I have recently (in the last month) begun knitting a sweater that is comprised of extremely fine colorwork. Incidentally, I intend to knit another one when I’m finished with this one, with a different pattern on it. But that’s neither here nor there.

This sweater has “steeking” in it. Usually, when one knits a piece with colorwork, the pattern maker makes it “easier” by separating the front and back into two separate pieces worked in “short rows” (rather than “in the round”) so that you never have to cut your work. The concept of cutting work – especially colorwork – for somebody who hasn’t done it yet is incredibly intimidating.

Steeking is cutting. It requires that you add an odd number of extra stitches (usually between three and seven) where you intend on having something like a neckline, or an armhole, and it allows you to continue working “in the round” by alternating the colors in the steek stitches so that you can reinforce it later, either with crochet or with a sewing machine, and then (of course) cut it down the middle and sew it to the back of your work. If you’ve got a plain knitted sweater (with no colorwork on it), it’s pretty darn easy to turn it into a cardigan rather than a pullover if you ever decide you want it that way. Just steek it right down the middle and cut/sew your edges and voila. Cardigan.

Like I said, it’s intimidating. When I looked at the steek stitches on my sweater, I’d get a flutter in my heart and start going “ugh. I don’t really need armholes do I? I can just walk around with no armholes. I totally can.”

But alas, I woke from that dream and realized that since I have arms, it would be nice to use them. Also, my head won’t fit through the tiny hole left over in the middle where the neckline ends (the neck requires steeking also). Tonight, I did the steeking on one sleeve, consumately screwed it up (but was able to save it and will work on making it less noticeable later), and intend on doing the second arm hole after I finish knitting the sleeve on the screwy one.

The pattern maker for the sweater I’m currently knitting suggested using either this article: http://www.eunnyjang.com/knit/2006/01/the_steeking_chronicles_part_i.html

or this video:

lk2g-063 Eeeek Steek! from Let’s Knit2gether on Vimeo.

I tried reading the article and was like, “UGH.” all the arrows and the pointers and stuff were just too much for me. Plus there’s all that writing.

And the video, while informative, was almost comical and I had a hard time taking it seriously. The way it starts with her and her huge smile, snipping the scissors… It reminded me so much of a dang SNL skit, that I could almost hear the audience busting up in the background.

So I searched online and found this: http://exercisebeforeknitting.com/2009/11/09/fair-isle-style-steekingthe-quick-and-dirty-tutorial/

That ^ is the BEST tutorial I’ve found online. The photos are big, and clear. There are no freakin’ arrows or pointers. Each step is clearly explained. It’s the only way I felt comfortable cutting anything I knit.

Best of all, with that tutorial, I found steeking to be quick and easy. Far easier than I thought it would be – so easy, in fact, that I am not sure now why I was so upset over it (except for my almost disaster with the knitting pulling out one side of my first steek because I accidentally CUT THE REINFORCEMENT. <banging head on keyboard>).

So here are a few photos of my sweater so far, the mistake I made with the first steek, and what steeking looks like on my work (which is MUCH finer than anything they showed in any of the tutorials I found):

Steek Stitches

The steek stitches in this sweater are 5 stitches long. They alternate between the main color (light gray) and whatever contrast color I'm using in that row (gray, white, or brown).

The crochet reinforcement

The crochet reinforcement will be half center stitch (main color) and half contrast stitch. There will be two crochet reinforcements running parallel to one another when this is finished.

Crochet Reinforcements are done.

Crochet Reinforcements are done.

Center of Steek stitches after they're reinforced.

Center of steek stitches after they're reinforced.


Ready to be cut!

Ready to be cut!

During Cutting

This is what the crochet reinforced steek looks like while it is being cut.

After steeking and knitting on

After steeking and knitting on. This is how steeked sleeve edges OUGHT to look.


I cut the reinforcement

I cut the reinforcement (the yellow line) on accident and alllll the knitting started unraveling from it the second I pushed a needle through to pick up sleeve stitches. Dang it!!

I fixed it (sort of) by sewing the crap out of the stitches and edging. I'll do my best to felt them on the underside when I soak it, WITHOUT felting the top side too much. Ugh.


6 Responses to Steeking Fine Colorwork

  1. Colorwork and steeking are both words that freak me out! Give me some nice cables or a lace pattern and I’m happy.

    • I completely understand where you’re coming from! Cables and lace are straight forward and, at least with cables, what you see is what you get. Colorwork takes a lot more faith. When you knit it, it can look a bit bunched, or not quite perfect in some places. You MUST block colorwork in order for the stitches to “bloom” and come into their own. I didn’t ever believe that until I knit my first colorwork sweater (a quick, easy knit with thick yarn). After I blocked it, I was SHOCKED at how beautiful and perfect it turned out. It looked nothing like the sweater I thought I’d knitted. I was so pleased that I immediately jumped feet first into this fine colorwork sweater. I’m still having faith issues (I think all color-inexperienced knitters have them), but I’m fairly sure that the sweater will be unrecognizably awesome after I block it.

  2. Archer says:

    Wow, that looks complicated!
    Every hear of the Sweater Curse? Never make/give a sweater to a loved one/family/friend….. Makes the relationship go bad.

    • I had NOT heard of that curse! I haven’t ever knit a sweater for anybody else, but I’ll try to remember your warning. My momma wants me to knit a cardy for her badly. I wonder if short sleeve cardigans count as sweaters. I’d like to believe they don’t. ;)

  3. Sunni says:

    Look at you go, girl! Is your sweater sockweight yarn? I’m looking forward to seeing you model it once it’s done.

    I have Mary Scott Huff’s colorwork book (it’s in my library on Rav if you don’t know what I’m referring to) and would love to knit a few of the sweaters in it. The problem is, I don’t know how to crochet (tried to learn once and failed miserably) and don’t have a sewing machine; so I don’t know how I’d reinforce the stitches to be steeked. I’ve read of people who’ve attempted it via hand-stitching, but they usually end up as you did when you cut the yellow reinforcement. :-( So, I guess I’m kinda stuck.

    • It is indeed sockweight (or fingering weight, for those not-in-the-know) yarn. I’m using Knit Picks Palette yarn for this project. I’d FULLY intended on using my absolutely gorgeous skein of Malabrigo Azules sock yarn for the tortoise, but I left it out on my desk and the kitten was like “YARN SCRATCHING POST! YAY!” and he tore it up while I was out one day. It’s now the most expensive scrap yarn for holding stitches that I’ve ever bought. :D

      As for your issue with crochet, you don’t have to know how to crochet to do this. Seriously, knit a swatch, and practice steeking using the article I posted above (the one I said I liked best). It should help. If it doesn’t, I’ll do a video for you.

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