Wednesday, November 16, 2011
the covered steek sandwich
This is a post to rhapsodize about the covered steek, it provides such a lovely finish, I am truly in love. This is a long and technical post, so if you're not interested just scroll to the bottom.
I've done the covered steek before but this was an adventure into it with a side trip to a Burning Ring of Fire, since the shawl I've been working on is so incredibly long. I don't recommend doing this on a shawl as long as mine (87" long) even though it does turn out effing awesome, because of how fussy it is when there are so many stitches jammed on to the circulars on both sides, but it is an ideal finish for a shorter edge like the front of a cardigan. Above you see a picture of the shawl that I've been making with the finished covered steek. It looks the same on both sides and the covered steek adds nice weight to the edge of the garment. A more traditional way of dealing with a steek is to sew it down on the "wrong" side of the garment and in a shawl where the inside and outside are visible this option wouldn't provide the clean finish I wanted. So the adventure began.
A little note about setting up the steek. I like to crochet reinforce my steeks and most tutorials (this is a great one) on the crochet steek recommend running both rows of the crochet steek within a stitch of one another, which is great if you're going to sew the steek down since it gives you several rows to work with, but with a covered steek the "extra" part of the steek will be trimmed away and you don't want to end up trimming away your reinforcement. I crochet reinforce one stitch away from the last steek stitch.
If you're nervous about the steek holding, you might want to also run a machine stitch alongside as well, but I really have never had a problem with the crochet reinforcement holding and with such a long tube as my shawl it would have been impossible to machine reinforce before cutting. Crochet reinforcement does add a little more bulk than machine reinforcement does, I always use a lighter weight yarn for the crochet reinforcement that what I've been knitting. I highly recommend using a "sticky" yarn that is 100% wool, I would never use a cotton or synthetic yarn for the reinforcement and I would be worried they might slide out. For something knit out of anything other than wool I would machine reinforce.
For the covered steek you'll need these supplies:
One 32" or longer circular needle 3 sizes larger than the needle used to knit the garment
Two(!) 32" or longer circular needles in the same size as the garment body needle
One additional needle of any length in the same size as the garment body needle for the 3 needle bind off
After cutting the steek, the first step is to pick up stitches along the edge. Pick up the stitches in between the last steek stitch and the body of the garment with a long (32" or more) circular needle 3 sizes larger than the one you were using to knit with. I was knitting with a size 5 US so I picked up with a size 8 US . This is so there will be enough ease to pick up the same stitches from the other side of the garment too.
Pick up the number stitches per inch that corresponds to your stitch gauge. In this case I had 6 stitches and 7 rows per inch, so I picked up 6 out of every 7 stitches, make sense? For my shawl that meant 458 stitches times 4 for a total of 1,832 stitches picked up for the front and back of the two edges, blurg.
Then you switch to the same size needle that you were using to knit the body of the garment in a 32" or more circular, and knit several rows of stockinette long enough to cover what's left of your steek. I knit 5 rows. This will form one side of the sandwich.
This is what the back side of the picked up stitches will look like. I used a little pink yarn just to illustrate what you will see. You use another 32" long (or more) circular needle in the same size that you knit the body of the garment, to pick up the "bars" that you see on the other side, plus an additional stitch on either end. Knit stockinette rows on this side of the garment as well to make the second side of the sandwich.
Here is the open sandwich with the steek in the middle of the two sides of stockinette, ready to bind off.
Trim away any extra yarn that is hanging out. Use another needle in the same size as the other two needles to do a three needle bind off and you have a nice tidy sandwich! Sew up the ends and bury an yarn hanging out of the ends into the sandwich. Seriously, you'll marvel at how nice it turns out.
Here is my finished shawl blocking. For much of the information in this post I'm indebted to KidsKnits and her great post on the covered steek, I recommend reading her post too.
This is why I decided not to publish the pattern for this shawl. Thanks to Gab, I'm calling this the Burning Ring of Fire. All those stitches jammed on to two circulars on either side of the edge was a total pain. Even if I had gone up to 40" long circulars I think it still would be a pain. On a shorter edge, this would have been fine. Other edge finishing options might be to sew the steek down on the "wrong" side and then cover the sewing with ribbon. I just don't love that idea. Karen says that in my knitting I have a "go big or go home" approach and I totally agree, I always go for the gold. Must try to knit something simple next. In this case I'm going home in the sense that I don't think I can write up the pattern but the shawl itself is gorgeous.
Next post I'll have pictures of the finished shawl. If you want to see pictures of our Halloween costumes, click here. In the meantime I'll leave you with Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson singing The Ring of Fire.