Friday, April 30, 2010

Slowing down, moving fast and trying to feel groovy. And some knitting, too.

Dear Mom,
Lately I have been feeling in a perpetual hurry. Mostly it is all self-inflicted and at some point this week I realized I need to slow myself down. Time to dig out some Simon & Garfunkel and remember to slow down, make the morning last. You know....Feel Groovy. Well, try to anyway.

The What I Need to Do's are colliding with the What I Want to Do's and I've become a spinning top. So much to do, where to start? I don't know why I get frantic about it, everything gets done in its time. It just doesn't always get done in the time frame that I plan on. For instance, yesterday I intended to burn off some energy getting the house clean. All was well until I found an empty retainer case (again). Apparently Patsy is concerned with her oral health, because this is the second time I've had to search for that retainer and I've lost track of how many toothbrushes we've replaced. The first retainer search ended with the retainer intact. Not so lucky this time. I scold the dog. I call the orthodontist to schedule an appointment for new retainer. While I am on the phone I decide to call Brother and ask him to till up a new garden spot. Yes, he can, right now. Outside to stake off desired location. Brother tills. Time for lunch. Brother calls to tell me something. (Can't remember what.) I ask him about making pasta. We talk about making pasta. We talk about pasta machines. We decide to make pasta, soon. I look on the internet at pasta machines. The afternoon is slipping away. On my list of Want to Do's is the Green Sweater. It has reached a point in its construction that requires me to cut the steeks and I need daylight to do this. If I don't get it done now, before the after school routine begins, it will be another day, or two, before I can do it. I stop everything and git r done. I can clean tomorrow or on Saturday when it rains.

I think the steeking process is something you might find interesting. The Green Sweater is going to be a cardigan when it grows up, but it is knitted entirely in the round in one piece, not flat or in pieces. I am basically knitting a wonky tube. To turn the tube into a cardigan with sleeves enlists the use of steeks. Steeks are basically extra stitches placed in strategic locations to be used as selvages. All the sweater shaping is done outside of these selvages. Constructing a sweater this way is faster- I can knit around in circles a lot faster than I can knit a row, turn the sweater to the wrong side, and purl back. I think most knitters can work a knit stitch faster than a purl stitch. I can, anyway. Another good thing about working in rounds is that the right side is always facing while you knit, especially helpful when working a color or stitch pattern. The Green Sweater is just plain old stockinette stitch with very little shaping and no color or pattern to keep track of. On something like this I can really get in the zone and knit at a pretty good clip.

So, back to yesterday. I had reached the point where nothing more can happen to the Green Sweater until I secure and cut the steeks. It looked like this:
a wonky tube
There are four steeks on this sweater. One at the center front, another at the neck opening, and two for the arms. 
At this point, I mark the center of the steeks with a basting yarn in a contrasting color. You can see that here:

Now for the scary part.

Assemble the necessary tools:

  1. Good light. Daylight preferred.

  2. Cheaters.

  3. Puppies sniffing at your feet are not helpful. Try to distract them, or do this when they are sleeping.

  4. Sewing machine

  5. Scissors

  6. Wine. For after you are done. I think Elizabeth Zimmermann suggests lying down in a dark room. A glass of wine is more fun.
Time to secure the steeks. There is more than one way to do this, and this time I am using the sewing machine method. This is how I did my very first steek, back in 1992, at Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp. I was smart enough, back then, to realize that I had better learn it in the presence of an expert and with supportive knitters beside me.

It seems wrong to use a sewing machine on a hand knit, but I like to use this method because there is less bulk in the selvage edge that is created. Plus, my sewing machine, Judy Jetson, likes it when she feels needed.

The tiniest possible stitch is sewed right next to the basting thread.
First on one side, then the other. Again, I use a contrasting thread so that it is easy to see. Plus, this edge will be hidden and the thread won't show when the sweater is finished.
The really scary part.
Cut the steeks. Yes. Cut that perfectly good knitting. That wonky tube is good for nothing until you cut it. Except here is the disadvantage to steeks. There is no going back once the steeks are cut. Honestly, there is no going back once you've run it through the sewing machine, because I cannot for the life of me imagine ripping out those tiny stitches and having the yarn survive. But the cutting is final.

Truthfully, this is only Very Scary the first time. Once the dizzy spell passed, I found the whole process to be liberating. I steek freely now.
So, here is Elle, modeling the sweater with the steeks cut open. The sweater has not been joined at the shoulders yet, but you get the idea.

Looks more like a cardigan now, doesn't it!

I went ahead and blocked the sweater at this point. I need to turn the steeks under and sew down some facings, and it seemed prudent for me to block first to flatten those curling edges and make the sewing down process easier. I'll join the shoulders and sew the facings and then I can start the sleeves.

So last night, I was faced with only socks to knit. Rather than do the smart thing, which would be to knit the socks or go to an unfinished project, I decided to start something new.  I cast on for this.



Wendelene said...

Ok, I'm at the same point on that same sweater and we seem to have the same sewing machine. I was looking at it last night and decided that this weekend is the cutting day. GULP! For me it's not so much the cutting as the sewing. I'm a very poor seamstress and the thought of screwing up on my beautiful green sweater is terrifying. And wine makes me way too woozy, so I go with beer. This will require more than one.

merrilymarylee said...

I was getting very nervous reading that...afraid that Patsy did the steeking for you. Do show the facing part. Not that I'll ever attempt that, but I'm curious to see how it's done. I love the new project. Color is gorgeous and I love that pattern!

Michele said...

I had no notion what steeking was, but I sort of "get" it after your demo. On the other hand I love homemade pasta, and after years of doing it by hand (good for the arm muscles, you bet) I finally got the pasta attachment for my Kitchen Aid. Love, Love, Love it. I also bought a ravioli cutter, and those are lots of fun too. How bout publishing your tasty sounding bread recipe? Michele

Bonnie Jo said...

These knitting instructions are like a foreign language to me....oh, except the wine part...I can do that!!