Eek Steeks!

 I like to think I’m a pretty accomplished knitter, but there are many things in the knitting world I have yet to try. One of them is steeking, or taking a tube of knitting and slicing it open. I struggled to get my head around the idea of taking scissors to a freshly knitted project.

Despite that concern, steeking is a useful technique, especially with some color work projects, so I wanted to give it a try. I had a couple of patterns using steeking on my to-do list, and I needed a good tote bag for when I finally get a real teaching job (fingers crossed, it’s hiring season), so I settled on Kristin’s Favorite Carry-All (rav link) from Interweave Knits. This knit tote bag combines two techniques I’ve been wanting to try, steeking and lining with an old favorite, fair-isle style color work. Plus, it is made of worsted weight wool, so it would be a quick knit.

The tube that will become my new bag
Close up of the checker pattern at the steek site.

Surprisingly for me, I stuck with the suggested color combination, brown and orange with green accents. It gives the bag a fun, retro, seventies look.

So I embarked on the first step, knitting the tube that would become the front and back sides.  On either side, between the front and back, is a section  of stitches in a checkered pattern, which would become the steeks.

Now, if you are at all familiar with knit garments, you know that if you cut into knitting it unravels. To avoid this, most steeks are reinforced on either side before cutting. So my next step was to dig out my seldom used sewing machine, and stitch on either side of the planned cut.

Ready to sew! Note the trusty diet coke in the background.

However, I failed to realize how unprepared I was to undergo this task. My first attempt was with white thread (the only color I had in the house) and a lightweight needle (also, it turns out, the only one I had in the house). I should not have been surprised when the needle broke within the first two minutes of attempting to sew through heavy, wool fabric.

So I had to make a supply run. I stocked up on heavy duty needles, regular needles (I figured I would need them sometime down the road) and brown and black thread. And, in a flash of brilliance, I also remembered to grab some bobbins, as I have no idea where my extra ones are.  Now I was prepared to sew.

A close up of the reinforcing stitches.

With the proper supplies, the sewing went much more smoothly. I used a fairly wide zig zag stitch, set at a short stitch length and stitched away (even with the supply run, I’m pretty sure this still took less time than hand sewing would have). To be extra sure that the stitches would hold, I ran a double row of stitches on either side.

Here we go!

Okay, now I was ready to cut. Despite the precaution of the extra row of stitches, I still felt like I needed a couple of beers, but figured this was a job better done sober. I got out my trusted scissors, took a deep breath, and cut.

And, the pieces did not unravel! I had successfully cut steeks in my knitting without ruining the entire piece. My front and back panels were now two separate pieces.

Success!

The bag is far from finished, I still need to knit the gusset, strap, add the green accents, assemble the bag, and then take on lining the bag. But a mini-celebration was in order.

The tote bag has been the main knitting project since I started it, only six days ago. But also on the needles right now is a summer weight cardigan, knit in fingering weight yarn, and as always socks. There are also the projects that are on hold, the tree of life afghan, and the ever present scrap sock yarn blanket, but those are content to sit and wait for me.

Next, I’d like to knit a cute handbag for going out, especially since my purse is huge. And I have some fun rainbow yarn and a nice chain handle all ready for it. As always, I have more projects lined up than actual time to knit, but that’s how I like it!

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