My current work in progress:

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


Ex-squeeze Me?

Shelley commented:
Torino is different from many Dales in that the pattern has you knit circular then divide the front and back and do the colorwork. Why did they decide to do it this way? Also, if it is possible without causing major hassles, can it be done with steeks instead?

Huh? What? The pattern has you divide the front and back? WTF? I’m sorry, but that is unacceptable.

(Why did Dale do it this way? I dunno, perhaps because they are sadists?)

I have yarn and pattern for Torino stashed away, and you can bet your boots that I will be knitting in the round and steeking, when I get around to making it.

All the Dales I’ve made thus far have you knit a tube for the body, and stitch and cut on the sides for the armholes. I don’t see any reason why this could not be done for Torino.

And speaking of steeks, catspaw commented:
So, all these age-old steeking techniques seem to require machine stitching. What did people do before sewing machines were widely available? I mean, how many sewing machines were there on Fair Isle or in the Norselands in the 1800s? Could steeking as we know it be fairly new? Besides, they didn’t have what we call circular needles (really they’re straight) so how many doublepoints did they use?

Well, for fair isle steeks, there is no machine sewing. The steeks are cut open, stitches are picked up, and the sleeves and bands (whichever the steek is for) is knit. The knitter can then sew the steek down on the inside of the garment, but you know what? I never do. Yep, I just leave them flapping in the breeze. When I steam the steek after knitting, it sort of felts in place. And never budges.

As for the Dale of Norway sweaters, I actually didn’t say that their steeks were done in an age-old method. I just talked about doing steeks in the Dale method. Truth be told, I don’t know how Norwegian sweaters were knit before the advent of the sewing machine. Possible they were sewn by hand, then cut. I dunno.

About circular needles? Fair isle sweaters were indeed knitting on dpns in times of youre, and some still are today. I have several sets of dpns of the type that were used in the pre-circular era. They are steel, and 14 inches long, in sets of 5. And they are wicked looking weapons! On the cover of Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting is a photo of a fair isle in progress, being knitted on these long steel dpns. Here’s a link to the cover on

Incidentally, from all that I’ve read, I believe fair isle knitting — the multi-colored patterned work — only came into being mid-nineteenth century, so it really hasn’t been around that long — in the grand scheme of things.

Speaking of fair isle . . .

Morgan commented:
Being semi-new to fair isle (ok I haven’t actually finished a project thus the semi part), I want to change colors in the fair isle patterns that I see. That way the colors will suit me. Is there a process that you have for picking the colors that you are going to use in a fair isle project? Or do you always go with the colors in the pattern?

Most of the fair isle I’ve knitted are Starmore designs, and what attracted me to those designs in the first place were the colors used. So no, I’ve not done much changing of colors of fair isles, though I have a little.

If you are planning on subbing different colors, swatching is essential, to make sure the colors really work together. And if they do work together, to make sure that they provide enough contrast to each other so that the pattern is pleasing to the eye.

So . . . current knitting. Here is my Rose sleeve.


I’ve got maybe 6 inches left to knit on it.

Thanks for all the nice comments about my new haircut. I haven’t quite figured out how to operate it yet (heh!) so it wasn’t looking quite . . . ahem . . . the same today. Going from one length to layers can be alarming! Wouldn’t it be nice if one could have a stylist equipped with blow-dryer, ceramic brush, and product standing by, at the ready, to make you fabulous whenever you needed it?

Lucy sez:

I don’t need no stinkin’ stylist. I am already fabulous.



  1. See? On the other hand, I’m never happy with the way my stylist styles my hair, and am always anxious to get home and wash my hair myself so that I can see what it really looks like. Which, of course, sometimes is better than others (grin). Yours looks great, though! And tell Lucy that I made Chappy suffer through some grooming yesterday, too.

  2. Heh, yes, I know exactly what you mean about test driving a new haircut. The picture of your haircut is adorable Wendy!

    I’m with you, back and forth stranded knitting? EWWWWww!

    I too let my steeks flap in the breeze and they have all survived. And they are very well worn and loved sweaters…

    Lucy Dahling, you look Mahvelous. Were you trying to hint to your mommy to brush you? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. I don’t have the Torino pattern, so I am very interested in the color work being done front to back. Is ALL of it split and worked front to back, or just a few rows? The patterns for St. Moritz and Hardangervidda that I am working on now have you split and work front to back for the very last few rows- so there is some colorwork done that way, but the overwhelming majority is done in the round. Is this the case for Torino, or is the entire thing done back and forth?

    BTW- I love Rose!

  4. I want to knit fair isle so badly but I seem to be pretty bad at it, because I have a hard time holding the yarn in my right hand. It doesn’t seem to work at all. It’s very frustrating!

  5. The beauty of AS patterns is the combination of colors and pattern. Ah, I don’t know if I’d do a color change there. Simple colorwork, sure, I’d sub a blue for a green. Morgan *could* try putting the pattern together in a simple Excel doc in the colors she wants and printing it out actual size.

    BTW, sexy hair!

  6. Lucy is always fabulous.

    You have actually inspired me to try my first fair isle project. It’s just a small bag using red and pink and one chart. Yep, I’m making it all up. hehe

    I can not wait to see the finished Rose.

  7. Good additional info and illustrations on steeking

  8. I actually just finished my Torino sweater. (First Dale wooo!) The instructions have you divide at the very end, after completing the neck zipper steek. You bind off stitches for the front neck shaping. Some of the back and forth is color work and some is the ‘fishscale’ twisted stitches pattern. I did it as instructed because I couldn’t figure out the math to steek the rest of the neck. However I’m sure it could be done per your tutorial method.
    Also, I knit it in Falk (superwash) and had a few problems with my machine stitching not holding the yarn well. Perhaps I should have set the stitches closer together on the machine.
    Long time lurker, but I love your blog and have checked many of the archives. My two cats Emma and Shelly agree that Lucy is AbFab.

  9. Whew…I see Tanya has explained what I was reading, and yes, it doesn’t sound as bad as I thought they were saying when I read through the instructions (Thanks Tanya!)…And I know by the time I even get to that part of the sweater (after starting on the opening of the Olympics), Wendy will have completed the sweater and explained how to do it without back and forth…regardless of her start date!

    And of course Wendy, I knew you were the Bad Ass Knitter and would never put up with that!

  10. I just love how I always learn something when I visit. Thank you for being such a good educator.

  11. Those are some wicked-looking DPNs! I myself am a huge fan of double-pointeds (they’re just so cool!), but those are a bit too much.

    I also hate the first day going solo on a new haircut. The awkward period of bad hair days trying to figure out a new haircut can be really depressing! Lucy is lucky to be so well coiffed.

  12. Yes, Lucy looks fab, as always. And since it’s her birthday month – happy birthday to Lucy!

    Thanks for broadening our horizons in knitting.

  13. There’s a great history of Fair Isle knitting in Ann Feitelson’s book on Fair Isle; not a ton of info on Scandinavian stranded knitting but enough history and information on steeks to be of a lot of use!

  14. I’m so glad to see I’m not the only one utterly confounded by the Torino directions to divide and knit in sections once you get up to the neckline. Let’s see…knitting in three colors AND purling to get back? Never gonna happen.

    Is it terrible to admit that I knit a Dale sweater several years back and just paid someone else to do the finishing? I’m that fearful of hosing it up myself, yes.

  15. I am currently working on the finishing touches of my Torino sweater. I continued my sweater in the round and steeked it. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Worked out perfectly too! I don’t have any completed photos of Torino yet because well, I have the neck and zipper to go and then it’s finished. My goal is to have it done by Friday’s opening ceremonies.

  16. Beautiful knitting!!

  17. Kate in Somerset, UK says:

    I remember a colleague in the 1960’s telling me about Norwegian knitters ‘who just cut it’. No mention of sewing at all. He was impressed by this – to say the least.

  18. I am getting ready to start my first Dale sweater that is a pullover instead of a cardigan. Wendy, where do you find it best to add and stop the yarn changes? Under the arm I presume, but do you weave in, because this yarn sure doesn’t felt down like the shetland.

  19. Hey, are you going to change your avatar to match your new ‘do’ which by the way looks great.

  20. Hey Wendy — way to keep going on Rose. Can’t wait to see her finish.

    I started spinning … pop over and see. I figure it HAS to be easier on a wheel …

  21. A question about your steek technique (it rhymes!)

    I haven’t done a Dale, but I do plenty of fair isle in Shetland. I’ve always trimmed my steeks and then tacked them down with overcast stitches, ala Starmore/Swansen/Feitelson. Are you trimming the steeks, or just leaving the whole steek to flap?

    And you’ve posted before that you don’t wear your sweaters all that often. Any idea how the flapping steek wears over time? I’ve always assumed that my armhole steeks, for example, would unravel over time with friction as I pull the sweater on/off.

    Lucy is (as always) a true diva.

  22. I’m wondering if you see any argyle sweaters in your knitting future. They are so IN right now. You can’t go out the door or turn on the TV without seeing one. Any plans?

  23. Katherine says:

    Maybe they crocheted the steeks in place, as in this article:

  24. I soooo want a hair stylist in the wings! Wouldn’t that be wonderful =)

    Thanks for all the info on the fair isle and the steeks. The more I read about it, the less scary it is. I’ve still got a lot more reading to do, though ๐Ÿ˜‰

  25. Ann Feitelsen’s book on Fair Isle knitting has a long section on color choices that I found very interesting. As for machine stitching steeks, lots of folks crochet a chain up either side of the cut line (before cutting) and Anna Zilboorg whipstitches the yarn up each side before cutting — she explains this in Knitting for Anarchists.

  26. I wouldn’t need a hairstylist waiting in the wings, if I could just have prehensile arms to make styling at the back of my own head a little easier!

    Failing that, though, I do have a great tool that my hairdresser recommended to me — it’s a blowdryer that’s got a circular brush built right in. Instead of being gun shaped, it’s got a straight barrel, and then the brush barrel snaps onto that, and the hot air blows out through holes in the brush barrel, right around the bristles and into the hair. It’s *much* easier to handle than a separate blowdryer and brush, and leaves a hand free to move hair around and stuff. I love it so much I own two, so I can keep one in my suitcase and never forget it when I travel for work.

  27. Reading questions about steeks reminded me of a workshop I took with Anna Zilborg. There are multiple methods for steeking including steeks that are not sewn and a crocheted steek (which Zilborg advocates). I think the techniques are explicated in her books. Jo M

  28. Loving the sweater, Lucy (of course) and your sassy new “do”. It really fits you.

  29. If I had an on-call stylist, maybe I’d get a haircut that requires styling. Until then, long and straight will have to be sufficient. Of course, I’d invest in a cook and a masseuse before a stylist…but we all have different priorities.

  30. Morgan — Nancy’s Knit Knacks (Nancy Shroyer) has a small book entitled “How to Select Color Palettes for Knitting and other Fiber Arts”. She goes over color choices using a color wheel, and I think swatching as well in this book.
    Also, the suggestion of Ann Feitelsen’s book on Fair Isles is a good one as well to find information on color choice. Although I can’t recall if she goes over color wheel options.

    Wendy, many people hand sew their steeks as well. Two rows of backstitching would pick up and tack the stitches similar to a sewing machine, if small stitches are taken. I machine sew my Fair Isle steeks as well, since I always worry about them coming apart, especially the smaller neck ones. Of course, maybe if I made those longer I wouldn’t worry about that problem.

  31. Steeking was known in the 17th century Catspaw and from the remaining garmets it looks like they were just cut no sewing was used unless it was to add a binding to the open front of a jacket were it was cut.

    Sewing to stablize the steek seems to be fairly modern. Of course we knit much coarser then our ancestors did as well.
    Who in this day and age knits at 15 stitches to an inch for a sweater.


  32. Stranded colorwork on Fair Isle itself may only date back to the 19th or late 18th century, but stranded colorwork in wool was done earlier than that elsewhere: 13th century Estonia (mitten), 10th-12th century Egypt (socks), 15th century Spain (altarpiece with a knitting saint making a sock).

    Some of the 17th century silk “waistcoats” seem to have had tiny steeks at the center front, but more were knitted flat. I think the earliest mention of a multicolor wool sweater is of a Faroe Islands sweater in 1781.

    Regardless of when it started, Fair Isle work is beautiful.

  33. Wendy I though if anyone would be able to give me some good advice on this you would be. I am working Tubey from knitty. I had to do a provisional cast on to start the work. I use one that is very similar to the figure 8 cast on. It was actually the cast on that Cat Bordhi uses in here Magical Knitting books. Although I used a spare cable to hold the stitches. Where in her book you end up knitting in the round and all the stitches. Started knitting and things were great. When I went back to start knitting the other direction the stitches are VERY lose. It looks like that row was knit with a needle several sizes bigger. Question is what can I do now to go back and tighten them up? I was thinking something like a duplicate sitch over that row. Do you have any other advice? Or a good place to learn the duplicate stitch if that is what I should do? Sorry this is so long. I just knew that you would have some good advice for me if anyone did! Thanks in advance. You also inspired me to try some fair iles knitting and I love it!