Friday, January 29, 2010

Colour challenge

I know! I know! That's a pretty blinding colour combo above, but what I'm really showing you is my first steek. For you non-knitters out there, steeking is the technique of cutting through a knit fabric, picking up stitches just back of the newly-cut edge, turning under the cut edge to form a sort of hem or facing, and knitting a properly finished edge from the picked up stitches. What the technique allows is for Fair Isle knitting to be done in the round rather than flat, which makes managing the several concurrently-knit yarns easier. As the wool used for Fair Isle knits is "sticky" wool, this isn't as risky as it might sound, since the fibre grabs, and stitches don't unravel quickly. Still, I felt more secure knowing that zig-zagged machine stitching was holding everything in place as I snipped right up the middle, turning pullover shape into cardigan.
I've actually got one other steek under my belt -- the one required for the armholes -- and I've finished one of the sleeves already. I opened up the centre, in fact, so that I could try that sleeve on for length. This weekend, I'll do the steek for the second armhole and get that sleeve finished. If you think this portion is colourful (duh!), you might be rocked a bit to know that the sleeves work a different colour combination against the body -- each! -- that is, the sleeves will be different from each other AND different from the body. I'm playing with the yarn a bit to get the sleeves fairly related, but still . . . All the versions I've seen of the sweater, though (it's Ruth Sorenson's Kauni Rainbow) look harmonious -- loud harmony, but harmony nonetheless. I'm not sure whether or not I'll even wear the sweater -- it's quite a commitment -- or whether the daughter I had in mind for it will either. But I couldn't resist knitting it.
It's been a delight to watch the colourways interact and I love interacting, myself, with the long history of knitted colourwork through this pattern. So many knitters through the centuries have used this construction, have confidently cut through their stitches, have tested sleeves-in-progress against a loved one's arms to measure length. I've caught myself thinking that I would have preferred these rich colour stories in a cushion cover rather than having to bear them on my body all day, but a cushion wouldn't have taught me how to steek, wouldn't have challenged me to persevere through two exiles on "sleeve island" -- I hope to finish the sweater by the end of February so it will get a bit of wear this winter before getting tucked into the winter chest. Meanwhile, perhaps you can see why I leave it lying around, brightening my day . . .


  1. Well, the knitting techniques are Greek to me but I LOVE those colors!!!! They just make me happy for some reason.

  2. You are such a talented woman in so many domains! Intense knitting in every sense of the word.

  3. Oh, what a fabulous sweater and the colors are so cheerful. This looks like very happy knitting to me, even with steeks.

  4. Beautiful! I hope when you put it on, you love it on you as well.

    I am terrified to steek, and so have never tried. My grandmother had no such qualms and I remember her cutting sweaters, and not just to steek. If a sweater got too large, Grandma would just take her scissors to it. Frightening to watch but it always worked out.

    Have a great weekend.


  5. Pseu: They are happy-making, aren't they! Sunglasses required, but happiness guaranteed. . .
    Duchesse: Thanks! It's pretty wild, isn't it!
    Mardel: Surprisingly, the steeks actually made me happy once I got over my nervousness and saw that they were easy enough -- what a cool technique! The engineering behind knitting always impresses me!
    Christine: Funny, before I read your comment I had been thinking exactly the same thing about my grandma -- she'd take a pair of shears to a sweater that needed a new cuff or some extra length -- just lop off the hem, pick up stitches and knit on . . . She'd be proud of me! You should make your grandma proud too -- it's fun to steek!

  6. Lovely colors, and a talented knitter as well.I had never heard of steek, I am impressed.

  7. Oh Mater, you just don´t cease to surprise me! What a lovely knit, especially I am liking how all the colors mix together. Naturally you will wear this piece of art. No accessorizing with jewelry is needed!

  8. Hostess/Metscan: thanks! And Metscan, you're absolutely right that if I ever do wear this sweater, I wouldn't dare add jewelry!

  9. I think I read once that the sainted Elizabeth Zimmerman said that once you had actually cut into a steek, you should go lie down in a dark room with a cold compress on your forehead or something like that. I've actually had to rescue a couple of knitted things (the dreaded 'make sure you have not twisted the needles' passed me by)but I ran them through the sewing machine first and then, taking a deep breath, cut decisively. I figured that if I could sew with knitted fabrics that I had cut, this should not give me palpitations.

  10. Steeking. Sounds like a delicate and complicated operation to me. I don't understand why you just don't drop a stitch here and there. I find that's a perfect way to separate my knitting.

    My dear friend, Trisha Malcolm, editor of Vogue knitting, is coming to Paris next week (this week really) and i think I'll have her cast-on my scarf -- again.

    I love knitting, it is so comforting, but when I look at what you've done I can't believe it.

  11. Wow! I once made up a pattern for a cardigan for my daughter just so I could have a go at steeks (I used odds and ends of yarn so that I wouldn't be devastated if it didn't work). I remember being amazed that it didn't fall apart! That's what I love about knitting - the incredible techniques that knitters have developed over the years.

  12. Toby: Welcome! I love having new readers take the time to comment, especially ones who are so knowledgeable -- anyone who can quote the inimitable EZ is welcome here! The cutting was actually fun in the end -- the most problematic part was coaxing the knitted tube through my machine, lining up the zig-zag stitches correctly.
    Tish: Now I want to drop everything and book a flight so I could have the glass of wine with you and talk knitting with the editor of the most inspiring Knitting Magazine around! I hope you've had a chance to check out Aimee's knitting-tea shop in the 13th (in Butte aux Cailles) -- you and Trisha would love it -- and you'd really love Aimee!
    Tiffany: I know! I'm late to the party, and now I can't understand why I stalled for so long. I'm definitely going to steek again soon, probably in something for Nola -- quicker, smaller!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...