Sunday, December 11, 2011


Remember Mike's Olympic Sweater?  It has been lounging in my UFO pile for quite a while now... I knit most of the body fairly quickly, but then had to rip it out and re-knit it because my gauge was off, and the piece was too small.  That was finished by March 2010.  I worked on the sleeves (very) sporadically, and finally finished the second one back in October.  Then the whole thing went on hold for one very "simple" reason: steeks.
For the non-knitters out there, steeking is the act of purposefully cutting open your knitting.  It is a process not for the faint of heart - especially because it is almost always done to knit pieces that incorporate a great deal of colourwork.  It's kind of the point really, since the whole point of steeking is that it enables you to knit your sweater in the round, so that you never have to purl a row with multiple colours - apparently, cutting open your carefully-stitched colourwork is supposed to be easier than purling a row with three colours at once.

Anyway, after knitting that sweater body twice, the last thing I wanted to do was ruin it with a few badly placed snips.  So, after reading a few blog about steeking, and a recent article on the subject in Vogue Knitting, I did the only smart thing: knit a practice swatch. 

You will note that this was knit flat, and that there are 3 colours in that centre row.
For the record, purling with multiple colours is not that difficult.

Once the swatch was knit, I hand-sewed a line of long stitches with white thread, to mark the point at which I wanted to make the cut.  The next step is to sew (with a sewing machine) two lines of stitches on either side of where I wanted to make the cut.  These secure the knit stitches, and (supposedly) lock the whole thing into place so it doesn't fall apart after you cut it.

Here's my swatch after sewing and steeking:

Then I was ready to tackle the real thing.  There are two kinds of steeks on this sweater:
 At the neck placket, the pattern required what I can only call a steeking panel - a group of 3 (I did 5!) surplus stitches that span the area to be cut.  You cut the centre stitch, fold back the edges, and then pick up the neckband stitches along your fold line.  This one is less terrifying, because at least you have some wiggle room - if you mess up, there are still a few extra stitches in here in which to correct your mistake!
The sleeve steeks are more terrifying because you have to cut into the actual knit piece - lose a stitch here, and you're probably going to see it in the final product.  In both this pic and the previous one, you can see the red stitches I put in with the sewing machine.  I was trying very hard to sew down one half of the 'V' in each knit stitch.  This sweater was knit in sport-weight yarn, so you'll have to forgive my less than straight seams!

Okay, seams in (about 3 to each side of each steek...), and its time to start cutting!  Here's the neck placket after a few snips:

 And after cutting all the way through:

 And here is one of the sleeves, fully sliced, and folded back to reveal the interior floats.

Now that I'm past this hurdle, I can get moving on the final steps - sewing in the sleeves, hemming the bottom, knitting in the neck placket and collar, and sewing in the neck zipper.  And then (hopefully) Mike can stop telling everyone about his sweater that may never see the light of day!  ;)


P'cess said...

He better wear this thing every day! And tell people what an amazing wife he has while doing so!

Tiffany said...

Oh man, not for the faint of heart. You rock!

Nice to see you back in this space. =) Looking forward to seeing you in person soon!