Kidsknits - How To: Steeks

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Steeks - Introduction

Here you'll find a seven page discussion of Fair Isle and Nordic methods for cutting your circular knitting, specific examples and photos of Norwegian knitting cutting techniques and an introduction to my new covered steek method.

Steek? What in the world is a steek?

Webster's Unabridged Dictionary defines it this way:

"Steek - To pierce with a sharp instrument; hence, to stitch; to sew; also, to fix; to fasten."

Unfortunately, that definition doesn't really give us a clear idea of what steek means in knitting. We use it as a noun: "I put a steek down the front of my cardigan." We use it as a verb: "You could just steek the whole thing and never purl!" We use it as an adjective: "Wow, that fair isle vest was entirely steeked!"

Here's my own shot at a hopefully more helpful knitter's definition:

Steek - The process or result of continuously circularly knitting a section of a garment by temporarily bridging a planned opening with extra stitches, reinforcing the boundaries of the planned opening when necessary, then cutting the bridged section down the middle to establish the opening.

The big point that Webster's definition misses is that, despite the emphasis on fixing and fastening, the one shared feature of all types of knitted steeks is that they are eventually (are you sitting down?) cut open. Strictly speaking, the originally Scottish word steek involves the addition of stitches to bridge an opening. Although you'll find plenty of sewing and cutting in circularly knit traditional Scandinavian/Nordic knitting patterns, such as those from Dale of Norway, you probably won't find many Scandinavians using the Scottish term steek. Any extra stitches added for the sake of later cutting in a Dale of Norway design, or most any Nordic design for that matter, are referred to as "cutting stitches". However, the sewing and cutting in Nordic knitting can certainly inspire at least as much anxiety in the uninitiated as any Fair Isle steek might. Despite the different design origins and despite the fact that only the Fair Isle method will consistently add "steek stitches" while the Nordic method adds "cutting stitches", if any at all, many knitters today refer to any section of circular knitting that is later cut open as a steek. To simplify this discussion and, hopefully, allay both types of anxiety, so will I.

Next: Why would I ever want to use a steek and (shudder) cut my knitting?

Copyright ©2006-2008 Mary Ann Stephens for and

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