I’ll steek that! : Norsk Strikkedesign progress

I’ve given up on tomorrow. It whizzes by and turns into yesterday almost before it’s
been today. I’m working instead on the concepts of next and soon, on making deliberate if not speedy progress toward my intentions instead of thinking they’ll actually get done at a specific time. So now when I think of saying that I’ll continue a post or topic or task tomorrow, well, I’m going to try to use the word soon
instead. Soon is open to interpretation. Tomorrow sets up an arbitrary expectation. I think I’ll get there, but I never do.

For the past several months, deadlines have been slamming my days around like railroad cars in a switching yard. I’ve met all the deadlines. Lots of other intentions have been shuffled to the side tracks.

However, it’s amazing what you can accomplish by knitting two rounds a day on a sweater. I haven’t knitted my two rounds every day, although I’ve knitted them most days. When reached the shoulders, I worked more than two rounds a
day for a couple of days, because the end was clearly in sight—and, because of the neckline shaping, the rounds contained fewer stitches and went faster.

So here’s some catch-up on what’s been happening on the needles to keep me grounded while I’ve been pounding along toward the deadlines in freelance editing and book production. And several digressions. The photos are not going to be great, because if I stop to improve them this won’t get done at all.

Norsk Strikkedesign-inspired sweater, continuing

Here’s the Norsk Strikkedesign-inspired sweater progressing through the upper body. That’s the front steek, with one front section of the sweater smooth and the other not, because the fabric won’t lie flat once I’ve started shaping the V neckline on either side of the steek. You can probably see the pattern stitches being nibbled away by the neckline decreases on the right side (in the photograph) of the center-front steek.


I attached split-ring markers at the points where I began the decreases. I’ll need to know what row that was when I finish the sweater: the front opening will end at the markers, and the collar (or whatever I do with the neckline) will begin there. It’s easy to slip on markers as soon as I pass that row. There are two. When I cut the steek, each will stay with its section.

At the very right edge of the photograph, you can also see one of the armhole steeks.

By the time I reached the shoulders, I had four steeks going: one at the center-front, two for the armholes, and a tiny steek at the back neckline for the shaping there. That last steek was only six rounds deep—I cast off all the back-neck stitches, then cast on across the gap with another 9-stitch steek for the final bits of patterning. The February 4 post shows a chart for how I decided to handle the neckline and shoulders.

An aside about yarn handling

In that same post, I talked a bit about how the look of my pattern is affected by the way in which I hold my pattern and background yarns. I mentioned that the design shows up best on the knitted fabric when I hold the pattern yarn in my right hand. (This is opposite what works best for some people, like Priscilla Gibson-Roberts.)

One of the other things I’ve done this month is knit a bunch of samples for the illustrator to use as references while she’s doing the technical drawings for the book Nomad Press will be publishing this fall. The last in the series was a mini-steek sample. I decided to use it also as a demo to show here what I meant about the pattern-hand vs. background-hand differences.


For the lower half of this sample, I held the yarns as usual: pattern yarn in my right hand, background yarn in my left. Then for the upper half, I switched and put the pattern yarn in my left hand and the background yarn in my right.

Pretty amazing difference. It’s not a matter of overall tension, because the fabric in both areas works fine: the stranding across the back is loose enough, the tension is reasonably even, the gauge is the same, and so on. But the pattern looks astonishingly (to me) different. There’s something about the way I handle the yarn with my right hand that makes the design look nicer if it’s the one in charge of the pattern color.

This doesn’t mean anything for another knitter except that it’s good to be aware of what works in our own knitting and to respect what we discover. (Obviously, I handle the yarn a bit more loosely with that hand . . . "why" doesn’t matter.)

I know enough to put the pattern yarn in my right hand (almost) every time I pick up two-color work. Now, if I wanted my patterning to be more subtly blended with the background for a particular project or section of a project, I could just switch hands . . . intentionally. But my work will be higher-quality if I know this about the way I knit.

An aside about what you can and can’t steek

When I knit illustration samples, I choose my yarns and colors to suit the purpose, which is not wearing or using but drawing. I use large enough yarn that the stitches are easy to see, but small enough yarn that the samples don’t get huge. Worsted weight is usually terrific, although I’ve used everything from laceweight to bulky. Sometimes I use wool singles, because there’s no visual distraction of plies. Often, however, I use cotton yarn, the kind that’s so useful for dishrags (which I don’t knit, for whatever reason). The stitches stand apart from each other a bit more than in the wool, which can be beneficial to the illustrator. I choose colors depending on what I want to emphasize. (For a really tricky sample in which it’s important to see exactly how a strand of yarn travels in a small area, the variegated cottons can be great. For regular samples, variegation can be incredibly distracting.)

What’s interesting about this particular sample, though, is that it’s cotton and I steeked it.

Of course, it was a demo, so no real piece of knitting was at stake when I snipped.

But—guess what? It worked. I did double-machine-stitch the edges of the cutting line. I often don’t do that; I often just cut. Not With Cotton. The point, though, is that steeks can be used in all sorts of ways that often come with warnings: “don’t steek cotton," "don’t steek acrylic,” and so on. I’ve steeked cotton. I’ve steeked acrylic.

If you pay attention to the qualities of both the yarn and the fabric you are knitting, you can probably steek if you want to (I say probably because I don’t like absolutes). The qualities of the unique piece of knitting will affect the decisions you make about how you construct the steek, how many stitches you use for it, the way you treat the cutting path before you bring on the scissors, and the way you finish the steek after it’s opened.

Easiest to steek: woolen-spun wool knitted at a gauge where the stitches stick together nicely. Hardest I can think of right now: smooth linen or alpaca knitted loosely (I’m not sure why you’d want to steek one of those combinations, but you probably could, with planning and care).

In short: I don’t always knit in the round. But if I want to be working in the round, then there’s usually a way to work a successful steek.

Digression knitting

It’s been a while since the Norsk Strikkedesign-inspired sweater has fallen into the portable-knitting category. So there are always socks to carry around and work on during meetings and the like. . . .


All the pieces: off the needles

Here, at last, are the components of the Norsk Strikkedesign-inspired sweater off the needles. The body looks crumpled up and the shoulders look really narrow because I haven’t cut the
steeks yet. That’s next.

Before cutting, I hold the sleeves up to the armhole-steek area to see if it looks like they’ll fit. Yes, I’ve measured and calculated (several times), but the proof is in the fabric. It looks like I’m ready to move forward.


More soon.


3 thoughts on “I’ll steek that! : Norsk Strikkedesign progress”

  1. Oh, that sweater looks so fabulous!

    That handedness has been talked about lately – naturally I’d never noticed it before, but it’s so very, very true. It’s great to see it so beautifully illustrated. I’ve been incorporating that into my Norwegian Vest.

  2. I’ve missed you! Glad to see you blogging again and what fabulous progress on your sweater. It’s a stunner. I too need to knit the “pattern” yarn in my right hand..but since I transfer my stitches from the right needle to the left, it may mean something different for me than for you. That’s why it is so important, as you mention, to know one’s individual knitting quirks!

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