My current work in progress:

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


A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

Warning: Picture heavy post ahead! Worth about 14,000 words, I’d say.

Mara front:


Mara back:


Mara back neck steek:


Mara from the inside:


Starting the steek cutting:






And more:


It’s cut!


Now, to trim the ends off the steek:


Steek droppings!


The cut edge from the inside:


After this, I picked up the stitches for the band. Being a sneaky sort, I steeked the bottom of the front band so I could knit it in the round.


Lucy relaxing:


Big thanks to the KOARC for taking the steek cutting photos! And for picking up the steek droppings. πŸ˜‰


  1. Jocelyn says:

    That is nothing short of spectacular. Congrats on a great job.

  2. Wow. There is no way I could do that if I had all the time in the world. Amazing, and congrats!

  3. Brilliant idea steeking the bottom of the band. I could have used that trick when I was doing the band for Roscalie.

  4. I’ve seen you do this enough times that I’m starting to think it looks normal! Maybe soon I’ll just do it myself! How cool that you just trim off all the ends…. I never realized there’s no weaving. Cool.

  5. Wow, beautiful as always and quick too.

  6. Everytime I see that I’m amazed. Cutting your knitting on purpose and it doesn’t fall apart. Wow. Mara is beautiful!

  7. It is absolutely lovely! You know. I find myself enjoying it more as a vest than as a whole piece which surprises me. Or is it going to be a cardigan? Either way, the color combination is striking. I love how nice and neat that steek edge is. The J&S will keep it from coming apart, correct?

    Also, picked up your book today, sat down and just devoured it. I love it! πŸ˜€ I can’t wait to try one of the sweaters. πŸ™‚

  8. Very, very, very beautiful.

  9. Steek droppings. Heh heh.

    Looks fabulous, as always.

  10. lilymarlene says:

    Absolutely beautiful. Time well spent!!!!!!

  11. Hey, I have those scissors! = )

    . . .although I was nearly sick watching this, I’ve never seen anyone steek before. Whew, looks great!

    Thanks for the step by step!

  12. anne marie in philly says:

    just WHAT was that steek eating to make such colorful droppings? (tee hee)

    and as the sun sinks slowly into the west, another beautiful creation drops from the needles of wendy j!

    regal queen lucy is watching her mommy and daddy do fun things with yarn (ah, she muses, if only I could get my claws into some of that…).

    finished your book last night – I am feeling inspired!

  13. Shirley, in PA says:

    Wow is right. Mara is gorgeous – and the play by play you provided is much more interesting than most sports shows. Thanks for the lessons.

  14. Margie from Maryland says:

    I don’t get it: What was the orientation of the steeking you added to the front band, and how did it allow you to knit the bands in the round?

    Lovely, lovely work!

  15. Mara is absolutely gorgeous, Wendy. Good pictures oh dethroned King of All Remotes πŸ™‚

  16. Wow! Really, really beautiful. I wanna be you when I grow up. πŸ™‚

    I’m surprised Lucy didn’t pick up the steek droppings!

  17. That is so beautiful! You make it look so easy!

    I bet Lucy paces for attention while you’re concentrating! My cats seem to know right when I’m at the crucial part of any project and demand attention!

  18. Rachel H says:

    So. Steeking. I’ve seen it before and I know it works and can be done safely and really is a very cool thing to accomplish and all, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling faint and nauseous every time I see a pair of scissors making their way through a handknit. *shudder*

  19. Awesome!……great snip by snip depictions……and great tip re steek in band….always learning from you……and oh, the charming and helpful assistant: KOARC……a true find there!

  20. Woot! It’s like a moment of magic.

  21. absolutely jaw-dropping magnificent!
    I love admiring fine fair isle work and am still such a wuss looking at how one steeks!
    Oh my! You’re are incrdible knitter!

  22. The vein that just burst behind my eye when I saw you with scissors in one hand and that absolutely gorgeous piece of knitting in the other..wait a minute my blood pressure is returning to normal. Repeats to herself “WENDY, this is WENDY the Mistress of fair isle.” I have to remember that steeks means cutting knitting. I’ll come to terms with it sometime. Coffee, that will calm my nerves. Geez scissors, who thought that up?

  23. I’m with Barbp. It just HURTS to see scissors being taken to knitting. Yes, I understand why it’s such a necessary evil. Yes, I love the resulting work. Yes, it’s the best way to do that but STILL!!!

    OK, I started breathing again so I don’t think I will pass out after all . . . . .

    Just Beautiful!

  24. Josette says:

    Wow is right. I too don’t get how the band steeking allows you to knit in the round. Also, if I am understanding correctly, you did not stitch the steek before cutting?
    Thanks for the pictures

  25. Sue in Texas says:

    You’re a LEFTIE? Maybe that’s why you knit so much faster than the rest of us mortals?? I might have to try it!

  26. So beautiful! I’m so jealous of you having the Starmore book, too! I guess this is what interlibrary loan is for.

    Congratulations on a real work of art!

  27. Mara is absolutely gorgeous!! And you made it so quickly! You’re an inspiration to me to get going and get my projects finished!

    I’ve never done any fairisle before, but after 30+ yrs of knitting, I feel I’m ready. Ha Ha

    I’ve been looking over some of the Alice Starmore kits and found one that is supposedly “an excellent learning experience.”

    I like it because it comes with a full color pattern and all the yarn. Any thoughts?

    By the way, you can check out my blog and see my ‘rescue kitty”, Buster.

  28. Steek droppings! Sounds like the leavings of some mythical beast! Then again… considering how *amazing* that sweater is, perhaps it is a mythical beast! πŸ˜‰

  29. Gorgeous! Are you going to do sleeves, or do it as a vest? It looks great in the 10th photo, right after cutting. (Is that the Seinfeld Puffy Shirt you’re wearing?)

  30. I love looking at all the Fair Isle you’ve done… at some point I will make one, I’m sure, but at the moment I still stare in awe at your beautiful colorwork! (But I am embarking on a lace adventure- I just bought yarn for the Tina Shawl!)

  31. you are amazing!!
    i so want to do fair isle make it look easy and fun!!
    now if only i could knit as fast as you..
    wow..that’s about all i have left to say.

  32. hehe Steek droppings.

  33. If you plant the steeklets can you grow a sweater πŸ™‚

    It’s one of your lovliest swesaters Wendy! And that Ian is a veritible Francis Ford Coppola!

  34. I dont get the part about steeking the bottom of the front band? Beautiful work!!!

  35. You dont sew around the steeks before cutting for the fair-isle method? I see the norweg. method you used your sewing machine first. Remarkable!!!!

  36. mara is just beautiful… you just make is look so easy and fun that I want to do it, eventhough I am hopeless with tensioning stranded colourwork.

  37. That seems so easy ! Thanks Wendy.

  38. 140,000 words – my mouth dropped more open with each photo – a masterpiece.

  39. You are the WORST influence on me! Now I wanna knit something by Alice Starmore…problem is I can’t afford her books now gaaaaaah LOL I think I could even stand wading through the corrugated ribbing if it was gonna look anything like that…and maybe even be talked into steeking…

    I don’t understand how you’re knitting the band in the round in relation to the steeks though…color me confused???

  40. I’m hopelessly in love with Mara…um, actually every fair isle I see. And, with your encouragement, I’ve recently begun a pair of Norwegian mittens with Heilo yarn and a pattern in my stash. (I’ve been afraid to attempt them up until very recently.) I read your recent description of how you hold the two colors of yarn in one hand, with MC on the bottom and CC on the top, dropping each as necessary and never twisting. I’m using that technique (I think) but am puzzled by the “never twisting” part. Just about every other “how-to” regarding fair isle instructs the knitter to always pick up the new yarn from the bottom, twisting the two colors to prevent holes…or something like that. In the past, when I’ve attempted to follow those directions, I’ve ended up with a spiral-twisty mess that has required un-twisting of the yarns at the end of every row (or even sooner). I hated it! Now, following your directions, I don’t have twisted yarn (Yay) but I keep worrying about Holes. My colorwork is still very un-even because I’m so new at it, so I can’t tell if I have actual holes, or just uneven tension (especially where I go from one dpn to the next, across the corner, so to speak)
    Thanks for your inspiration, and sorry this is such a lengthy “comment”.

  41. Wow! The sweater is beautiful; the steeks are terrifying.

  42. She’s gorgeous! And she’d probably fit me, that is if you need someone to model her.
    Steeking looks easy! It’s the knitting to make sure it doesn’t fall apart that’s a tad bit scary.

  43. You make this look so easy. And after my comment about weaving in steek ends, I realized that I wasn’t seeing any pix of weaving in. From this I found the search function on your blog (a great feature!) which led me to your 2/7/06 entry, “My Steeky Technique-y.” As a wannabe Fair Isle knitter this technique was a true revelation. Many thanks!!

  44. annalies says:

    beautiful mara!!!

  45. Love your Mara, steeks and all…as well as your Romanian/Balkan style blouse. Are you happy with those little collapsible scissors(so convenient to carry)or do you also use larger, sharper shears for precision work?

  46. WOW!!

  47. I’m faint from the steek cutting.

    I love your last post where you had no fear of cutting the steeks…

    nerves of steel? yep. I’d say.

    Looks fabulous.

  48. Beautiful Beautiful Beautiful – thanks to you and the KOARC for the great photos. Question: how do you start the steek for the sleeve and neck steeks – do you just cast on 10-12 stitches? Inquiring minds want to know. Love to Lucy!

  49. You’re so inspirational. I actually bought a Starmore book awhile ago (due to your photographic inspiration) and haven’t started anything yet. After seeing the Amazing Mara, I think I’ll go look for that book. It’s truly amazing to see Mara come to life.

  50. Steek droppings, ha ha!
    Mara looks beautiful! It’s neat to see all the steps it takes to make such a stunning sweater. Thanks for sharing.

  51. You make it look easy!
    Well done. Such a beautiful sweater.

  52. Wonderful work, Wendy! I’m knitting Mara too but from the pattern in Workbasket magazine (and a lot slower!) Can you tell me if you have done it the standard length from the pattern please? From your (beautiful!) photos of previous work I see you like your cardigans fairly long, as I do, and I wondered if you needed to lengthen this – as AS’s designs tend to be a bit short and wide.
    Many thanks,

  53. That is awesome! The inside looks so good. It’s hard to tell it’s inside out!
    The steek cutting still looks scary though.

  54. Mara looks awesome!

  55. Steek droppings! I saved mine. What a beautiful vest!!

  56. Okay. I don’t understand the comment about ‘being a sneaky sort and steeking the bottom of the front band’ so you could knit it in the round. Would you mind posting a larger photo or an explanation of this? I was reading carefully as you went along and this just lost me. Totally lost me.

    My mind is boggled, and I don’t mean the game. The sweater is lovely (all of your sweaters are lovely, so this is no exception), I’m pea-green with envy that you live in a climate where such clothing is necessary – I’m in beautiful sunny TX, where the need for a sweater is limited to between two and four p.m. on the second Tuesday in February…. maybe). Although they do get a lot of wear in movie theatres and workplaces, to make up for the arctic blast air conditioners. Just sayin’.

    Thanks in advance!

  57. When you do the steeks, how close do you cut the “droppings”?

  58. You always make it look so fast & easy. I’m inspired to go back to my fair isle & give it another go. The problem is that it takes me as long to knit one row as it does you to knit the whole sweater!

    Also, please add my request for further clarification on steeking the bottom of the front band to knit it in the round. I’m doing a “huh?” on that comment.

  59. Holy Cow!!!

  60. Wow, you are my hero!!!

  61. I am very curious about the shaped armholes and the sleeves that will follow. Typical Starmore design has a standard dropped shoulder, sleeves picked up and worked down to the cuff. Is the “full fashioned” armhole in the original pattern or is it your adaptation?

    I have been toying with the idea of doing a set in sleeve with fair isle, but have not had my mental power turned up high enough to attempt it. The sweater on the cover of Meg Swanson’s Sweaters from Camp has set in sleeves knit from the cuff up and attached to the body and knitted/shaped in one piece. And, of course, there is Jade’s design where you knit the sleeves separately with their own steeks and sew them in after. What is the story on Mara?

  62. Breathtaking! I have looked at this design with interest before but after seeing your sweater I am sure Mara will be haunting my dreams. Wonderful!

  63. I spose it’s all been said…

    Absolutely beautiful!

  64. Wow. WOW!

  65. Wow. That gave me heart palpitations!

  66. Your sweater is unbelievably amazing… people always say that once you know how to knit, you can accomplish anything, but the pattern and color changes seem overwhelming to me. You have done an absolutely lovely job – you must feel like you’re on top of the world! Your yarn supply is also just pretty to look at! Enjoy your 4 day weekend!