Tag Archives: Knitting techniques

Steeking – what happened when I took the scissors to my knitting

To me, steeking has been one of the Dark Arts. A mysterious process, only to be attempted by knitting experts. .

However, I like cardigans and I want to make Fair-Isle patterns so steeking is a pre-requisite. Many of the cardigans in Yokes are steeked so maybe this is something I need to learn?

I’ve started Epistrophy and the interest in the pattern is around the steek and the stranded yoke. It’s coming along and I’m in the middle of the stockinette section:

IMG_3047 IMG_3049

This is OK in front of the TV but it’s a loooong section.

I decided to practice cutting a steek to see whether or not it worked. I’d planned to do before I started so my tension swatch doubled up as a sample:


I used the contrast yarn to show the steek stitches – there are 7.

Most of the knitting blogs that cover steeking seem to do this. OK, when you are knitting through a pattern but for a plain section, you need to be careful as they could show through from the underside.

This is not going to be a “how to” guide – I looked at Elinor Brown Knits and Kate Davies’ tutorials and the obligatory You Tube tutorials. The blogs were the most useful. This blog is going to look at what happens on a first attempt – and yes, it’s do-able.

Crocheting the reinforcement was straightforward. The thing to consider is that the yarn for the crocheting would ideally be a contrast to make it easier to see where you are cutting in the next step. But you have weight that up against the possibility of the yarn showing through from underneath. My yarn is pale and fine so it’s a bit of an issue.


Cutting was the trickiest part. I think I caught some the the reinforcement stitches which you are not supposed to do. It was hard to stretch the stitches enough to see the ladders clearly as my yarn is fine. I followed You Tube guidance with the crochet stitches which weren’t as thorough as the double crochet stitches suggested in the blogs and this might have made my reinforcement a bit less secure.


You can see a few threads that haven’t been caught into the reinforcement. However, the knitting didn’t fray and was stable and you can see it’s holding. Not likely to pull apart.


At this point, I followed Kate’s tutorials and made a steek sandwich. That was very straightforward and  creates a neat finish. My problem here was that my steek was made with 7 stitches and Kate had made hers with 5. I followed the pattern slavishly, not taking account of this – I realise I should have added more row to the “sandwich’ The consequence was that I had to cram my steek filling into the “bread” and it bulges. I will know better next time.


The finish is neat – as you can see. But notice the hint of blue coming through from the underside.

At this point, I realised that my pattern called for a button band finish so a steek sandwich isn’t needed. The final button band  will look something like this – I got the beaded rib a bit mixed up as I forgot to take account of the fact that I wasn’t working in the round. But this didn’t matter for my sample as you can see the general effect.


It’s neat and secure. Underneath, you can see the edge:


It’s a bit rough but it’s not going to fall apart. Kate’s advice is to cover this with a ribbon – I will do this for my finished cardigan.

Overall, I enjoyed making this. My knitting survived the scissors and a steek was fun to make.


Tackling Tension!

The most tricky aspect of knitting seems to be tension – more tricky than counting.

Counting was tricky at first as I was learning the pattern, thinking I knew what was coming next and then realising that I didn’t. I did a bit of knitting backwards, fixed the error and that was fine.

However, as my knitting has started to grow, I’ve become irritated by tension issues. With stranded colour work, I know that the issue is about making the floats loose enough so that there isn’t any puckering on the front as the floats pull the knitting in. I’ve been aware of this and consciously tried to make sure the floats are loose but not so loose that you get ‘big’ stitches where the colour changes. I’ve also been trying to stretch the stitches out a bit on the right needle to make sure I’m not bunching them together and then picking up the yarn, making a too short float.


But having looked at a few blog posts about stranded knitting, I can see that these are classic issues around the floats being too tight.


This is the back – do the floats look too tight?

Also, where there is an odd stitch in the contrast colour, it can seem to dive in and get lost. You can see this in the picture below (which is the worst example) I can pull it back out with a cable needle but I don’t think that’s quite what’s intended!


Will this block out?

I’m one week into the project and I’ve done about 2 repeats of the 14 repeat pattern. I’ve got a long way to go. Obviously, I will make the rest of this looser so that puckering improves. However, it’s a beautiful pattern and I want to make this a beautiful piece of knitting – rather than something that’s good enough.

So, I’m in a quandary – should or I rip it back and start again? Or carry on?

Out of wool – arghhh!

My daughter and the shawl
My daughter and the shawl
Full view of the shawl in the Spring sunshine

As you can see, I got there in the end but not without a panic..

I knew I was short of yarn so I decided to miss out the final rows of the pattern – the wool is handpainted so I wouldn’t be able to buy a matching skein. Disaster struck about 30 stitches from the final stitch.

At the start of the binding off row, I had a small ball left – there would be plenty, I thought. But as I went along, it quickly unravelled to the point where I could see the point where I wrapped the first few strands wrapped around my finger. I carried on, thinking that if worst came to worst, I would use the loose ends. it was no good though, I had to admit defeat and so I ripped back another 2 rows. So this is a slightly smaller Tornved shawl.


I’m proud of this – I think the detailing in the lace pattern is so pretty.


I finished and blocked it yesterday..


Learning how to Count.

I know how to count but keeping the right number of stitches on my needles is another matter.

I’ve got to the lacy part of my scarf and its finally starting to come along after some stop- starts.

It’s my first attempt at reading a lace-knitting chart. I downloaded the pattern; at first it seemed straightforward enough – I knew how to do all the stitches. But when I got to the charts, they didn’t make sense at first. I didn’t know the codes and how the edge of the pattern reflected the edge of my knitting. This blog post from Tin Can knits made it so simple though:


Getting the hang of a new code
Getting the hang of a new code

I got started – it all seemed simple enough….. but in fact this has proved to be the most tricky piece of knitting I’ve done so far. I discovered how easy it is to miss a yarn over and then find yourself with the wrong number of stitches and a gap in your pattern in a few lines time. Knitting when I was tired was part of the problem – I needed my wits about me. Maybe it’s still a lack of knowledge, but it seems impossible to correct without ripping your knitting back to where the problem started.

Of course, this was what I had to do. As I transferred for one chart to the next, I realised that the rows just didn’t seem to sit next to each other – too many botched corrections had taken place.

It’s starting to come along now – I’m learning to count more carefully, checking that I have the required 12 stitches in each section of the pattern (stitch markers have become my life saver!).

Lacy pattern
Lacy pattern

It looks pretty too – I have a lovely sense of satisfaction as I can see I’m acquiring a skill that is genuinely tricky. My garment will be one that I would have looked at before thinking, “How do they do that?”

I’m enjoying it as well- it’s making me think and concentrate.

Another thing I have learnt though is that there is a need for several WIPs. I’ve resisted this so far thinking that if I keep starting things, I will never finish them (of course, this may be true). But there is definitely a type of knitting for being tired in front of the TV and a type of knitting for when you are in the mood to concentrate.

2015 – one month in…

I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions, it seems that making an idea into a resolution dooms it to failure. I contemplated ‘dry January’ but lasted 10 days. I wasn’t really that committed.

However, a resolution has emerged over January that I am now determined to stick to and that is to improve my work-life balance. I love and passionately committed to my job as a teacher but for as long as I can remember it has been gruelling and there has been little time to relax and do things for me (as opposed to someone else). I’ve always worked full-time which has been fine – my career is rewarding. But when my children were small it was hard to balance my home responsibilities and my school responsibilities as well as find time for myself. As my children grew, the home responsibilities have got much easier (encouraging for those with babies – it does get easier!) but work has been hugely demanding and left me feeling fraught at times.

Christmas this year was marked by a slower pace and I discovered evenings again: knitting time and time for chatting to my husband. Going back to work was tough – I didn’t want to lose the warm rosy glow. Somehow, I’ve managed to work a little less hard – and keep some of the evening time. It’s made me feel so much better and in control of my life. I’m still working hard and usually for some of the evening – I don’t mind that as I want to do a good job. It’s just that the edge of work has gone.

Another part of this resolution is to write this blog each week. I enjoy writing and also a bit of time to think about the week in the context of knitting – rather than work.

The second half of the resolution came about accidentally. I want to ensure I exercise every day, walking to work as much as possible. If I’m not dropping the children off to childcare, I usually cycle to school – this takes 10 minutes. It’s been too cold for that here though, the route has been icy. Needing a bit of fresh air, I decided to walk. I’d always written walking off as slow and boring but I loved it – I plugged in my iPod and listened to my songs and it was a relaxing way to start the day. It takes 25 minutes each way so by the end of the week, my legs were a bit sore. It’s helped to stop me rushing around and that can only be a good thing.

I can officially make socks…. my first pair are off the needles and ready for blocking.


I didn’t intend to bother with blocking but a bit of reading around the subject has convinced me that it’s worth the effort. There’s now going to be a bit of a delay while I wait the for kit I’ve ordered to arrive. You will guess, I’m very proud of them- it was tricky at first to manage the needles but as the project progressed, it all started to seem easy.

My next challenge is to learn to do continental knitting; this is to work towards my more ultimate aim of being able to do two- stranded knitting with two hands. At the moment, this seems impossibly difficult but I’m discovering that, with practice, I’m getting the hang of lots of new skills. A technique starts off by feeling tricky and there is some fiddling around and failed attempts but after that, it starts to come together fairly quickly. I’m also finding that its worth spending time learning the skills to improve my technique – my knitting becomes more fluent and faster.

The yarn arrived early this week, beautifully packaged; this made you feel a real connection with the seller who had put the time into making this so nice. They want you to like and feel happy with their work. it even came with a lovely little project bag which I have started to use.


The yarn itself is gorgeous – it’s a lovely rich colour with a beautiful sheen. My photos don’t do it justice.


The continental knitting has been a bit difficult to get started with. After all, it’s a radical change to swap your yarn hand. You Tube tutorials plugged into my ears, my fingers felt floppy and clumsy – yet again. I spent an evening attempting a swatch that looked like something my 8 year old son would make. Full of dropped stitches, holes and wrapped yarn. However, gradually I got a fluent stitch that seemed to work quite well. The only problem was that my purl stitch was leaving the stitches sitting the wrong way on the needle to make the knit stitch. Another blog, another tutorial and I worked out that I was wrapping my yarn the wrong way. The stitch looked right but it was not helping the next row. More floppy fingers until I got the hang of the new the rhythm.