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(Not so) Scary Steeking

The first time I heard of steeking it sent a thrill of panic through my body. You want me to CUT my knitting! This seemed completely crazy to me. I had so many questions. Wouldn’t it unravel? How do I secure it? Why would I ever want to do this? But, as I have been spending much of this year playing with different colorwork techniques, it seemed logical that I give steeking a try. With the help of a fortifying cup of tea (my solution to most things), I began my research and as I learned more about this technique it makes a lot of sense. I read articles by TinCan Knits, Kate Davis, and Brooklyn Tweed. I found Kate Davis’s first article, in her Learning to Steek series, to be particularly helpful in calming my fears over cutting my knitting. Her clear, factual way of addressing all the questions flying through my mind helped immensely.

A sample piece of stranded colorwork worked in shades of blue surrounded by a cup of tea, yarn, scissors, and crochet hook.

What exactly is steeking? In knitting, a steek is the set of stitches that bridge the gap between an established colorwork pattern. It allows the knitter to knit stranded colorwork in the round, which is decidedly easier and creates a more evenly tensioned fabric, and add an opening anywhere. Steeks can be placed for any opening: pockets, neck holes, armholes, or cardigan openings. After the knitting has been completed, lightly blocked, and the ends are woven in, the stitches are reinforced and then cut. From there, edgings, such as a button band, can be added and the reinforcement tacked down to the underside of the knitting. The knitting is secure and will not unravel. Steeking is not willy-nilly cutting of knitting, it requires planning and forethought and it will work.

With this knowledge (and another cup of tea) I decided it was time to give steeking a try and (gasp!) cut my knitting. I began by using some leftover bits of yarn to make a small sample piece of stranded knitting.

Stranded colorwork showing where steeking will occur with crochet hook and yarn ready to start the reinforcement process.

I denoted the steek in my colorwork pattern with two vertical and parallel lines. The stitches on each side of the column of stitches that will be cut are reinforced using a single crochet chain. To begin, a slip knot is made and placed on the crochet hook. Then it is placed through the first knit of the column that is going to be reinforced. A loop is brought through this stitch. There are now two loops on the crochet hook. Using your hook bring the yarn through both loops, creating a new loop on the hook.

Next, the crochet hook is placed through one half of the stitch on the column you started and the other half of the column that is eventually going to be cut and pull up a loop. Again, bring your yarn through both loops on your hook, creating a new loop on the hook. Continue in this way until all the stitches have been worked in the column.

This time starting on the bottom and working the column on the other side of the one going to be cut, make a slip knot, and begin creating the crochet chain reinforcing the stitches on the other side. As you reinforce them, you will begin to see the stitches in the column that is going to be cut pull away and look like rungs of a ladder. This is what you will be cutting when the reinforcement is complete.

And now, after a fortifying sip of tea and a deep breath, the moment has come to CUT the knitting. Using a sharp pair of small scissors, carefully snip the “ladder-like” stitches between the two crocheted reinforcements. Once all of the snips have been made there should be two perfectly straight edges ready for whatever lays ahead of them.

The steeking process is finished and the stranded colorwork tub has been safely divided.

While I was being slightly dramatic, the process did leave me feeling completely confident that it would work. It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be, nor as scary. My brain is already buzzing with ideas of what I can do with this new knowledge and I can’t wait to get started!

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