Let's Steek! INTRODUCTION
I'm SO excited to be able to bring you Actual Knitting Content in this space. I've had this in mind for ages and FINALLY sat down to do it, so welcome to the inside of my yarn brain!
Do you remember the “Will it Waffle?” trend of putting everything (falafel, macaroni and cheese, whatever) in a waffle iron? This is me with all pullover sweater patterns. “Will it cardigan?” is my first question when I see a pattern I like, and THANKFULLY, the answer seems to be usually be “sure!”
I’ve made some gorgeous pullover sweaters over the last five years, and I do love them. As I’ve been sewing my handmade wardrobe, it’s become clear that I just don’t wear pullover sweaters because, left to my own devices, I WILL NOT WEAR STANDALONE PANTS. My pullovers were are all knit with pants in mind, so they just don’t get the kind of use they once did.
I love cardigans: they’re good for layering (Georgia has wild temperature fluctuations during the day so you need to be able to easily add and remove layers) and they look awesome over skirts and dresses.
There seem to be pullover patterns out there than cardigans and a lot of cardigan patterns are knit flat (more on this later), so I didn’t feel like I had a ton of options.
Then I learned how to steek and a whole magical world of cardigans opened up to me.
A steek is an extra bridge of stitches you work at the opening of a garment (center front, armholes, neck), reinforce (technically optional but I ALWAYS reinforce), and then cut open. My friend Kristyn calls it “that shit where you cut your knitting,” and while it seems TERRIFYING, once you get the hang of it it’s super useful and fun and opens up (heh) a whole world of knitting possibilities. It might be my single favorite knitting superpower.
Steeks allow you to work in the round in places you wouldn’t normally be able to. There are multiple reasons to do this (if you loathe purling, for example), but for me it all comes down to tension.
I’m a continental knitter (and a loose one, at that), which when I knit plain stockinette, the purl side of my fabric is always much looser than the stockinette side. This jacks with gauge and also looks sloppy. I’m not about to switch needle sizes every purl row, so steeking allows me to knit in the round and keep my even knit side tension throughout the garment. Steeking is also super helpful (I’d almost say non-negotiable?) on cardigans with stranded colorwork yokes. Stranded colorwork tension is a Whole Ass Thing anyway, and trying to manage that PLUS the difference in purl tension sounds unfortunate.
The other thing I love about steeking is that with a few fairly simple steps, you can transform a pullover pattern into a cardigan. It’s actually less work than translating a pullover into a cardigan knit flat—stitch counts, decrease instructions, etc. remain more or less the same for most of the garment.
Over the next (however long this sweater takes), I’m going to walk you through the process of converting an all-over colorwork short-sleeve pullover pattern into a long-sleeve cardigan. I’ve never made this pattern before so we’ll be figuring this out together. If you’ve followed along with my garment sewing on Instagram, you'll know I’m all about showing the process and not just the product—I guarantee that there will be mistakes made and lessons learned.
The pattern I'll be working with is Hello From My Colors Crop by Jessie Mae. Jessie does excellent work- I love both her designs and her pattern writing.
I was inspired after seeing Meg's version (I believe the actual order of events was to gasp, drop everything I was doing, and immediately start pulling yarn).
OKAY. Here are some of my favorite steeking resources before we get going—we won’t get to some of this until much later (I have to knit the sweater first), but I do get questions so here’s a good place to start!
Here's me talking about the process of preparing and cutting the steek on my Knitter’s Dude (this was my first steek ever and I made a big deal about it and then the second I cut while in bed watching TV).
Tin Can Knits on Steeking Photo tutorial
Knitting Expat on Steeking Video
Suzanne Bryan on Steeking Video
OKAY. That should do it for now-- next time we'll be talking about prep, yarn and needle info, charts, and all that good stuff.
Feel free to leave questions or comments below!