How to Steek Knitting

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The first time most knitters hear what steeking entails they are shocked. Let me lay it on the line for you: it means cutting your knitting. I know, it sounds like a horrible idea and counter to everything that knitters hold dear--but trust me--it's not as bad as it sounds. Used especially in Fair Isle or multi-strand knitting done in the round, steeking allows you to knit the body of a sweater without having to divide your knitting into front and back sections--and that's definitely a good thing. Steeking can be used to insert sleeves, zippers and even pockets into a seamless section of knitting--and there are two ways to do it. Here they are.

Things You'll Need

  • Knitting needles
  • Yarn
  • Scissors
  • Straight Pins

How to Do Traditional Steeking

  • Follow your pattern, presumably you are working from the bottom up, although you could probably do this with a top-down sweater as well, until the row where the arm holes would start.

  • Bind off as many stitches as you need for the base of the arm hole (6 to 10 stitches should be enough, depending on the size and your gauge). Repeat on the opposite side of the garment.

  • On the next row, as you come to the bound-off stitches, cast on the same number as bound off and continue to work the sweater in the round until you reach where the top of the arm hole belongs.

  • Drop the 6 to 10 stitches that you had cast on for the steek. It works best if you first knit those stitches, knit the next stitch in the pattern, and then shift that last stitch back to the right needle to hold while you then drop the steek stitches down to where they were cast on. This way you're in the right place to continue on with your knitting without any pulling.

  • Cast on the number of stitches required to replace the steek stitches on the next round and knit through the rest of the pattern, binding off at the neck (or hem).

  • Cut the center of the steek stitches that were dropped (the section that looks like ladders of yarn in the middle of your sweater).

  • Tie off the loose ends in small groups, making sure not to pucker the knitting around the opening or leave knots so large that they could be uncomfortable to the wearer.

  • Pick up the number of stitches around the arm hole to knit your sleeve or fit and sew your premade sleeve into the new arm hole, depending on your pattern's construction method.

How to Do Sewn Steeking

  • Knit the body of your sweater in one piece, top down or bottom up, doesn't matter, as you don't have to do anything while knitting to work this type of steek.

  • Lay your garment flat and identify where the armholes, zippers or pockets need to go, marking the beginning and ending of that section with straight pins.

  • Sew a line of tight stitches around the marked area, reinforcing the top and bottom of the opening-to-be with an extra line of stitching or two.

  • Cut inside the sewn area to make an opening for your sleeve, pocket or zipper.

  • Pick up stitches just outside the machine stitches or sew in your extra pieces, using the sewn area as selvage, to finish your garment.

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