Kidsknits - How To: Steeks

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Crochet vs Machine Steeks

Many well-meaning knitters are suggesting that anyone with a steek to reinforce use this popular crocheted method, as it negates the need for the evil sewing machine. It sure is easier to carry around a crochet hook rather than a sewing machine! On the other hand, you didn't knit that beautiful heirloom because it was easy, did you? Many knitters understandably prefer the warm and cozy idea of handcrafting something with wool over the cold notion of dragging out a nasty machine to reinforce beautiful hand knitting with boring old thread. But, it's just a hard, cold fact that relatively minute machine sewn stitches can lock down a strand of yarn at several points while hand crocheted stitches can only apply one flexing band of pressure around your stitches. That's not much help if a cut strand of smooth yarn is inclined to slip though the crochet stitch without grabbing its neighbors in the Shetland style. Hand crocheted steeks are never a good option for typically slippery synthetic or plant-based yarns. Machine sewn reinforcement is the only option for such yarns. If you're not using Shetland wool and you're uncertain as to whether or not your yarn will grip enough for a crocheted steek to be adequate, please test the process on your gauge swatch before you cut a crocheted steek on your masterpiece. Be certain to simulate plenty of life's unfortunate tugs and snags on your swatch. Remember, while hand crocheting a steek can be a satisfying process with a beautiful result, a properly done machine sewn steek can be fast, fun, undeniably stronger and it can work on many more types of yarn. Some knitters (like me) will use very short, straight machine stitches to sew 2 lines (for cardigans) or 2 elongated Us (for armholes) right next to each other; some will use one short, narrow zigzag stitch. (As you might have guessed, the Nordic methods are my specialties, I swear by machine-sewn steeks and the smoother, more comfortable Norwegian yarns, available through my sites and , are my favorites.)

Cutting the steek

Use sharp, pointed scissors. The opening is cut as one line, right down the middle, in between the sometimes optional /sometimes crucial reinforcements. It's a good idea to place a barrier, such as a sheet of cardboard, inside your garment, behind your steek so that you won't cut through to any other areas. Once the steek has been cut open, stitches for the button and buttonhole bands are picked up and worked just outside the reinforcements on the borderline right in between the last steek stitch / first body stitch or the last body stitch / first steek stitch. Alternatively, button bands can be worked separately and then attached. In the photos below, I'm reinforcing with short machine stitches (fig. 1), then cutting my steek open (fig. 2) and, after a few finishing touches, the finished product (fig. 3).

fig 1  fig 2  fig 3

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