. That way, I’m knitting on each row. Cool!

Debbie asked:

Do you use machine sewing for all your steeks, or do you sometimes just cut them and tack down loose ends afterwards?

I dug through my old archives because I know I talked about this a long time ago, and here is my slightly rewritten answer:

All traditional fair isles done in jumperweight (fingering) shetland wool are steeked pretty much the same way. You put the stitch that is at the underarm on a holder and cast on 10 stitches — an edge stitch, 8 steek stitches, and another edge stitch. The edge stitches are always worked in the background color and the steek stitches themselves are done by alternating the colors used on that round of knitting.

Now . . . how you do your steeks depends a lot on what yarn you’re using. Shetland wool is fine and very hairy and stitcks to itself well, particularly when you steam it with an iron. When you cut the steek down the center and pick up stitches for the sleeve along the edge stitches, the steek obediently folds over and lies down all by itself — just like a well-trained dog. After you’ve completed the sleeve you trim the steek to a width of two stitches and lightly stitch it down. It will never unravel, even after years.

If you are using a smooth yarn (and a larger gauge) you need to do your steeks differently, because the yarn doesn’t have the right properties to make a fair isle steek work — a smooth yarn won’t stitck to itself properly. If you’re using “fatter” yarn, the steek will be too bulky, too. In this case you need to do a Norwegian style steek where you just knit the body in a tube (doing nothing different at the underarm), then use a sewing machine to machine stitch on either side of where you’re going to cut open the armhole. You would knit the sleeve separately (in the round) with a facing at the top of the sleeve and set it in the cut armhole, sewing the facing over the cut edge.

Okay, after that long-winded explanation, I’ll add that these on Abalone are traditional fair isle steeks — no machine stitching. Just cut ’em open and pick up your stitches.

I’ll tell you a dirty secret. Sometimes I don’t even tack them down. After I’ve finished my sweater and steam it from the inside, the steek sticks to itself quite nicely and I don’t feel the need for any extra finishing. Ah, the joys of shetland wool.

Please note that I would never do this with a non-shetland wool.

Okay guys. Unscheduled leave for the federal government, but I’m going in . . . or at least attempting to, metro willing. Nothing is falling, but it is very windy so it’ll feel really cold. May the train come quickly and move swiftly!


  1. Here’s hoping that you get to and from work relatively quickly and comfortably. Boy can i appreciate the nightmare of a long cold train ride-last year on route to a big exhibition our train hit 5 sheep (we felt the crunch but did the conductor have to give the details?) which sufficiently disabled the train so that it had to crawl to the next station where all the passengers were turfed off to wait for an hour for the next train- which of course was held up by a)the sheep and b)our train. I can laugh about it now.

    Here in England we have a couple of inches of snow today so inevitably things are grinding to a halt. I don’t have to go anywhere so am enjoying the white stuff. Great stitch markers- i need to make some in my jewellery class!

  2. Did you say “cut”, in reference to your knitting? This steeking thing means to cut??? Oh my! I would have to witness this first hand, and would never try it on my own without an experty nearby. I’m amazed.

    In regards to the fun fur question, I held some fun fur at the top of a booga bag and it changed the gauge enough that it made the top of the bag loose and wavy…have you not experienced that with the kitty beds? If so, how would you resolve the problem? A few decreases?

    I hope your train ride is a safe one this morning. Clicking on the t.v. this a.m., I saw snow falling at the Rockefeller Plaza, and it looks beautiful. However, it’s 56F here in SW FL (with predicted high to be 63 today) this morning…we’re feeling the cold front that has finally moved down here from the north. I’m excited to get to wear a sweater today!

    Lucy’s photo today is a must for the calendar collection. That camera of yours really is a good one.

  3. I’m starting Amphora in the blue colorway. It’s such a beautiful sweater. I’m worried that the border on the bottom would be unflattering, making the wearer look heavier, or even pregnant. Did you find this when you did yours? If so, would you do the border the same again, or would you change to ribbing? I’d just like an opinion before I start on my sweater. And one more question… how’s the Treadybear testing coming along? I can’t wait to start that project. Thanks for your time and opinion. Joanne

  4. remember a few days ago you posted a link to this eBay auction: Well, someone actually bid on the thing, looks like 9 people!

    Love that cat stitch marker!

    Lisa: a lot of knitters steek (cut) all the time… check Wendy’s gallery: click on “Visit my page of finished work, free patterns, and tips” and look for the links for Norweigian Steek techniques & Fair Isle steek techniques & you’ll see pictures of the process… I’ve never tried it, but most people trying this for the first time are a bit nervous about it!

  5. I am a relatively new knitter and just made my first Fair Isle sweater at the end of this past year. Because of my steek inexperience, I knitted a small fair isle swatch, (Actually I used my guage swatch) and cut it a couple of times to see for myself what it did. I actually enjoyed it immensely! Very fun and nothing to fear! Knitting wants to unravel top to bottom not sideways usually so it’s not that daunting. The sticky wool did its job and held together. I love my reulting sweater and will try something in a smaller guage next time!

    So, fear not the Steek! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I also just noticed that you switched over to those new ebony needles that arrived recently unless my eyes are deceiving me! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. As far as fun fur/eyelash yarns go, I purchased some Marks & Kattens Arktis. It is 45% wool/45% acrylic/ 10% polyester. I was wondering how the wool would effect the felting. I had planned to use this for a scarf for my mother-in-law but it is not working out. Has anyone tried to felt with this?

    Wendy, good luck getting to work today. And getting back home. Sweet picture of Lucy. How many attempts to get that one?

  8. Something I’ve always wondered about (which sounds like an obvious question but I’ve never seen an answer anywhere): Is there such a thing as yarn that cannot be steeked?

    I get that shetland (or very similar, highly feltable yarn) is the only thing that you can just cut. And I would imagine that a crocheted steek would only work with yarn that was sort of sticky, at least some kind of wool and maybe not even smooth wool. (Does it matter if it’s superwash?) But if you machine-stitched it, or used some other technique I’m not aware of, could you steek a wool-cotton blend sweater? Or 100% cotton, or silk, or 100% synthetic? Is there a line beyond which you can’t go, and if so, where the heck is it?

    I started thinking down this line because I live in a warm climate where I might be able to wear shetland wool one day a year, but was interested in trying steeking. But once I started thinking about it I just got curious about how far you could go down the continuum of sticky, hairy yarn to smooth and totally unfeltable fiber, even to the point of things I’d never knit anyway.

    Lisa of blogdogblog mentioned doing some kind of experiment to test for some of these questions. If no one can answer them for me it might be worth making some swatches and starting a science project. If it comes to that and people are interested, I’ll keep you posted.

  9. Iโ€™m surprised and curious re the antidotal fear about steeking. They were absolutely no problem for me in my first Dale baby cardigan โ€“ so for the Dale Iโ€™m knitting now, Iโ€™m even contemplating doing a steek instead of back and forth knitting the neck opening. Makes me wonder if anyone has ever ruined a sweater by steeking?

    Sure appreciate the pictures taken with the new camera โ€“ motivated me to dig out my old Pentax SLR to see if I could upgrade (use all my SLR lenses) with a digital โ€“ but then remembered how much I disliked lugging them around :<)

    I also agree re today’s picture of Lucy being perfect for the calendar collection – Abalone colors complement her so well.

  10. Hey, at least you weren’t on the orange yesterday. That was supposed to be ridiculousness cubed.

  11. That was anecdotal, as in untrustworthy stories – not antidotal, as in remedy:<) The remedy for the fear is to steek a swatch.

  12. I just finished my bear isle sweater from the KBTH folks, and I realized from reading Wendy’s description I managed to steek all wrong. However, have heart – it all somehow worked well in the end. Mainly, I trimmed my steek and tacked it down before I picked up my stitches. It worked okay on the sleeve, but on the front band I ended up with one hole because I tried to pick up a stitch that had been snipped a little too close.

    However, nothing unravelled, it was easy enough to fix, and there isn’t anything to be scared of, honest. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. To answer Susan’s question, yes you can steek with non-Shetland wool. Having said that, I have to caution you about being extra careful to secure the steek well before cutting. With “slippery” yarns, I usually crochet up the steek leaving a column of stitches between the edge stitch and the crocheted column. I then weave the tail of my crocheted column back up the column in an over/under manner so that baby is snug & secure. Once you have your crocheted columns, cut in the center and proceed as normal.

    I’ve not had a steek come apart on me yet. I love using steeks for necklines as well as armholes because the shaping comes out perfectly even. The only time I wouldn’t steek a neckline is if the yarn was very bulky and the steek “fold” would be noticeably lumpy on the right side.

    The best thing to do is make swatches with your intended yarn, crochet the steeks and cut. Give them some tugs and see if they hold. You’ll be surprised! Make sure when you cut the steeks, you’re only snipping the thread that runs between the stitches and not the stitches themselves, that can lead to more unravelling than you want. If you snip just the thread between, your steek should hold up very well.

  14. Good morning, Wendy! It sounds like the trains are a bit closer to normal today. This is one week when I’ve been glad I’m a carpooler instead of taking mass transit.

    My understanding of sewn steeks is that you can do it with any yarn, so long as you machine sew it well. Stitch two lines of stitches close together around the armhole opening, cut open, and pick up stitches outside the machine sewing lines (or sew in sleeve).

  15. May you be safe, coming & going, both hand & foot & derriere. May you also be spared human idiocy! To be welcomed home into the loving paws of Lucy. Purrrr.

  16. I sympathize with your traveling in the bad weather. Here in Provo, Utah, public transportation is at a minimum, so driving myself to work is my only option. I swear, it’s not the snow, ice and fog that bother me; but all the idiots on the freeway who do not know how to drive in it scare me to death. I’ll be thinking of you!!

  17. Karen in MN says:

    Steeks — I’m doing my first Fair Isle and my first steek. I’ve already done a Dale and am intrigued about the concept of steeking the neck so one doesn’t have to knit back and forth. Is the edge stitch considered to be connected to the steek or the garment? Would one pick up the neckband stitches between the steek and the edge stitch or the edge stitch and the garment?

  18. You do have to wonder when the locals will face up to the fact that winter comes every year. My favorites are the guys in their 4WDs driving over the speed limit. Sorry guys, but if you hit ice, and there is no traction on all 4 wheels, 4WD ain’t gonna save ya! And what was it with the ice on the metro? I thought they had spent $$ for some doohickey that fixed that. It shows you something about our local weather obsession that on the news last night, the first 25 minutes was weather news.

    OTOH, the naughty people at Elann sent me a newsletter this am with the info that they had the final closeouts on one of my favorite yarns. So, I’m thinking – a class at a convention, or two sweaters worth of Classic Elite Maya. Ummm, the Maya! So, now I have to raid the piggy bank and start saving for MD S&W again! However this makes at least 4 yarns that I liked in the Classic Elite line that bit the dust – and it seems to me it’s the staple lines they are killing in favor of the novelties. Off to pout….

  19. Maureen in Fargo says:

    I’m just starting Marina after falling it love with it when you were knitting it, Wendy. I ordered the kit from VirtualYarns. This is my first “real” Fair Isle…I did a Philosopher’s Wool cardi to see if I like two handed knitting (I do!).

    As I read the instructions to alternately knit and purl rounds for the garter stitch band in pattern I thought “phooey” and am currently knitting it back and forth, so I was excited to see that you did the same on Abelone…I’m sure you’ve done it on others but I never paid enough attention. Great minds? LOL

    I had also been wondering and worrying a little about the steeks and you answered all my questions about that as well in today’s posting…Thanks for a very informative post!

  20. you are a very brave woman doing all that steeking. your beautiful abalone is giving me confidence to try someday.

  21. Heh – well others beat me to it – but I also vote to use today’s Lucy pic in the calendar project! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Here in CT most of Metro North Railroad is down cause the cars’ doors and/or brakes won’t work in the extreme cold. For once, glad to commute (though I worked from home today!)

  22. Lucy’s picture could be “Miss January 2005”. She is an adorable kitty. Can’t wait to see the Lucy calendar pictures.

    Have you decided on any definites yet?

    Sneak previews are healthy, Wendy.

  23. Hi Wendy – I’m very curious about how you joined the vertical bands that run down the center front with the neckband.

    I ask because I did some fancy re-allocation of stitches on my never-ending Luskentyre so that I can eliminate a pattern repeat. I’m going to be converting it to a cardigan and have most of the plan in place, but find the neck to front band “connection” a mystery.

    Did you knit the neck in the round and then cut through the neck band? I can’t tell if this picture, abalone012604b.jpg, is the neck or the waistband (It looks like the waistband to me).

    Sorry for being so demanding and confused. I just know that you’ll have the answer!