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Make No Mis-Steek About It

It's almost time to steek.

If you're a beginning knitter, you may have no idea what I'm talking about (but then again, as a beginning knitter, you're probably used to that).

A steek* is a set of extra stitches you add to a garment so that you can cut them out later. I know, I know, it sounds crazy (but so did the ICord* bindoff, before I tried it and realised it worked). The concept stems from the fact that stranded knitting in the round is easy, but flat, back-and-forth, knit-side purl-side stranded knitting is only ever done by hardened criminals in Turkey for whom this is their sentence. So if you want to knit, say, a Fair Isle hat, then easy. But if you want to knit a Fair Isle dishcloth, hard.

(Hint: if you want a Fair Isle dishcloth, just knit a round tube, and press the round tube flat, maybe secure the two sides to each other with a decorate detail of some kind, and live with it being twice as thick as a flat dishcloth. (Well, 4 times as thick, since stranded knitting creates a double layer, and a double-sided piece of fabric is double-double.))

So those inventive folk from the Shetland archipelago (which has a rich cultural history that I will oversimplify as "they're half Scottish/half Scandinavian") came up with the idea that instead of flat knitting they would always do round knitting. Hence, pullovers instead of cardigans, you might think. But no! To make a cardigan, they knit a pullover, and then they cut out the front opening. The bit they cut out is the extra steek stitches they put in just for such a purpose. Apparently if you crochet (or machine sew) over your knit stitches, they won't unravel even after you slice through them, at least so I'm told. I haven't steeked yet, I'm only just about to. Here's what I'm talking about:

Once invented, those Shetlanders went to town with this. They would knit sweaters without armholes, but with steeks in the right place, and then cut out the armhole steeks. They would knit sweaters with no neckline, and then cut out a V-neck steek.

I'm at the point in my GGN Norwegian Ski Sweater where I would expect to introduce the extra steek stitches, but in this pattern there are there are no steek stitches being added, I'm just supposed to (once the knitting is over) secure the eventual armholes with two machine-sewn lengths of thread, and then cut through the middle. Hell, no. I'm going to cast on and carefully knit several rows of 7 speckled stitches, as per Amy Detjen, my Craftsy* instructor in the "Simple Sweaters: Stranded & Steeked" course I've been following.

Since this is me, there's always an "I got confused" moment, and here it comes (though, to be fair, combining instructions from two different sweater patterns when you have never knit a steeked sweater before is bound to cause some confusion even for the cleverest amongst us):

  • In the GGN pattern, the sides of the sweater go straight up, and in Amy's pattern, there's a jog in the schematic (she's using a different arm style)

  • In the GGN pattern they want the arms to begin at about the 16" point from the bottom, but in Amy's they enter at 12" (again, it's just a different arm style)

  • Finally I was flummoxed about just how to add the extra stitches without distorting my fabric forever, since 7 stitches where there used to be 1 stitch seemed like to large of a sudden increase, even if later they would be secured and sliced out.

I signed up for a class basically on "ask the instructor questions for an hour or two" at my local yarn store (Three Bags Full) and she (Mandy Moore, not the choreographer) sorted it all out for me, saying "ignore the jog, wait the full 16 inches, and just add the stitches and they will bunch together a bit, not stretch out the fabric" (which makes perfect sense--they're made of yarn, not Wurtsite Boron Nitride*).

Wish me luck!

Speaking of Cakes

Did you ever wish there was an expression that basically means "I'm now going to segue into an apparently unrelated topic of conversation, except that it actually isn't if you bear with me." Yes? Well, the expression exists. It's "Speaking of Cakes," and it's only known to myself and a few others because we accidentally invented it. But now it can be yours!

It arose like so: a few of us were putting on a surprise birthday party for our pal Patrick. One of us was tasked with arranging the birthday cake, one of us had acquired his present, and one of us would ensure he was in the right place at the right time for the surprise. The only wrinkle was that on the Big Day the birthday boy insisted on hanging out with us, making it tricky to discuss our arrangements. In particular, I wanted to make sure that my friend who had been entrusted with the birthday cake had indeed obtained it. So our conversation, in front of Patrick, went a bit like this:

Uncle Stashley: So, remember that special book you were supposed to get from the library today?

Cake Getterer: What?

Uncle Stashley: You know, today, you were hoping the library was going to have a very special book, that you were going to be the one to get, and it had to be today? That book?

Cake Getterer: No ...

Uncle Stashley: Yes, you remember, today, Very Special Book, it's about chocolate, it's a Chocolate Book, you special ordered it yesterday, you're hoping to get it today, the Chocolate Book ...

Cake Getterer: Oh! The book. Yes. I get it now. We're talking about the book.

Patrick: What book?

Cake Getterer: You don't know about the book.

Uncle Stashley: Anyway, the library called, and they said the book is ready for pickup.

Cake Getterer: Terrific! I'll go right down to the ba--the library, and I'll get the book. Thank goodness.

Uncle Stashley: Yes, that's a relief.

Cake Getterer: Oh, speaking of cakes, there's a new dessert place that opened up on Fort Street.

Patrick: Huh?

Hence, every since then, "Speaking of Cakes" has become our segue into an apparently unrelated topic of conversation, except that it actually isn't once you bear with us. In real life, you use it like this:

Person A: "I can't stand Lars Von Trier movies."

Person B: "Oh, I know, he's so serious and full-of-himself."

Uncle Stashley: "Speaking of cakes, I was getting my hair cut at the Barber shop on Main Street--not the quaint one with the pole, the new one with the tattooed hipsters and the complimentary beer--and in the back, next to the washroom (not for customers, apparently, they get very upset if you try), there was a little poster of Lars Von Trier with a circle and a slash through it, so I don't think they like him either."

It's very useful. You're welcome!

On The Needles

(I will mark with a ! those projects that have advanced, and !! those projects that are new to the blog.)

  • !Sophie's Universe crochet project (Part 6: Round 49), and can I just say I can hardly believe I've managed to get this far on my VERY FIRST CROCHET PROJECT EVER. Granted, it'll probably be another year or two before I finish--it's going to be huge--but it's going great!

  • !GGN Norwegian Ski Sweater (about 15.0 inches into it, from the bottom)

  • !Persian Dreams Blanket (row 28 of the third hexagon)

  • !A Church Mouse sock (4" through the 5.5" of the foot prior to decreasing to toe)

  • Sweater Sample (from the Sweater Workshop, still in the buttonhole section)

  • A Random Blanket (about 40% through)


  • *icord = short for Idiot Cord, Elizabeth Zimmerman's invention of a knit, small round length of tube, can exist independently (e.g. as a tie), or as a cast-on, or as a bind-off; lovely and useful.

  • *steek = the stitches added to the stranded-knit garment that will eventually be secured at the edge and then cut through to create an opening

  • *Wurtsite Boron Nitride = a material created during volcanic eruptions, 18% harder than diamonds

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