finishing a steek

threadandribbon

I have recently been designing and knitting a thing with steeks, which required finishing. This project is part of an exciting collaboration, and I’ll be able to tell you (and show you) more about it in a couple of weeks. When working on the steeks, it occurred to me how many different ways there are to finish them, so I thought I’d describe exactly what I did with this project, and show you some different finishes I’ve seen, in different contexts.

I generally swatch in the round, and this project was no different. When working a swatch, I always add a few extra steek stitches to enable me to cut the swatch open, and block it flat, before measuring my gauge. Because I’d tested the yarn in this way, I knew from my swatch that the fabric was “sticky” enough to bear cutting without reinforcement so – shock horror – that is what I did when cutting the steeks on this project. I then picked up ribbing around the steeked edges, and washed and blocked the project to the required dimensions.

steektrimmings

When the project was blocked, I returned to the steeks and trimmed them right back so that only a narrow raw edge remained.

pins

I then cut a length of narrow grosgrain ribbon, and positioned it over the top of the raw yarn edges. I pinned it down, easing the binding around the project’s curves, in the same way you’d do when preparing to machine sew.

stitchedsteek
. . . I then hand-stitched the ribbon down, securing the raw edges with my stitches, again taking care to ease the binding around the curve. The end result is very stable, and gives a neat, bulk-free finish to the inside of the project. It should also mean that this project will stand up to wear for quite a while.

I am very fond of using ribbon, in both a decorative and a functional way, for finishing a steek edge. Here is the inside of the front button band of my Ursula cardigan. In this instance, the steek edges were reinforced with a crocheted chain, which was then carefully unpicked, before being stitched down.

ursula

I didn’t trim the steeks back in this instance, but I think it makes a kind of sense to do so when reduction of bulk is crucial to the line and structure of a garment, such as around an armhole edge.

You can see how, in this vintage cardigan in my collection, the steek has been trimmed right back and the edges stitched down to the inside.

myoldcardi

. . . and here, in this garment in the collection of the Shetland Museum and Archives, the steek edges have been trimmed back and blanket-stitched in quite an attractive way.

blanketstitch

I recall, when I handled the following garment, that I was very impressed with the method that had been used to finish its buttonband steeks . . .

ribbonreinforcement

It is a 1930s Fairisle cardigan in the collections of the Shetland Museum and Archives. The grosgrain ribbon has been machine stitched to the buttonband, then buttonholes have been cut through both band and ribbon, and reinforced with hand-stitching. . .

unstitchedsteeks

On the inside, the steek edges have not been trimmed, or even stitched down, but have simply been allowed to wear and felt-in to the inside of the garment. The result is very neat, and very strong – even 80 years later!

Finally, here is my steek sandwich – in which two separate layers of stockinette conceal and contain the raw steek edges.

steeksandwich

Finished with i-cord buttonholes, the steek sandwich is a self-contained and neat way to finish the opening of cardigans like my Bláithín design. I would say, though, that because it creates a raised corded edge, it is not a finish that would work on a garment where a sleeker, more tailored look is required. (I seem to be having a buttonband thing at the moment, and really want to try double-knitting one with integral buttonholes. If anyone knows of a good book or web tutorial for me to have a look at please do let me know!)

I hope these different steek finishes have inspired you to chop up and stitch down your knitting without fear!

31 responses

  1. This is just a suggestion-M’Lou Baber’s Double Knitting? The subtitle is “Reversible Two-Color Designs” and there are cardigans in there.

  2. Dear Kate,

    concerning the buttonhole matter, I recently watched Lucy Neatby’s DVD “Finesse your knitting 2″, which covers this Topic in depth. Lucy is an amazing teacher. I also watched her craftsy film “foundations in double knitting”, which is also great.
    (By the way, Amy Detjen’s craftsy film about stranded knitting is also great).

    I wanted to tell you for a long time already, how much I admire you,as a Person, knitter and designer. You are a real Inspiration for me. I like your designs very much and find your blog very interesting.

    I’m also a passionate knitter and am also very interested in textile history and costumes.

    Have a good day then and Kind regards,

    Alexa

    • I was also going to suggest sending Lucy an email, she is the queen of Double Knitting and in EZ’s terms ‘unvention’

  3. Try Alasdair Post-Quinn out of Boston, MA in USA. He is the very talented author of Extreme Double Knitting and enjoys a good challenge. I really enjoy following your work and textile history articles and celebrate with you, your personal recovery challenges. Just like a sunflower…Always follow the sun!

  4. Thanks for the post. I too love your blog, your designs, learning and be inspired about knitting, fiber, textiles, history, etc… Hugs for Bruce-hope his recovery is going swiftly.

  5. Excellent tutorial and totally inspiring. I recently used your double line of crochet steek on a unloved sweater for a friend. It almost instantly became a rather elegant and very usable jacket, very gratifying. I also purchased a sale jumper in the supermarket realising it would make a fantastic cardigan. Great fun, like woolly engineering! Speedy recovery to Bruce, it’s the scrape of the ” lampshade” on the radiators I always find so riveting.

  6. I have a technique for a buttonhole in a double band. If you send an email address I can provide photos for your assessment. Or a link to my Ravelry page.
    Love your projects. And stories.

  7. Another Lucy Neatby suggestion. She is brilliant (she’s a former navigation officer with the British merchant marine) at both double knitting and and double-thickness buttonholes. I think she must have an IQ of 200! I’ve tried a lot of different steek finishing methods, but I always come back to the ones I used in my Trellis Waistcoat (see http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/trellis-waistcoat–there are links to tutorials). I definitely prefer machine stitching, even when working with “sticky” wools, and I like I-cord combined with buttonhole stitch. However, I am VERY taken with your ribbon finishing. Now, if only I had access to some good quality ribbon…

  8. The ribbon method of covering steeks is my favorite, because it’s like a little surprise pop of color or pattern. I love buying fun ribbons to add to my collection, and adding that little something extra to the inside!

  9. I am teaching a class in steeling at a branch of the NSW Knitters Guild tomorrow, so thanks for your timely summary to point people to for more information. I find when I do these classes that people often want to learn ‘the right way’ to do things, and it’s so refreshing to be able to point to an someone who can confidently talk about different solutions in different situations.

  10. Thanks for that. I had often wondered what you do to a steek besides just stitching it down or using your icord method. I have a similar obsession with ribbon on button band linings. They do give such a nice finish. If I ever get around to doing a steek, I shall keep this method in mind!

  11. It still gives me the heebie-jeebies to see scissors in the vicinity of knitting, but one of my resolutions for this year is to steek something. When the time comes, I’ll be referring to your many well-written posts on the subject.

  12. Wow, just in time. I am steeking (with the crochet method for the first time, fingers crossed!) a sweater as we speak, and looking for a neat way to finish off the inside. Love the ribbon idea!

  13. Thank you so much! I’m nearly finished with my first steeking project, and I already have anxiety about a few of the stitches threatening to unravel. I reinforced the steeks on the arm holes (it’s a sweater vest) with crocheted stitches, but I neglected to do the same with the neckline. I’m going to redo the neckline ribbing anyway because I was messy in picking up stitches, but I’m definitely going to use a ribbon to stabilize the steeks!

  14. Thank you for showing the many ways of finishing a steeked edge. I adore steeking and wish more designers made use of the method in their cardigan designs. To anyone who is afraid to cut their knitting I say triple check your pattern instructions, double check your steek stitches, then boldly cut! You’ll be glad you did!

  15. I just did my first grosgrain lined buttonhole band. I knit the buttonholes into the garment band per the pattern, then pinned and marked the ribbon carefully, machine stitching those buttonholes before tacking it to the band, then tacked down the other side before marking and sewing down the buttons. It worked great.

  16. Did you do a line of running stitch down the center of your ribbon? I like how it looks.

    I need to put more grosgrain ribbon on the list of supplies for the sewing studio along with some zippers.

  17. Regarding button bands/holes I recommend Eunny Jang’s Tulip Buttonholes video via Interweave or video tube. They are great buttonholes, look really neat!

    Thanks for the steeks tutorials, I’m working my way ( about 3/4 so far) through your Sheep Carousel, it really is a fun way to learn steeks, vikkel braids, stranded colour, icords, corrugated ribbing the lot!! Thank you so much, steeks are fun, I’m really enjoying it! My advice to anyone scared stiff of attempting steeks – as I was – just get on and do it, it really isn’t the problem you think it will be.

    I’m now looking forward to doing grown – up steeks on a cardigan or sweater next.

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