Wednesday, April 25, 2012


This Saturday, I was lucky enough to be able to go along to the second knitting workshop at GBY (read about the first one here) on Steeking.

I know what you're thinking - if you follow this blog at all you'll know that I am a total beginner and am in no way ready to be steeking. I shared your thoughts, and hoped to go along and merge into the background lest anyone ask me about cabling, thumb cast-ons or other such things I know nothing of. I planned to hide behind my role as photographer, and, as I didn't have time to prepare any sample swatches, I figured that the likelihood of me having to actually get involved was a slim one. Oh, how wrong I was.

The fateful moment!
Before I go any further, I'll explain to any fellow beginners what steeking actually is. It was explained to me several times before I actually got the hang of it, and even then, doing it was something else all together. It is as mad as it sounds so I'll say it slow. Steeking is where you cut. Your. Knitting. As you can imagine, this strikes fear and horror into the hearts and minds of knitters world-over. Well... apart from Norway, where they apparently tend to be snip happy when it comes to jumpers and such like. So, brave Norwegians aside,  the concept of cutting your knitting seems to be entirely superflous and a rather scary procedure. But, there is a reason to do it, and many fairisle patterns use steeking as a way of making armholes and seams where the pattern can continue as normal. I know, I know, I'm not a very good explainer - head here or here for more comprehensive guides. Basically, it's a very handy little technique which can turn the meekest of knitters into a scissor wielding maniac. Don't be put off any horrendous photos - they look like open chest cavities, but believe me, it needn't be that scary!

The workshop was run by the mighty Ann Kingstone, whose glorious website you can visit here. I was pretty anxious about going to what I knew was going to be a full workshop, having inadequently prepared and lacking the knowledge to even feign the confidence I needed!

Copious amounts of tea were needed.
To be honest, having had to be told what steeking actually was, I wasn't at all sure what to expect. I was even afraid to wear any knitwear on the day in case I was forced to cut it apart. Thankfully, once we had all arrived and said our hellos (and had a good look around the shop, it has to be said!) Ann was very clear that she wanted the day to be fun. She gave us an introduction, but it wasn't long before we had to get down to cutting our samples. (Lucky for me, Sharon had knit some spares!)

Ann, and all the lovely ladies who shared the steeking experience with me, were all super encouraging. It was also nice to be there on my own terms - as much as I love doing these things with my mum, it was really interesting to be there by myself. It meant I couldn't rely on the person next to me to help me out when I made a mistake, and forced me to speak up when there was something going on I didn't understand. Thankfully, everyone was so lovely, I found myself being a little too honest about my inability to pick up stitches, but they all encouraged me to keep at it and I had the hang of it pretty quickly, helping me to keep repeating it until I had it dialled.

Weirdly, even though I was by far the least experienced person in the class, I didn't feel left behind at all. I may not have been the quickest, but I achieved the same amount as everyone else and managed to even pick up a few bonus skills! We learnt three different ways of reinforcing knitting, and I'm so completely confident that I feel fully able to attempt a pattern with steeking in it. I don't know when one will come my way, but I know the skills I learnt will help me when one does!
Machine enforced knitting - weird, huh?

The experience overall was so edifying. Just when I reach the end of my patience with a project, or get bored with knitting swatches, an experience like this will come along and completely restore my spirits. I cannot recommend the workshop experience enough! The combination of great teaching and great company really added to my enthusiasm and I'm still buzzing! I'm trying to refrain cutting up everyone's projects - apparently "just because I can" isn't a valid reason for doing it!

Fairisle steek sample.
Anyway, I know I've rambled long enough... I'm off to Wonderwool this weekend and if anyone else is going please do pop by and say hello - I'm there with my mum [Jillybean Yarns] and would love to meet you!


  1. The idea of steeking terrifies me. I was given a pattern for socks involving steeking and I haven't been brave enough yet to tackle it.

    I should see you at Wonderwool - I'll do my best to say hi!

  2. I'm intrigued by the idea of why you'd need to steek socks now!

    It was a really good day – I was amazed at just how much difference ironing made alone.