Cut Your Finished Knit? Yes, Yes, Yes!
Steeking is basically a way to create openings in tubes by cutting into your knitted fabric. It is significantly easier to knit a tube for the body and then add the sleeves after the fact, rather than knitting a bunch of little pieces and then seaming them all together. Steeking is used in traditional Nordic sweaters for armholes, and you can use it to turn a pullover sweater into a cardigan. You can also use it in Fair Isle knitting so that you don’t have to work any of your complicated colorwork patterns flat, eliminating the need to learn to purl while stranding colors and also reducing the number of yarn ends left over from changing colors.
Non-Superwash Wool Yarn
Decide where you want to add a steek to your knitting. In that place, you’ll want to add about 8 stitches for the steek, alternating colors for every stitch. The stranded colors in this area will later help keep the steek from unraveling.
After you’re finished knitting, you’ll cut down the middle of this column of stitches (1). Go slowly, and make sure you’re using really sharp scissors (2)!
Once you’ve cut your steek, it’s time to pick up stitches along either edge. Non-superwash wool yarn, knit at a fine gauge in stranded colorwork, will felt together easily along the steek edge (3), so you don’t have to worry about a lot of additional finishing.
Superwash and Non-Wool Yarns
Traditional steeked sweaters used sticky, not-so-soft wool yarn so that the strands would stick to each other like Velcro®. You can also use Superwash wool or other non-wool yarns, or even knit in a solid color, but you will need to reinforce your steek.
You can reinforce your steek by sewing a line of stitches up either side of the steek. This technique is useful in those cases where the yarn doesn’t readily felt to itself or is at a larger gauge than traditional colorwork. The cut line (1) will be between the first and last stitches of the round; a line of stitching one stitch to each side of this cut line will help to stabilize the cut edge. It may help to use a contrasting color of thread; this will not be visible in the finished piece. Once the steek has been cut and the edging knit, a sewn-in piece of grosgrain ribbon will help keep the edges from fraying.
Lay piece on a flat surface to help with sewing. With sewing needle and thread, sew a running stitch between the first and second stitches to the right of the center cut line (2).
Be sure to catch the floats between every stitch; sew right through the yarn (3). Turn work and backstitch down the same column of stitches. To backstitch, run the needle under and out as a normal stitch, but begin the next stitch halfway between the beginning and end of the first. This will create little loops of thread in the fabric that can’t be pulled out. Be sure to make many tiny stitches and pierce the yarn with each stitch if possible. Do not pull the thread so tight as to pucker the fabric. The more time you take in this step, the stronger the edge will be!
Repeat the sewn line one stitch to the left of the center cut line.
When both sides have been sewn, lay the piece flat to cut. Using very sharp scissors (4), carefully snip every float going between the first and last stitches of the round. Go very slowly—snip one float at a time. Be careful not to cut the sewn binding.