Eek, a Steek!

Here I am, bravely taking scissors to my knitting, cutting my first real steek. But even this is not really a “real” steek, since there was no colorwork involved and the point was actually to unravel the stitches on either side of the cut to make fringe rather than to prevent the stitches from unraveling in order to make, for example, a pullover into a cardigan. Kate Davies has actually just published a fantastic series of blog posts on steeks that should help demystify them and give you some practical tips if you are considering taking the plunge. One thing Kate emphasizes over and over again is that stitches really don’t want to unravel horizontally, and I definitely experienced that here, even with my slippery superwash yarn. I sort of expected that the knitting would just fall apart into fringe, but I had to very actively rip out the stitches row by row after cutting the steek.

And the scarf came out great! This is Alex Tinsley’s Bad Oyster scarf — the whole thing is knit in the round in a cone-shape, and then the steek is cut to open it up and make the fringe. It came out much better than I thought it would — which is to say, it fits my original vision, but while I was actually knitting this I had serious doubts about it. All I could see was the color pooling, which turns out to not be very noticeable from the distance that most people will ever be from my chest, and the awkward conical shape, which was hard to visualize as a functional scarf. It definitely has serious stockinette-rolling issues, but that seems to be an intentional part of the design.

This used nearly all of a skein of Malabrigo Sock in the Persia colorway. I blocked it just by soaking it & lying it flat — the only place I used a pin was on the very tip, to try to discourage it from rolling up. The blocking did unkink the fringe, as promised.

Next time on Doublepointed: newly-spun yarn! Asymmetrical stripes! Possible sweater tragedy! Stay tuned.

Natsu

My Natsu scarf is finished, and despite March’s lion-like winds Pat and I were able to get some shots of it on the way to brunch this morning.

As you may recall, this is one of two patterns that I started recently because I wanted to experiment with steeking. But Natsu turned out to not quite involve actual steeking, because the pattern recommended that you unravel the fringe section and block the fringe straight before cutting it. Proper steeking, I believe, is when you cut into your knitting while it is still knit up — my Bad Oyster scarf will involve this and there will be pictures, I swear.

Since there was no “real” steeking, the scariest part of this process was the unraveling of the stockinette section that was turning into fringe — I may have forgotten to twist one of the edge stitches, which would have resulted in a whole row of the scarf starting to unravel. Here’s a shot from the middle of that process:

Are you hyperventilating a little bit? Because I was. But it turned out okay!

The pattern didn’t give any specific suggestions for how to block this thing while it was still in the round, but this is what I came up with:

I folded it in half, making sure to line up the two ends, and I used blocking wires on all four sides. This pulled the fringe straight, and had the added benefit of providing a nice straight line for cutting the fringe apart once it dried.

Despite its being not quite as dramatic as a “real” steek, Pat was committed to documenting the cutting process. Here the cutting is about to begin — and I like that you can see our cheery kitchen in the background.

And just because Pat took so many of them, here’s a close-up shot of actual fringe-cutting:

Once this was done, the laborious process of knotting the fringe into this cool diamond-pattern began:

The knotting took me an entire hour, which was a bummer, but the knotted fringe is half of why I liked this pattern in the first place!

And here I am at brunch. The yarn is Sundara’s Fingering Silky Merino in “Monet’s Basilica,” a limited-edition colorway that I’m pretty sure you can’t get anymore. But I highly recommend the yarn, and Sundara always has some gorgeous colors available. The pattern was lovely, and contains detailed instructions for handling the fringe, but I do think the sizing is a little screwy. I ended up casting on for the wrap size and just knitting to the scarf width, because the scarf length seemed way too short. I also have much more yarn left over than the pattern indicated I would, so I’m scheming about maybe knitting some fingerless gloves with the leftovers!

Experiments

If this hat looks familiar to you, that’s because it’s the third one of these that I’ve knit — though you never saw the second, which I knit just last week and is already in the hands of its intended recipient. I knit the first one in 2009 as a replacement for a beloved non-handknit hat that a friend of mine had lost. As you can see in this post, it’s not at all the same as the original hat, but I took inspiration from it. Now he’s gone and lost the hat I originally knit for him, and was upset enough about it to commission two identical hats from me in case he loses another one. I was flattered, but when I went back to my Ravelry notes about the first hat, I found them a little mysterious. The pattern is Ysolda’s Cairn, and according to my notes I knit the first hat using size 8 needles despite the fact that the pattern called for 6s. Was this a choice I made because my gauge was off, or was I just being stubborn about the fact that I had a hat-sized needle in size 8 and not in size 6? In the end I decided to trust my notes, especially since John had liked the hat the way it came out, and once I had a finished hat I was pretty sure it fit the same way the other one did. The yarn is Koigu Kersti in colors K2420 and K2392. The first of this new pair is already in his hands, and this one will be soon. I hope to get modeled shots for you when Pat & I visit San Francisco over our spring break in a few weeks!

In addition to experimenting with trusting my own peculiar Ravelry notes, I have also suddenly and inexplicably been hit with the desire to learn how to steek. For those who don’t know, steeking is the act of deliberately¬†cutting your knitting with scissors — it hurts my heart to even type that! — to achieve a variety of effects. It’s often used with colorwork, which is much easier to knit in the round than back-and-forth — so if you want to knit a colorwork cardigan, you knit it in the round and then you cut it open (carefully, after having made some preparations that you should definitely read about before you try it). I still haven’t really gotten on the colorwork train, since it makes such dense fabric and I live in such a warm climate, but I’ve gotten started on two projects that use steeks to make fringe:

This is the ultra-simple Bad Oyster¬†by Alexandra Tinsley, whose designs and blog I have been enjoying lately. Right now it’s a cone-shaped thing that I’m knitting using the Magic Loop method (though as you can see, I’m getting close to being able to knit it in the round regular-like), but once I’m done with the knitting I’ll cut it open along the lefthand side there and unravel that part into fringe along the edges of a triangular shawl. Theoretically. Unless I mess it up. The yarn is Malabrigo Sock in the “Persia” colorway.

Aaaand instead of waiting to see whether I mess up such a simple steeking project so I can learn from my mistakes, I’ve gone ahead and cast on a much more complicated one:

This is Natsu¬†by Angela Button. The steeking part is actually no more difficult than the other project; it’s just everything else that’s more complicated. The area of plain stockinette that you see in the foreground here will be the fringe; it will be cut down the middle and unraveled. And then this circular thing should become a lovely lace scarf with fringe at the ends! This project has already given me a lot of grief, though — I cast on for the “scarf” size, and after getting through 4 of the 5 repeats that the pattern called for, I realized that I wasn’t using up nearly as much yarn as I ought to and that the whole scarf seemed pretty short. I did go down a needle size because I’m using fingering rather than sport-weight yarn, but I think the scarf size in the pattern is just ludicrously short. I ripped the whole thing out and cast on the number of stitches for the wrap size, and am now much more satisfied with its length — I’m just going to knit it to scarf-width. But that’s not where my problems ended — about two weeks ago, I noticed that 10 long rows back, I had dropped a p2tog, which resulted in a big obvious hole in my work. I pouted about it and knit those two hats, and then I finally (wo)manned up and ripped out those rows, working painstakingly with a tapestry needle and a crochet hook to pick up the dropped stitches. It’s not easy to pick up stitches after ripping a lace pattern, let me tell you! It was about two hours work in total, but that’s much less time than it would have been to rip the whole thing out and start from scratch. The yarn has been standing up to all this ripping like a champ: it’s Sundara’s Fingering Silky Merino, in the colorway “Monet’s Basilica.” I’m a sucker for a nice purple-gray, and I like Monet a lot, so when Sundara’s Monet colors came out a few months ago I was powerless against this one.

I’ve also been spinning that blue merino fiber from Weaving Works in Seattle:

It’s kind of hijacked my previous spinning plans — I had been spinning a bunch of gray Jacobs wool from my friends’ farm to stripe with the blue Jacobs wool that I finished spinning recently, but this fabulously multitonal colorway was impossible to keep my hands off of!

And the last thing I have to show you is that I finally finished the front of one of those linen-stitch pillow-covers I’ve been working on:

I love the way it came out! I’m now working on the second one, and they’ll both get plain blue garter-stitch backings. There’s no pattern here; I’m just knitting them to fit my ugly, ugly throw pillows. Eventually you’ll get before-and-after pictures, I promise!