“Steeking – To pierce with a sharp instrument; hence, to stitch; to sew; also, to fix; to fasten.” (Webster’s Revised and Unabridged Dictionary)
Steeking. The word is enough to strike fear into even the most confident knitters heart. You knit a perfectly good jumper and then you cut it up to make a cardigan. Sound terrifying? Definitely! Originally developed in the Shetland Isles, this technique has been used for centuries across the northern hemisphere, but today it is used less and less due to its perceived difficulty. So why would anyone chose to do it? I chose to do it because I prefer to knit in the round whenever I can, and I like cardigans. That, and I love a challenge! Yes, it was a little nerve-wracking and, yes, I had to have complete silence while I did it, but once it was done and my knitting was still intact, life felt pretty good and I wanted to do it again and again… once my heart had stopped trying to jump out of my chest, that is.
Luckily, my first steeking was done on a baby cardigan for my new niece, so if it all went wrong, it wouldn’t have been quite so heartbreaking. The other thing that greatly helped was that Kate Davies’s ‘Blaithin’ pattern is extremely well written and comes with enough heavily illustrated cheat sheets online to make even the most nervous steeker feel semi-confident. Nonetheless, it is still hard not to feel too intimidated when you’re cutting through hours and hours of careful knitting.
Once you’re through the scary cutting up bit, Kate directs you to create a “steek sandwich” to enclose all your loose ends and create a rather beautiful bind off. Once I’d finished, I was a very happy (and relieved) person to see that nothing had come apart!
I changed the colours rather dramatically from the original which is white with a pink and green patterned yoke. This was partly because I really don’t like the stereotypical “girls in pink, boys in blue”, and partly because I wanted to do something entirely different to the original (which is beautiful, but not my taste). I used some very cosy Icelandic Alafoss Lopi for the body and white background yoke, and Japanese branded ‘Puppy’ (not made from real puppies) wool for the button bands and yoke detail. These wools are extra “sticky” and they tend to felt together so when the steek is cut, the knitting doesn’t fall apart. While I would love to have tried this using Shetland wool (apparently it’s very “sticky”), out here in Singapore there isn’t much call for thick woolly knits, so I’ve contented myself with what is left of my stash from Japan. One day soon it’ll run out though, and then I can explore internet wool shopping… (Hurray!)
So there it is! If I can do, so can you! So why not give steeking a go?