Steeking? Cutting apart the piece of textile you have spent months creating? Not So Slow. Nor meditative. Nor relaxing. The opposition between the two fascinates me, and, as Kristin said in a comment on this post, steeking itself seems a metaphor for the leaps we sometimes have to take in life.
And many of you seemed curious about the process, so I took a few photos . . . .
Above is a photo of the Rams & Yowes blanket patterned section, finished and off the circular needle on which it was knit, in a tube. When I first showed it to my little granddaughter, Nola, some time ago, pointing out the sheep, she guessed that I was making myself a sheep skirt, thanks to that tubular construction. She would only have guessed a blanket, I suspect, if it had been knit flat, doubling that width and lying spread out as a small blanket should be.
Instead, some very clever early knitter realized that knitting on circular needles made colourwork easier as it could all be done in knit stitches on the front while the "floats" of the unused colours were neatly tucked away behind, out of the knitter's way.
And to solve the problem of turning a circularly knit item into a flat one? Why, just take a pair of scissors when it's done, and slice away! yikes!
To get around the fear and risk factor of losing all those hours of work, another clever knitter -- and honestly, these knitters were part engineer, as I recognized when knitting my first sock -- invented the idea of providing a margin of waste rows where an edge could be reinforced and where any unravelling of stitches would be unlikely to travel to the main body. You can see that margin above in the foreground, the long narrow checkered strip that interrupts the main pattern, running from left to right.
The crudely heavy black line that you see at the top of the checkerboard margin is the beginning of a crocheted reinforcement. Again, some practical inventive sort long ago put her mind to the problem of potentially unravelling stitches and thought of ways to bind these. Just as you might once have dabbed a bit of nail polish on the edges of a hole in your still-too-new pantihose to stop that hole from growing bigger, the stitches in a fairly "sticky" yarn -- not so much sticky from the residual lanolin as from the wooly fibres that grab each other and, eventually, felt themselves together lightly -- will resist unravelling once that "stickiness" sets in. Meanwhile, though, the unravelling has the potential to spread like a tiny flame, burning holes into the garment. Against that possibility, some ancient knitter grabbed her crochet hook and anchored each stitch up one side of that checkerboard and down the other.
A closer look, above
and below, I'm coming down the other side. . . .
The last time I steeked, I opted for the modern way, using my sewing machine to zig-zag the reinforcement. This time, I thought I'd try a more traditional route. . .
Now, I've only got to knit the edging. Of course, to do that, I've already spent approximately five hours (or 5-6 episodes of The Good Wife depending how you count evening time) picking up 780 stitches spread over 300 centimetres of circular needles. After that, I'll increase those stitches and knit outward to create a generous border. Many more hours of knitting, seasons and seasons of The Good Wife, Call the Midwife, Sherlock. . .A Labour of Love. Slow Labour. Slow Love. There's definitely a wealth of metaphors here. Slow Love after a Leap of Faith after a Foundation of Countless Hours and Patient, Meditative Work. Oh yeah.
If you're a non-knitter, you may very well have left the building long ago.
And if you're a knitter, this may be old-hat to you.
But if you skimmed to here, I'd be curious to hear from you. Had you heard of steeking before? Have you ever thought about the amazing ingenuity of those ancestors who engineered simple improvements to domestic tasks? And managed to make room for beauty in the practical?
And if you've steeked, did you find the process as cool as I did?
I'd love to know what you think. . .