Beat the Steek:  Part 2 - Wabi Sabi

Beat the Steek: Part 2

These are a few tips that will make your stranded colourwork steeks a bit more stress free during the knitting process:

colour dominance

When knitting stranded colourwork, it is generally a good idea to pay attention to which of the colours is the foreground, and which is the background.  Basically, when a colour is carried above the other colours, it recedes a bit into the background, and if it is carried beneath, it shows a little more prominently on the finished work. 

Once you decide which colour will be background, and which foreground, you should do your best to carry them consistently across the piece, or your work will look a bit uneven and your yarns will also get twisted together as you work.  If you knit with one colour in each hand, this is very easy to keep straight, as you simply always hold the dominant colour in the left hand, and the background colour in the right.


wrong side of work, yarn dominance
understanding colour dominance also has the nice benefit of making the wrong side of colourwork almost as attractive as the right side!


There is a lot out there that goes more in depth on this subject, so if you are interested in learning more, I would recommend searching YouTube for "yarn colour dominance in stranded knitting".

avoiding puckering

One of the problems faced with stranded knitting is puckering.  While experience will result in an innate understanding of what perfect tension feels like, getting there can take a lot of work and disappointment.  Fortunately, there is a relatively easy and solution!  To start, imagine a doughnut:  


mmm, doughnut...
You may need a real-life model on hand for this step. If you think it will help you study, please go acquire a doughnut "for science".


The outside circumference of that is a lot larger than the circumference of the hole, right?  Now that the doughnut is your tube of knitting, held open and viewed from the top down.  If your floats are created on the inside of the work, they are a little bit shorter than they would be if they were created on the outside of the work, and when you cut the work as you will for a steek, there won't be enough "flex" in the floats to let the work lie truly flat, and so it will be inclined to a bit of puckering.  This is exacerbated in areas like "turning the corner" on magic loop or double pointed needles.  

If you pop your work "inside out" when you are knitting it, however, this solves the problem quite handily:


inverted knitting
Inverted knitting:  pop the work so it is inside out, and hold the needle in the back in the left hand.  

This does result in having to change how you hold the knitting slightly, as the working part is now at the back.  It is a very easy adjustment to get used to, however, and it has the side benefit of letting you admire how great your work looks, even on the wrong side!

end times 

One of the things I love most about steeking is that I don't have to worry about sewing in my ends at all:  it’s all going to end up cut and trimmed  at the end!  When changing colour on a project, I usually leave about 1” tail per colour, and if I am going to be using the old colour again within the next ten to twelve rows, I will just leave it joined and let it carry up the work.  If I need to tie a knot to secure the new tail, I do so loosely, so that it is easy to remove once the steek is cut.  Try to keep stitch tension more or less consistent with colour changes but, as it is something that can be tweaked when blocking, it’s not anything to loose sleep over.

borders and button bands

Usually, patterns will tell you to cut the steek, and then pick up and knit any borders or button bands needed to finish the project.  I recommend doing those steps first, however, for a few reasons:

Picking up stitches creates a little bit of stress on the work, as inserting a needle or crochet hook can make the yarn move a little bit.  If you have already cut the steek when you do this, it is theoretically possible that this could cause it to come out, particularly if the work was made with a less "sticky" yarn than, say, Shetland Jumper Weight.  This becomes even more of a worry if, for example, you discover after knitting your band that the needle size you used was too big and it needs to be frogged and re-knit.  By leaving the steek uncut, you afford yourself the luxury of knowing that, if something goes wrong, you can make adjustments without stress.  For something like button bands, having the work attached is also more convenient for things like lining up the buttons when you sew them on!


borders are done
puppy sweater, unsteeked, with i-cord borders done!

Secondly, there is something more psychologically sound (to me, at least!) about front-loading the work.  If you block the piece, steek it, then knit the button bands, sew in the ends THEN block it again, it feels (to me) like doing the finishing part twice, and greatly increases the chances that I will set it aside in a fit of pique and forget about it until years later when I am excavating my knitting stash.  Doing all the knitting first, then steeking, then sewing in any remaining ends just feels more efficient!

Next up:  prep work

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