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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Cut your knitting???? Are you mad???

That's quite often the response I get when I suggest that you can cut your knitting. Yes it sounds scary. You've spent weeks, months or sometimes even years knitting something beautiful so why do you want to cut it?
The technique of 'steeking' is often used in fair isle sweaters or cardigans to cut openings for the armholes or to cut down the front of a cardigan. Using this technique enables a sweater or cardigan to be knit in the round to the shoulders and if you're knitting fair isle it's much easier to knit it in the round than to knit it flat.

But, there are other things you can use this technique for. Machine knitters use the 'cut & sew' technique regularly to cut out shapes for armholes and necklines. It's a lot quicker on the knitting machine to just knit a rectangle and then cut out all the shaping afterwards. Before you cut your knitted piece you sew seams to stop the piece from unravelling.

The key to your knitting NOT unravelling is to somehow secure the stitches prior to cutting. This can be done by hand-sewing, machine sewing or crocheting. I prefer crocheting as it's easy and all you need is a crochet hook. Even if you've never crocheted before, you can easily learn how to crochet the seam before you cut.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine knitted a lovely cardigan in Noro Silk Garden Lite. Noro is a fairly expensive yarn and she took a long time to knit this garment. When she put it on she wasn't entirely happy with the shape of it. It had these long, floppy fronts which looked great on the model but she found it didn't work very well with her lifestyle. Then she washed the cardigan and the fronts stretched even more. We discussed ways of fixing this problem and I said she could unravel the fronts and re-knit them but that's a lot of work and would also mean undoing all the seams to separate the different pieces of the cardigan. 

So I suggested I could cut the spare fabric off. After the look of horror on my friend's face, she let me take the cardigan home to try it.

Below is a pic of the cardigan on my dress form (the cardigan is size 14 and my dressform is size 8/10, so it's a bit big) and you can see one of the long fronts. I've already crocheted a seam where I want to cut.
 This is all you need to 'steek your knitting' - a crochet hook and sharp scissors.
 I crocheted a seam then grabbed my scissors and got to work.
 The excess fabric has been cut off. This tooke me all of 10 mins this morning.
You then need to cover the edging somehow, I decided to pick up stitches for a simple 2x2 rib button band. I took this cardigan with me when I met my friend for lunch today. I did the crocheting and cutting this morning then brought the cardi along so she could have her say on the button band. The pictures below were taken when I got home this afternoon and it was already going dark, so they're not great.

The button band from the right side:
 And the wrong side of the button band - the edge you're left with after crocheting and cutting is a little bit thicker than if you just picked up for a button band at the edge of the fabric but it looks very neat.

 You can also create a 'steek sandwich' and knit a casing that covers both sides of the cut seam like I did on my Kari sweater which made the cover of The Knitter in August.
 So do you want to learn how to cut your knitting? You can join me this Saturday, 7th Dec, at Purlescence near Oxford. You'll learn how to crochet two different types of seam to secure your stitches, cut your knitting and knit a plain button band and knit a 'steek sandwich' casing. We'll also talk about why you want to steek and other ways of covering up the cut edge. There are still a few spaces available. It's also Purlescence's Christmas Open Day and Easyknits will be there. So in addition to attending the workshop you also get to check out Purlescence's and Easyknits' goodies. There will be plenty of time at lunchtime and after the workshop for a bit of retail therapy. You may even get some Christmas shopping done, if only a few treats for yourself! There's yummy food and cake too!

You will need to knit a swatch to take with you to the workshop to work on but if you've never done fair isle or don't have time to knit a fair isle swatch then just knit a plain stocking stitch one instead.

So in the middle of this pre-Christmas rush, take a day out for yourself and treat yourself to a day learning a technique which will impress all your knitting friends. Book now!

Oh and by the way, if you are new to fair isle and would like to lean this technique or want to learn how to knit some fab traditional Norwegian Selbu mittens then join me on Saturday 1st Feb for the 'Norwegian Selbu Mittens' class. This is one of my brand new classes for next year and should be a fun one. You'll learn how to hold two strands of yarn in either your left or your right hand or both hands and how to knit the iconic 'Selbu' mittens.


Unknown said...

Thanks for an excellent explanation as to what steeking actually is. I'm one of those knitters who just couldn't get past the cutting bit. Maybe one day I'll actually be brave enough to try.

Anonymous said...

I understand the fear. I felt the same way too but its really not that scary. Practice on a swatch if you're worried.