As a new parent, one of my most common activities is looking for evidence that my brain is still working. There isn’t much of it, to be sure. The only book I’ve finished since M and S arrived is The Best American Comics 2006; all of my Harper’s from the last five months are sitting, unread, in a pile on my nightstand; I let my subscription to The New York Review of Books lapse, unintentionally at first, and then quite intentionally. I’m incapable of doing the most basic arithmetic in my head, I’m overly reliant on my spell checker, I’ve left my grocery list at home on at least three different occasions, and were it not for union protection, I’d probably have been fired from my job by now. My twins are creating a bazillion new neurons every minute, but I’m losing them at the same rate. At least the ones that aren’t propped up by caffeine.

Which makes this a perfect time to learn a new knitting skill! This is what I’m telling myself, because if I can learn a new skill, it’ll show that at least some part of my cerebral cortex is still operating at pre-twin levels. So what technique have I decided to tackle?  The one in which you actually take a scissors to your knitting and cut it into pieces. To this end, I’ve just completed the knitting portion of Eunny Jang’s Deep-V Argyle Vest.

Now, in my mind, steeking isn’t an actual knitting techinque. It’s an anti-technique. Like committing suicide by holding one’s breath, there are certain things that humans are simply not able to do. Steeking seems like it ought to be in this category. I mean, the photograph above represents weeks of two-strand color work. I’m supposed to cut that up? Crikey!

The purple stitches are the reinforcements for the future edges of the v-neck. There are three more sets; both armholes and the back of the neck. They were done with the stiffest, stickiest wool I could find in my stash. Eunny Jang’s instructions are fantastic, and she’s done everything one can do to assuage the fears of the novice steeker, but I’m still not ready. So I’m going to knit a quick swatch, set the steeks, and cut. Let’s see what happens.

Holycrap, it actually worked. Z even tugged on it to see if any ends would come loose. They didn’t. But does this mean I’m ready to cut the steeks in the actual sweater? We’re about to find out. Meanwhile, as a stalling technique, I’ve looked up “steek” in my Oxford English Dictonary, and the first definition is quite revealing:

1. a cask of wine

Clearly, this definition has everything to do with knitting. If you’ve ever done any steeking yourself, you know that it’s a piece of advice for how to approach your first cut. I’m not a big fan of wine, though. I’ll be stiffening my resolve with something else.


  • Kim says:

    I’m betting that you don’t do much driving where you live, but it’s a necessity where I live. Also a nap-inducing tool. So we’ve actually had to stash New Yorkers in the car, in case you get stuck there (our cars won’t fit in the garage…ahem, and our little guy is out of the “baby bucket” – not gonna move him when he’s asleep!). So you might get to your magazine stash yet. I also keep a dishcloth project in the car too….

  • Corvus says:

    I’ve had this pattern and the yarn for it almost since I began knitting, but never managed to pick it up and work on it precisely because the idea of steeks intimidates me. Still, it’s been a great motivator to try more and more challenging projects over the years (“If I can do THIS maybe I’ll do that vest next”). Maybe if I throw a cask of wine into the mix I’ll actually knit a stitch or two.

  • Saisquoi says:

    You at least can bolster your brain cells with caffeine. If I try that, my sweet little one gets to partake as well, which means I can kiss what little sleep might have been coming my way goodbye!

  • Tallguy says:

    Good for you that you made a sample, and cut it. Didn’t hurt a bit, did it?. I did this long ago, before I knew very much, and so wasn’t bothered by cutting my knit fabric. I didn’t bother to make a sample then. Which was a very good thing. Surprisingly, it all worked just beautifully, nothing went wrong. Actually, you don’t really need to stitch along the steek at all — it won’t come apart! Honest! But anyone that wants to try this should knit a sample swatch, and cut it. And then pick up stitches and knit a border, with button-holes. Then nothing will phase you again! Can’t wait to see this finished — and I’m sure you can’t either.

  • Hartvelly says:

    Reminds of summer ice loilles! What’s the best stitch, needles and yarn for a blanket? I’ve tried to knit squares before with aran weight and they’re always too loose, I want something that’s going to be fairly substantial and actually last years without getting all out of shape.

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