After setting it up as a goal this year, I steeked for the first time last week! Last fall, my friend Mary was preparing to teach a class about finishing techniques at a knitting retreat. When she asked for my help in test-knitting her pattern and offered an opportunity to learn how to steek, I couldn't resist. Unfortunately last fall turned out to be quite eventful and busy, so although I finished all the individual pieces of the sweater (and helped with pattern testing), I was unable to sew and steek the miniature sweater I had knit.
After testing out the pattern and submitting my feedback, I was left with four pieces: a front, a back, and two sleeves. I seamed the shoulders first, then the sides and sleeves. In the normal scheme of things I'd probably pick up some stitches along the collar and call in finished. However, since the plan was to steek my mini pullover into a cardigan, I set it aside until steek day.
For those of you following along at home, yes, I did knit a sweater in pieces, only to steek it to make it into a cardigan. If you know anything at all about steeking, you probably know that it's a method to make it possible to knit in the round for the entirety of the sweater and then cut it open at the end to (magically!) become a cardigan. This is a distinct advantage for color knitting where working the colorwork pattern on the wrong side is not a proposition for the faint of heart.
The first step of the steek was to crochet along what was to become the edge of the cardigan. The middle of the front was marked with a line of purls to indicate where we would eventually cut. I crocheted through the sides of two stitches a half stitch away from the purls on either side. Reminding me of gym class, my left-handedness became a detriment as I followed my right-handed friend using my left hand but with a right-handed setup. On the second side I attempted to go fully left-handed which initially slowed me down; however, by the end I had started to get the hang of it.
After inserting our crocheted stabilization, it was time to do the scariest (and most exciting!) step: cutting it open. First I made certain that I was only going to cut through one side of my miniature sweater; I then began cutting along that center line of purl stitches. After the first snip, and the realization that the sweater really wasn't fully unraveling, I gleefully continued cutting and transformed the sweater into a cardigan.
Once it was split wide open, the main remaining step was to pick up stitches for the collar and placket. I opted not to add buttons since I didn't know the size of the stuffed animal it would eventually belong to (open cardigans fit more sizes!). The band is in 3 by 3 ribbing like the bottom of the sweater. After the ends were woven in, a final step should be taken to stabilize and flatten the steek and line of crocheted stitches. A blanket-style stitch along the inside will keep the line of crochet stitches and the loose ends flat and protected. Due to the rush of the holidays, I haven't had time to find a lighter weight yarn to use and complete this task; however I will finish this last step sometime in the new year.
I'm quite excited for my miniature sweater and the opportunities that steeking brings. I'll probably attempt a few more smaller steeks before I get my confidence up to do a full-size sweater. Although this quick little project took a little over a year start to finish as it waited for the right time to be steeked, it was definitely worth the wait!