A Return to Steeking

A long time ago, in 2007 to be precise, when I was young in my knitting, I undertook a project which (very) longtime readers will remember consumed nearly a year and a half of my life. It was The Steeked Jacket and I made it under the helpful tutelage of American knitter, Julie, aka SamuraiKnitter.

Steeking, in case you don’t know, is the art of knitting garments in the round and then cutting them to create openings. I have always said it was a Norwegian technique but i just read it was developed by Shetland knitters. I’m not sure. Either way, done properly it’s a great technique and the cutting should not be hard.

Here’s my long ago made Steeked Jacket. I hardly wear it these days because I don’t really like the length and the band is kind of lumpy, but I will always keep it as a reminder of a time when I was new in knitting and bravely tried something advanced and challenging. I finished it in early 2008 and it feels so long ago.

The Steeked JacketI can be forgiven for avioding large scale fair isle projects since then but always in the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to steek again and so after looking for a while at cardigans with fair isle yokes (I wasn’t going near a full fair isle pattern again any time soon!) I finally settled on the Bountiful Bohus cardigan. I was drawn to it only having a small amount of fair isle and that it was made from worsted weight wool. It would be fast.

It was fast, really. At least the bottom up body and arms were but when it came time to join them for the yoke, I put it down for the second half of winter, effectively robbing myself of a reasonable amount of time to wear it while the weather was still cold. No matter – it’ll be just the thing next winter.

I cut it on Sunday morning, sitting on the couch watching the West Wing (we are so late to that particular party!). I cut it without ceremony, without the support of a fortifying glass of anything – 9am Sunday morning isn’t a good time for wine anyway – Sean looked up and suddenly my knit in the round garment had become a cardigan, as the photos above attest.

The photos make it look so neat and so successful and for the most part it is, but a few strands in the yoke popped out of the crocheted steek before I began the button band. I had to do some surgical work on it which is not pretty and has made me wonder how a few rows of fair isle were unstable and yet back when I did a whole fair isle garment, not a single strand popped out. I’m not bothered. The ugly surgery is on the inside of the band and I will sew it down as part of the finishing.

In a few days my second steeked item will be finished and I know already I’m not done with this technique yet. I certainly don’t imagine I’ll wait another five years before cutting my knitting again because it’s fun and exciting and the possibilities are many.

I’ll be back in a few days with a finished cardigan and maybe even a few really cold days left to wear it.



13 thoughts on “A Return to Steeking

  1. I well remember that steeked jacket and I can’t believe it was so long ago! I think it looked lovely on you then and seems like a good length but only you can judge want you feel comfortable wearing. I look forward to seeing your latest cardigan when it’s done (which could have already happened given how far behind I am with blogs)!

  2. I can still remember your 1st steeking and how much I admired you for being able to do it. This 2nd cardigan looks great and I am still in awe of your efforts as I have never dare to venture into steeking which is on my bucket’s list.

  3. Your steeked jacket still looks amazing, and I love that you were brave enough to attack something so complicated whilst still a newbie… Actually I am always surprised more people don’t, it’s just knitting, not rocket science!

    I think Jen Anderson may be onto something about the yarn. All the garments I’ve steeked have been in sticky Shetland wool and those steeks aren’t going anywhere. I’m just finishing a cardi for Mark in cascade, and it’s lovely to knit with but definitely smoother than the Shetland stuff. Maybe a second column of crochet next time might help, or even try using the sewing machine? Still, no one will see the fix, and it’s going to be a lovely cardi, well done you!

  4. I do remember your first steeked sweater! And I admire you for jumping back into it. Thanks for admitting that it isn’t as smooth as one might think. It is really helpful to know that other knitters have to do surgery on their knits!

  5. Good for you for diving right in like that! I still haven’t steeked, in part because my weight has been all over the place since I started knitting (which complicates making sweaters for myself). Also any wool yarn with enough grip to withstand steeking is way too itchy for me to work with.

    Could that be a factor in why your yarn came loose? I know Julie likes using sturdy, grippy yarns for cardigans and other outerwear–did you use something softer this time? Just a thought.

  6. it looks really neat. well done.

    I remember your first steek – I was so impressed by the stranded colourwork alone, nevermind the steeking on top of that! It will always hold a special place for you in your knitting history, I’m sure

  7. I remember that jacket! I’m so sad you don’t wear it, though – all that work! And it’s so pretty! Could you maybe shorten it – cut it and knit down. It’s too cute to waste!

  8. I remember the steeked jacket. You worked so hard on that and were (rightfully) proud of the results. The new steeked sweater looks beautiful. You’ve made me want to attempt it.

  9. Your steeked jacket was such an inspiration to me – I honestly wouldn’t have attempted it myself without seeing your example. Looking forward to seeing the final version of this one! X

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