I’ve just returned from a lovely weekend in Dublin, where I was teaching a workshop at one of my very favourite yarny places, This is Knit. The shop has recently moved into new premises in the Powerscourt centre.

I always feel welcome at This is Knit.

Upstairs, on the mezzanine, there is a great teaching space. I gave a short presentation . . .

. . .and we all got down to work.

At cutting time, silence descended. . .


We then made neat facings for our steeks, using a method which I have called the “steek sandwich.” This simple technique features on a couple of my forthcoming designs, one of which will be released toward the the end of this month.

I enjoyed the workshop tremendously, which was really something of a relief. It was my first teaching experience since January 2010 (the last class I taught was, in very different circumstances, on this day). Shortly afterward, I had my stroke, and the rest you know.

I realise I’ve not been talking so much about my health of late. This is not because I suddenly feel better, or anything, but somehow, for whatever reason, at the moment I’m finding it more useful to just try to get on with things rather than dwell on them. I am not ignoring my limitations – on the contrary, they determine how I live life every day – but I do find that I have a tendency to become frustrated if I focus too much on these issues. I have many other things to think about right now – I’m enjoying what I’m doing and life is largely very good. A while ago, someone asked me what I missed about academia. I shocked myself by answering, quite truthfully, that there is not a single thing that I miss about my previous position. Indeed, despite the awful hideousness of having had a stroke and the many difficulties attendant on the process of recovery, weighed in the balance, I would say that I am much, much happier supporting myself through my own creative endeavours than I ever was working for a University.

In any case, I feel that I’ve crossed another hurdle this weekend. And, as on a previous occasion, my friends in Ireland have helped me to cross it. I was happy teaching a workshop at This is Knit because I knew that, if I had a “bad” day and found myself unable to turn up, then both staff and pupils would have understood. This is not always the case, though, and one of the most annoying things about my present circumstances is having to remain cautious about putting myself in situations where my health issues might not meet with the same level of understanding.

Anyway, without making any sort of fuss about it, This is Knit did everything they could to put me at ease, and I’m very grateful. Thanks also to the lovely knitters at the workshop, who made the occasion a genuine pleasure for me. Before I left, Lisa and Jacqui presented me with this beautiful shawl pin, the work of local designer, Eimear Earley. Inspired by brooches in the archeological collections of the Museum of Ireland, Eimear’s pin was commissioned by This is Knit, and is just one of many examples of how the shop supports and fosters creative talent.

Thanks for a great weekend, ladies. I’ll come back any time.

Edited to Add: having received a few enquiries about the shawl pins, you can find them here.

67 thoughts on “Steeks!

  1. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend the day: meeting you and other knitters, learning how to steek and drinking coffee. When can you come to the south coast?

  2. Great job teaching ! Your “ta-da” comment has made me laugh out loud.
    Great decision in health management ! But was it a decision, my guess is that it is the natural evolution of things, but that is just my personal point of view and all these issues are so personal. Anyway, tu tiens le bon bout, as we say in French (you are on the right track – informal) and it makes me incredibly happy !
    All the best,

  3. What a wonderful day you had, surrounded by dear friends and eager students who have now become your friends. Continued improving health to you!!

  4. It’s wonderful that you are enjoying your new career! As a fervent knitter of your designs it’s very exciting waiting to see what you will come up with next. I can’t wait to see this method of finishing steeks – mine are messy on the inside and that sample looks lovely and clean. Take good care.

    1. Me too! Knitting a piece now with a steek column – will await Kate’s next pattern releases with more than usual interest.

  5. Wow what a lovely post! So glad to hear that you are feeling so enriched by the new direction life has taken you on, even though it is very hard for you at times. Your creativity and talent for teaching are a fab combination! Wish I could have been at the steek workshop – I’ve managed one already on a tea cosy but have a biggie coming up when I knit my Icelandic Freya cardi in lopi… arrgh! And what a beautiful shawl pin – no less than you deserve x

  6. Congratulations on a hurdle cleared with style and it looks like everyone had a great time – that’s a class I know I’d be delighted to take with you

  7. Thanks for a wonderful post, Kate. I just love reading your blog! It’s wonderful being able to visit all the places you go, and I’m so inspired by those living by their creative “wits.” Many blessings on your continued recovery, and keep sharing with us! And yes, that is an amazing shawl pin!

  8. Oh, my, Kate, I do love the poems you include in your blog. I went back to the January 2010 entry and read Wallace Steven’s Mind of Winter. Having just emerged from a Canadian winter, although a mild one, reading the poem has blown me right back into that frigid season. Aren’t the lines, “And having been cold a long time” and ” . . . not to think of any misery in the sound of the wind, . . . ” wonderful? Ummmm . . .

  9. I can’t think of which I’d be more excited about: taking a class with you, or going to Dublin for the first time! Those ladies sound so lovely, and I am glad you were in a safe place to get your confidence back up with teaching. It is so good to hear that you are enjoying your new path – I think a lot as well about health, stress, academia, family, creativity, etc. and it is great to have your perspective.

  10. I admire your attitude; we’ve often heard that’s half the battle in chronic health problems. Wow, I’d love to see Dublin — but not so much stEEKing (caps intended)! Oh if only I had the time to just work on those techniques that are so intimidating to me, like stranded knitting and steeking, I’m sure they’d be a lot less intimidating.

  11. I love the pin. Great that you can be at a place and just relax. That is always important. I have not Steeked yet officially that is. I have taken a couple of classes but have not braved in the cutting. I will for sure soon.
    Stay well glad you are focusing on the positive. It is the only way.

  12. How wonderful that you had such a positive experience teaching again. How lucky those knitters were to spend time with you in person. I am really looking forward to hearing more about your crochet steek work!

  13. I think you need to go on a”steeking” tour…so we can all steek…wishing you all the best in you
    next chapter.

  14. I cut my first steek last night and it was on my version of your Rams and Yowes blanket. I followed your instructions for the crochet steek and it worked like magic. It helped that I had used pure Shetland yarn! I will look forward to seeing more of your projects.Love the beautiful shawl pin.

  15. Thank you for your wonderful transparency I love the way that you write, have just punched your two textile books and just love them . I also have your Owl sweater pattern and am planning on making it. Keep it Up ! Looking forward to more .
    A fellow knitter , did you ever think of teaching a class here?
    Linda Tytko in the USA .

  16. As one of the lucky ones who attended your class on Sat, all I can say is thanks very much for sharing your knowledge and skill with us. It was fun and I learned loads………also managed to finish the i-cord cast off on Sat night, just need to sew on buttons & voila! an earwarming headband is created.
    I will be using my newly acquired steeking skill on your rams & yowes blanket in the near future……

  17. i’m excited for you. i think i have mentioned before the work of erving goffman on management of a spoiled identity, as well as the beginning of quasi clinical study of the therapeutic bennies of stitching.

    i am certain that needlework rebuilds synapses, and that your experience is the cornerstone of real movement forward in occupational/art therapy.

    so happy for you, that pin is gorgeous.

  18. Kate, this that you say: “one of the most annoying things about my present circumstances is having to remain cautious about putting myself in situations where my health issues might not meet with the same level of understanding.” — I understand exactly what you mean, being siabled since a brain tumor not quite two years ago. Perhaps the most frustrating thing for me now is when people simply do not respect my health- and ability-related limitations and needs.

    So glad for you that this experience was such a success. I’ve never steeked. **eyes big** Can’t imagine! :-)

  19. I soooo wish I was there, taking your class! I’m so happy for you, Kate….you never cease to inspire me!
    I was down with the nastiest case of stomach flu last week (during my daughter’s Spring Break) and decided that the only thing to cheer me up (well, aside from having my loving hubby & daughter taking care of me) is to start your Rams & Yowes shawl….I have never steeked in my life, but cannot wait to… :) thanks to you! mwah!

  20. I just love your blog and your beautiful knitting artwork. I have also been amazed at your ability to push your body through this long recovery of yours. I do have a very interesting question to ask you, though. I can only imagine the struggle it was to be able to knit again and I am wondering how you also keep from having major arm pain? I love love love to knit, but the pain that I get in my arm/elbow is excruciating. How do you knit so much and stay pain free?

  21. The shawl pin is beautiful. I’m glad that you are settling into your new life and not fretting over the old one. I have been so busy sewing that I haven’t done any knitting for some weeks – I am sure I will have a fresh enthusiasm when I pick up the needles again!

  22. What a great time in Dublin ! I just wish that I could have been there at your steek presentation, with those very lucky ladies. And what a gift of the lovely pin ! I feel I ‘get it’ how you face having to “rescript” your life each day upon awakening Kate, but I also think that we all should , and nobody ought ever get too cozy with things as they are. Also just want to say that your long spells of absence (on Needled) cause in me a quandary of impatient sadness, of worry, even of knitterly restlessness. I want you to know that your Needled blog is a source of great inspiration and delight , as I imagine it is for many others, and that quite simply, your presence is missed.
    (Selfish request ahead >>> “Post More !! lol. )

  23. Hi Kate, I have been following your Blogg for several years. I am glad you are done with grieving for your previous life style. Some times it was quite pain full to read and I just kept hoping you would be able to move on. We are all the richer for your knitting inspirations.

  24. I’d like to know the knitty gritty details of how you do your crocheted steeks. Mine are never as satisfactory as my sewn ones. Just yesterday a knitter wrote to me about my Trellis Waistcoat, saying that she was knitting it in alpaca and was in the process of securing the steeks by crocheting and I confess that I was nervous for her, especially since alpaca is so slippery. I’m glad your class was so satisfactory.

    1. I have a similar question. Do you chain or use a single crochet to secure the steek? That is my understanding from Meg Swansen’s book, but online tutorials suggest single crochet I have the yarn for the rams and yowes blanket, but am nervous about the steeking.
      Wish I could have been there for your class. May you get stronger everyday.

  25. Be in one of your classes should be a pleasure, not only because of the precious knitting that you teach, but because all the “obstacles” that you overcame to get there in one piece! I realy admire you Kate.

  26. Well, what am extra special wonderful class that must have been for everyone. I need help with my steeks too – a steek sandwich neatly finished off with crochet is not what mine are to say the least! So, I’m looking forward to learning your techniques in the up and coming patterns. Yippee..

  27. Wonderful! I was thinking about you teaching and hoping it would go well for you in terms of energy. Talent, intelligence, organization–those didn’t seem like things where there would be any question. What a great spot that must be.

    I was talking to someone today about healing and she believes that the very cells in our bodies hear what we say. I’m sure you get inundated with advice. But if the spirit moves you, let your body know it’s strong, tell it to release old pain, old issues that no longer serve you. I think you are continuing to heal. Do it often. Your body knows you are determined.

    Your comments about academia and what is making you happy are good things for me to reflect on. As Jen said, basically none of us should get too comfortable.

    Still knitting on my version of your Boreal. The weather was up to 80F but is now back to 35F, so I may wear it yet before June!

  28. Wow, i have just found out what they are.. very daunting but i do like the idea of knitting in the round without making any armholes…karen

  29. Your blog has such depth, that I reread the links with equal interest, enjoying them as much as the latest entry. This place is very distinct and unlike any other place on the web. Thank you for your posts.

  30. sounds like a great weekend, dude!! I wish you could come to Chicago and teach ME about steeks but I’m sure traveling is a stress. I do have Scotland on my list though… :) (ps wordpress is hassling me wherever I try to leave a comment so that’s why the WP in the front of my email)

  31. “…I shocked myself by answering, quite truthfully, that there is not a single thing that I miss about my previous position.”

    Great to hear, and Onwards!

  32. A fantastic post! I’m so glad you’re happier now than when you were in your old job. Know that you have many fans who are rooting for you! (And that shawl pin is gorgeous.)

  33. Good to hear of the upsides of your new life, after the wrench of leaving academia. I wouldn’t recognise a steek if it was served to me with chips, and I am as ever full of admiration for your creativity and determination. Someone mentions above that knitting helps build synapses: I can readily believe it – perhaps that’s where I’m going wrong! :) By the way, have just noticed your curly rams’ horns logo and I think it’s great.

  34. I completely agree with you about how wonderful This is Knit is. I was only in Dublin for a couple of days, went on a knitting shop search and they made me feel so welcome. It is a warm shop, staffed by lovely people.

  35. I’m always so excited when I read your blog! Like many of the other readers, I read along wishing I’d been in that class in Dublin. Thank you for inspiring me to sign up to a class in my resident Berlin.

    Stay cool sistrin’

  36. “at cutting time, silence descended..” Lol .
    I love the gorgeous shawl pin gift you received.
    The way you talked about you health in this blog post Kate, shows again how strong your resolve to move forward is. It is great when people are ready and willing to understand, and give some leeway if needed. I hate having to be on, or ready at a certain time regimentally. It is very stressful when dealing with uncertainty with one’s health. I think you are amazing.

  37. Thanks for a wonderful class! I think I might just be brave enough to steek again using your technique. It was lovely to meet you again and I hope you can come over to Dublin again soon!
    P.S: I love the shawl pin too but being the designers sister in law I may be a tad biased. ;)

  38. I think you’re right to ‘just get on with it’. I have similar health issues post a brain injury of a different kind and sure it’s frustrating never quite knowing what can be accomplished on any given day – after the day has begun often, let alone days or weeks in advance – but there are so many positives in life that aren’t dependent on that kind of foreknowledge.

    You have a whole new you – with good bits and bad bits just like before, simply different ones – and the whole new life that goes with it is, I assure you, looking like lots of fun.

    Take care Kate, and happy knitting :D

  39. I’m almost done with the Rams & Yowes blankie…well, the tube knitting part :) This being my first steeking project, should I do a mock steeking project before I snip this one? Any help/advice will be much appreciated!

  40. I just finished my first stranded knitting project. The steeking will have to come another day for another project. After I get up the courage. And I’m happy for you on many levels.

  41. HEY KATE -so nice that you are moving on with your life , now the workhop , then the next thing , who knows – boy we all have our issues , some worse than others – the choices are 2 , to lay down and give up or to grab life any way you can and adapt – not hard to see what choice you made – YOU are strong , even on the days you don’t feel so , and life holds so much to live for — live life and love—- pat j

  42. Just to say I have finished knitting your lovely Deco Cardigan design in Blacker Yarns Hebridean/Mohair. I am delighted with it and the pattern was so satisfying to knit! Thank you.

  43. Hi Kate,
    I’m a french woman, so it’s not so easy to write you in english, but I try. I descovered your blog by my friend Chantal who likes very much all what you make. I come often to see you, your marvelous photographies and the beautifull things you do.
    I just want to tell you a big big big THANK YOU for all, all you are, all you make and the oportunity you give me to travell in your beautifull country, where, I think, I’ll never come.

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About Kate Davies

writer, designer and creator of Buachaille (100% Scottish wool)