Hot tips and tricks from the Steekalong (and beyond)

Hot tips and tricks from the Steekalong (and beyond)

The speed at which Sólbein Cardigans are flying off the knitting needles in the #fringeandfriendssteekalong feed is truly jaw-dropping. For those who are half done (or already on a second one!), these tips and tricks may come too late! But for anyone who (like me) has yet to cast on, I hope they’ll prove helpful. And they apply to more than just Sólbein:

1. Floats out. Marlene @mnberghout posted about her floats being too tight and how she intended to solve it on a second go, which is one of my favorite tricks I’ve never tried! Let’s see if I can describe this any better than I drew it: Hold your knitting exactly the opposite of how you usually hold in-the-round work. So with it wrong side (float side) out instead of right side out. And with the needle tips away from you instead of toward you, so you’re looking at the right side of the work but in the rear inside of the tube of knitting. Does that make sense? Held that way, your floats have to reach around the longer outer curve of the work, rather than across the shorter inside stretch. And if you still prefer to work with it held the regular way, right side out, try keeping your stitches spread to their natural width on the right needle, which makes it much harder to create a too-short float in the first place.

2. Block that yoke. Several people have expressed concern about their gauge while knitting their yoke, and/or opted not to do a gauge swatch and just cast on. In either case (or if you just want to make sure your colorwork tension is good before proceeding), why not stop and block your yoke? Just put the stitches on waste yarn and block the work like you would a finished object. Once it’s dry, you can measure your real-time stitch and row count and make sure you’re on track for your intended size.

3. Steek first, sleeve later. Every time I see a pic of a finished body, pre-sleeves, I have an overwhelming urge to cut that steek! If you feel the same way, there’s no reason not to go ahead and do that first. Although if you’re one who doesn’t love sleeves, the anticipation or prize of getting to cut the steek when you’ve done them might help?

I also have one gentle reminder or request to make, and this is truly universal. It’s natural to want to slide your pattern into your knitting photos, and a common practice. Please remember that publishing a photo with visible instructions or charts is the equivalent of giving away the designer’s work, and be cognizant of that when taking photos.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the feed and the incredible array of cardigans coming together on the #fringeandfriendssteekalong feed, you really should go look.


PREVIOUSLY in Fringe and Friends Steekalong: Meet Steekalong insta-panelist No.1: Kristine Vejar

26 thoughts on “Hot tips and tricks from the Steekalong (and beyond)

  1. Great point about putting the pattern in the photos! I would have missed that. Thanks for all of your tips and support, even though I am here vicariously.

  2. Hi Karen. Glad you’re back; missed you yesterday. I actually do knit all my in-the-round items inside out. I was trying to explain that to someone recently but since we were at a college football game, I’m not sure the idea made an impression. I’ve recommended your blog to her, so maybe in a quiet moment rather than in the midst of cheering and jeering she might understand and give it a try.

    I will be blocking, not at the yoke, but before I reach the bottom pattern to determine proper length. I’m shorter than the length recommended for most patterns—and a bit wider, so I increased by a size for the bottom half of the cardigan. Sleeve length is also an issue for me, so blocking and steeking before knitting the sleeves makes sense for me.

    Through your blog, you’ve offered many “tips and tricks” that open up a freedom in hand-knitting that results in well-made and well-fitting garments. I appreciate your commitment to the experimentation, professionalism, and joy of hand-knitting. Cheers, Nancy

    • Yes, I’m also really picky about length and like to block and try on before finishing things off.

    • Perhaps because I do knit in-the-round items inside-out (like hats, socks, some sweaters), Karen’s drawing seems to adequately reflect her #1 tip. On the outside of the tube of knitting, she has drawn the floats. The vertical lines inside the tube represent the knitted (right) side of the sweater. The 2 cocoons of yarn are the two colors with which you would be knitting. I know knitting inside-out may seem strange, but it really does allow your floats to be less constricted.

    • Nancy’s comment about knitting her in-the-round items inside out is what made it clear for me. Now the drawing makes perfect sense. Steeking is on my list of things to do this year and I’m following along although not knitting just yet. Soon! Thank you for the tips Karen!

      • I love the drawing-simple and clear. Andrea Mowry’s Weekender sweater is all purl on the body but she recommendeds “using knit” stitch as it is faster for most and all you are doing is knitting a tube from the inside and in her case the purl shows as the right side.

    • Hi, Anne. If you have knitting on the needles, try flipping it inside out and then looking at it and the drawing and I think it might make more sense!

  3. I just joined your blog last week and love all the great color combos on The Gram. I wish I could participate! The inspiration is incredible. One day I SHALL knit a Lopi & cut a steek. This seems like such a great fun way to do both. Too bad I didn’t join you all sooner. But watching is fun too.

    (I’d been a happy follower in the past, til life overwhelmingly intervened. It’s so lovely to be back!)

  4. Oh, I like your idea about knitting with the floats out. That makes so much sense.
    I finally received my yarn order from Tolt (the good folks there were kind enough to send me a second order since the USPS has most likely lost my first order) and I am taking my time knitting my gauge swatch. I was about finished with the first swatch, simply stockinette in the round, when I read Nell Zirolli’s blog post yesterday about swatching flat for in the round I ripped out my swatch and gave Nell’s method a try. This is a new-to-me technique, and I really like it. Perhaps some of your readers will find it less cumbersome than the old traditional method of swatching flat for knitting in the round.

    • So glad to hear you’ve got yarn! That wayward package is sure to arrive any minute, lol. But yes, you always want to swatch as you will knit, so faux “in the round” if that’s how you’ll be knitting.

  5. I have the pattern from Making, and I also bought the MDK Norah Gaughan field guide, so I was ready do to one or other KAL— but the person I’m making a sweater for, my 16-year-old daughter, wants Emily Foden’s Soirée pullover. But I’m steeking vicariously. :) I should add, I have done a steek one time— a Jared Flood hooded Cowichan style cardigan for my oldest son— and I need to do it again some time to do a prettier job of it. But it turned out fine, and the sweater is still going 5 years later. :)

  6. I’ve just knit myself a Willard sweater in BT Shelter, and used the ‘inside out’ trick when knitting the colourwork yoke. Works like a charm!! Highly recommend it as a technique.

  7. Loved looking at the Instagram feed–so many beautiful color combinations. Each one is gorgeous. I’m working on a Dude sweater for my son, and saw one person who posted a sleeve from that pattern. Is it okay to participate with something other than a Solbein? I’ve done steeking in a class before, but could use the moral support on a big project I really care about.

  8. Wow – I have never tried this and will put it on my long list of to-dos. Thank you, Karen – you are awesome.

  9. That’s a good trick for the floats. I’m going to give it a try the next time I do some stranding.

    I’ve only steeked once (not too long ago) and it was super fun. I did the crochet method, and the little edge of a contrast color on the inside of the buttonband makes me smile every time I see it. ;-)

  10. Karen do you have links to posts about blocking? Also you mentioned about soaking Lettlopi to bring the hair out but I’ve not been able to find anything on line about it in terms of clear instructions- soak in what? warm water, cold water, washing liquid, special washing liquid…Sorry! I actually work in the industry so I know how to wet finish 1000s of garments but have never done just one in my home before ;)

  11. I teach stranded knitting, and it’s true that the aspect my students struggle with most is loosening up their carries. Also, I almost always wet-block my work in progress. I leave the yarn attached, transfer all the stitches to a length of waste yarn, then soak the piece for half an hour or so before wrapping in a towel, jumping on it, and laying it out to dry. It’s especially valuable to do this when there is a textured stitch pattern since these often grow quite a bit after blocking. It’s had to let go of the momentum to do this, but if you do, there’ll be no surprises! Finally, I have some little steeking tutorials on my blog, in case anyone is interested.

  12. I’m midway through a hat with floats that are too tight. I’ve been debating whether or not to rip back and start over. After reading this, I feel happy to do it and flip it inside out!

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