The day I almost steeked

The day I almost steeked

I haven’t gotten to knit the past couple of weeks — was hoping to cast on my Sólbein for the Steekalong this weekend, but work intervened. But there was a brief and shining moment yesterday afternoon where the sun peeked through the clouds for the first time in about 10 days and it made me suddenly desperate to do something in that momentary spot of light. So I grabbed my purple lopi sweater, ripped out the neckband, and placed a couple of stitch markers to mark the center front stitch and where I want the tip of the V of the new cardigan front to sit. Then I threaded some hot pink waste yarn onto a tapestry needle, basted a line where the center front cut will go, and continued upwards each direction toward the raglan seams. I basically just eyeballed it, since I can’t think of a more accurate way to do it that isn’t more tedious than I could bear.

The plan is to run two rows of machine stitching alongside these basting stitches before cutting it open, but as soon as I slid the sweater under the foot of my machine, the sun disappeared for the evening and I went back to what I was supposed to be doing. Which means if anyone has any advice they want to give me before I do this, here’s your chance!

Speaking of Sólbein, Mary Jane put up an IG post showing button bands picked up before the steek is cut. She’ll have a longer blog post on that approach soon!


33 thoughts on “The day I almost steeked

  1. Good morning, Karen. I’m so glad you are undertaking to steek your Lopi sweater. I knitted a color-work yoked Lopi (Riddari by Vedis Jonsdottir) that I can’t wear because the yarn feels scratchy to my bare skin. When I saw your post suggesting that you might steek your purple Lopi, I held out hope that that might be my answer: turning a crew into a cardigan. I look forward to your process. It is 2 degrees in Syracuse, NY, today. A Lopi would be perfect.

    • I did this to a colorwork Lopi. I handstitched each side with sewing thread, making sure to go through each strand of yarn. Then I cut it, and picked up an applied I cord. Finally, I sewed in a zipper. A lot of work, but I never would have worn it as a pullover. You can do it- just do one step at a time.

    • Sounds like you need that sweater today! If it’s just a straight cut up the front, you could do it so quickly. Mary Jane posted that tutorial on her blog for the crochet reinforcement (for a straight steek like that), but the sewing machine method seems so much faster.

  2. Do your machine sewing and cutting in the day time when your mind is clear. Don’t, as some suggest, have a glass of wine before you cut. (There is a reason that I give this advice)

    When machine sewing hand knits, put your hands flat over the knitted fabric on either side of the presser foot to keep kntted fabric from stretching or bunching. It doesn’t hurt to pull it ever so slightly: what you don’t want is to have the machine sewn stitching pull in the knitted fabric. This is especially so on the neckline stitching. Lopi is a breeze to steek, you should have no trouble.

    Give some consideration to the cut edge. Alice S would have you whip stitch it down. Scandinavians often knit a folded edging the encases the steek, but this is way too bulky for Lopi. On a Lopi sweater, which is inherently bulky, a pretty ribbon or piece of flat lace is a nice dressmaker touch: that way if the open sweater reveals the inside, its all the prettier.

    Above all, don’t over think the steek: if my 16 year old self could do this, anybody can

    • Yeah, I only do stuff like this is daylight and sober and all that. My plan is to turn the presser foot pressure to its lightest setting and go verrrryy slowly.

  3. Oh, I can’t wait to see what this sweater looks like when the steeking is done. I agree with Ellen, don’t have a glass of wine to relax before cutting. I like the idea of lace on the back and I have also seen some sweaters that use very pretty printed light-weight grossgrain (sp?) ribbon. I look forward to the progress.

    • This might be our only truly cold week of the whole winter so I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner.

      • I say “week,” but it’s back to 50 degrees tomorrow. So more like 3 days of winter weather.

  4. I finished the all the knitting except the front bands of my Solbein last night and wove in any ends that needed weaving…I toyed with the idea of working the button bands before cutting as I saw in the post from MJ but it was late and already passed bed time so I thought better of it.

    This morning I gave my cardigan a quick bath (full soak in water, not just a steam) *before* I secure the steek. Giving the wool a soak in some nice wool wash evens out all the tension through out the whole sweater. Once my sweater is completely dry I will reinforce the center fronts with my sewing machine and add the button bands. My Solbein is drying in front of the wood stove so I should be steeking this afternoon!

  5. Thank you for sharing this process: afterthought steeking. I have been thinking of cardiganizing my Stopover pullover, and watching your process is making me feel more confident. Here’s to some sunshine today!

  6. I’m thinking that a “walking” foot on your sewing machine would be very helpful.

    • I second the walking foot! I think it’d give a lot more control, and minimize the pulling and distortion that seems otherwise seems like a possibility.

  7. I like to wet block before steeking so everything lies flat. Use a contrasting thread. It will not show in the finished sweater and will make the sewing and cutting much easier. Use very small machine stitches, be careful not to stretch the work, and be sure to backstitch over the cast on and cast off. Do the cutting from the wrong side; on the right side the machine stitches sink into stocking stitch. I use an even number of stitches for machine sewn steeks–two for the stitching (I sew down the centre “V” of the two stitches then cut between them), two or three for the facing, depending on the weight of the wool, and one at each end for the “border” stitches (the ones used for picking up the border). Work in daylight at a time of day when your mental energy is at its peak (for me, morning). Use small sharp scissors for cutting. Although this does not apply to your purple sweater, if there are a lot of yarn ends, as in stranded knitting, use invisible tape (not masking tape) to hold the ends to the appropriate side and out of the way of the sewing. And of course, be careful not to catch any other bits of the sweater accidentally. Links to photo tutorials of most of these procedures in the techniques sidebar of my blog, Good luck!

  8. If using a machine to stabilize before steeking, you can stabilize by using a strip of tissue, such as wrapping tissue, between the sweater and the feed dogs. Hand stitching also works well, and is very easy. Some folks do a simple crochet chain stitch, which is also quite easy and makes a nice finish to the edge, all in one step.
    Use small, very pointy scissors and cut one stitch at a time.
    One of those great Ott lamps made with the LED lights built right into a magnifying lens is wonderful to use when steeking, and also for counting stitches, especially on dark colored work.
    As an aside, I once had a Norwegian exchange student who knitted in the traditional way, and she’d steek fearlessly, without any stabilizing stitches at all. She just cut away! I’m not brave enough for that method myself, but I learned that steeking needn’t be a white-knuckle sport.
    I can’t wait to see your results!
    Veronica Speedwell

    • I’ll likely try the crochet approach on my Solbein when the time comes, but with this one — angling across the columns of stitches — it seems like the machine is the way to go.

  9. Eight below here in NE PA this morning with 30 mph winds, and I’m knitting madly on my Audrey coat, which doesn’t involve steeking but does involve lopi. Great day to have a lap full of lopi! I’m afraid by the time I’m done the coat it will have warmed up, but there is always next year…

    • Wow, I’m wearing my Audrey’s Coat while reading your comment. It’s minus 18C here, with wind chill minus 29C (that’s about minus 22F). It was colder last night. Gotta love Lopi!

  10. Oh wow! Never thought of using my sewing machine! Genius! Can’t wait to see how it works out! 😊

  11. I second the use of a walking foot on your sewing machine, if you have one. It will prevent bunching that may happen under a normal presser foot and keep your line of stitches even.

    I have used this technique on several sweaters over the years. If you are at all nervous about it, try practising on a scrap of knitwear, maybe a swatch you no longer need.

  12. Karen, meg Swansen’s new blog is about needle felting your steek! couldn’t be easier. I also cut w/ no stabilizing stitches. Mary McMahon

  13. If it’s Lopi truly no need for the sewing machine. It’s also more authentic without using one. :-)

    • I seriously thought about just chopping into it, but can’t quite imagine trying to pick up sts in that edge.

      • I’ve taken classes with Alice S and the reason why she teaches cutting without any prep is that her sweaters are knitted at an incredibly tight gauge–they’re like iron. That, combined with the natural “stickiness” of shetland (like Lopi in that respect) is what holds everything together. As for finishing the cut edge, I re-block so that the edge lies flat, then blanket stitch with a finer wool, plyed if possible. See for photos of the process.

        • Oh, I love the idea of blanket-stitching the edge. I don’t think I’ve seen that before — seems less bulky than the crochet chain reinforcement.

          • Well, as for that crochet reinforcement, I feel that it leaves the cast on and cast off edges a little vulnerable, even though it works admirably everywhere else. That vulnerability seems acceptable when the entire edge is enclosed, as Kate Davies does in her “sandwich” edges, but if the edge is merely folded back, then I prefer the peace of mind that comes with machine stitching. It’s the way EZ did it, and as in so many things, she got it right in my view.

  14. For my Ranga I used my lo-fi brother sewing machine with just the regular foot and it went super smooth, no catches or anything.

  15. Hello, Karen. Just discovered your very interesting blog. If it is not too late, I can second the advice to use tissue paper between the fabric and the feed dog. Strips from sewing pattern remnants work well, as well as the tissue they stuff into shoe boxes. Watch out for brightly coloured tissue paper, though, in case it doesn’t tear away and you have to soak it out, because the dye will transfer.

    Also, it’s really helpful to pick up the stitches for the button band before you cut the steek, on two little long circulars, so that you won’t have to manipulate the fabric as much when it is more vulnerable.

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