Sunday, March 12, 2017


You may recall, in my last knitting-related post, I made mention of a project called the Wrought Iron shawl, a.k.a. the Endless Colorwork Shawl of WTF Was I Thinking. I started working on it in October and had set it aside for NaNoWriMo and the holidays and pussy hats and, well, you get the idea. I knew it was going to take me a long time to finish. I even said so in that post in January.

Well, it's done.

To goad myself into finishing it, I signed up for a how-to-steek class with Ann Weaver at fibre space, our closest local yarn shop. Steeking is a technique that's used in colorwork -- i.e., knitting that incorporates two or more colors of yarn in the same row. Rather than cut the yarn every time you change colors, you carry the yarn you're not using on the back of the work, so it's right there when you're ready to start using it again. Now when you're making a regular old flat knitted fabric with just one color of yarn per row, you turn the work when you get to the end of a row and knit back with the wrong side facing you. But when you're doing colorwork, it's difficult to knit back -- the floats make it hard to see which color you're supposed to use next. So knitters devised a way to join the sides of the work with a panel of extra stitches, so you can knit the project in the round, with the right side always facing you. That panel is called a steek. And when you're done knitting the thing, you take a pair of scissors and cut down the center of the steek.

I am not even kidding.

The class I took was designed to introduce knitters to steeking by using it to remodel old sweaters. Ann brought in a bunch of sweaters she'd picked up at thrift stores, and most people practiced their steeking on these recycled sweaters. But I brought the ECSofWTFWIT.

The trick is to stabilize the steek on either side of where you're going to cut. In class, we learned how to stabilize the edges with both hand-sewing (backstitch, if you know embroidery stitches) and crochet. You can also use a sewing machine, which sounds like it would be quick, but it can be awkward -- bits of yarn will get hung up in the feed dogs or on the presser foot.

Anyway, I decided I liked hand-sewing best. In the first photo (which Ann took), you can see the ends of the light gray yarn I used to stabilize the edges. I took the second one after cutting the steek. You can see the ragged edge on the side at the front edge of the chair.

Ann is a terrific instructor and I learned a great deal in the class. I also met my goal -- I cut the steek on my shawl. Yay!

But I wasn't done yet. I still had to finish the edges by knitting a border -- and that meant picking up stitches all the way around all four sides of the shawl. It, um, took a while. The next photo shows what it looks like when you've got 800 stitches, give or take, on a 60-inch circular needle. They were packed on pretty tightly. As I knitted the border, I had to keep stopping to manually shove the stitches around the cable. Binding off all those stitches wasn't a boatload of fun, either.

But at long last, the ECSofWTFWIT is done. Here's what it looks like, border and all. It's beautiful. And I am never, ever doing one of these again.

I heard that: "But what about your writing, Lynne?" Yes, yes, I'm getting to that. Maggie in the Dark
is back from my editors, and with any luck, I'll have publishing news for you in the next week or so. Stay tuned...

These moments of hair-raising blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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