In knitting, steeking is a shortcut used to knit things like sweaters in the round without interruption for openings or
sleeves until the end. After completing a tube, a straight line is cut along the center of a column of stitches, in order to make room for an opening or place to attach another piece. The steek itself is a bridge of extra stitches, in which the cut is made, and is usually 6-10 stitches wide. This technique was developed by the knitters of the Shetlandarchipelago and is particularly associated with Fair Isle sweaters, although it can be used for solid colors as well.
After the steek is cut, the edges are tacked down on the wrong side of the fabric in order to create a neat finishing. The stitches can also be picked up and knit from, for example, to create a sleeve. Alternatively, a sleeve can be made separately and sewn onto the steek. After the garment with a steek has been worn and washed a few times, the facings will full and become durable finishes on the inside of the garment.
Steeks can be used for front openings (such as on a cardigan), armholes, or necklines. It has several advantages: For many knitters, faster at knitting than purling, it goes faster, and allows one to work with the right side of the fabric facing them all the time, and thus follow an intricate pattern more easily. It is also easier to maintain an even tension and, as the color changes can be hidden, there are fewer ends to weave in.
In general, there is little risk of unravelling the sweater with a steek cut, as knit stitches are unlikely to unravel from side to side. They can be further strengthened by using a sticky hairy animal yarn (
Shetland wool, the traditional choice, is a good example), and using frequent color changes (such as a 1x1 rib or a check pattern) to secure the yarn. In addition, the sides of the steek can be reinforced by crocheting or sewing.
* Jang, Eunny. "Steeks: Cutting the Edge", in "Interweave Knits", Winter 2006. Loveland, Colorado: Interweave Press, pages 100-104.
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