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How to plan a steek in a Strange Brew colourwork sweater

December 20, 2018

What is steeking? Steeking is cutting your knitting, and it is a particularly useful technique when knitting colourwork. Using this technique you knit a sweater in the round as though it were a pullover, then ‘steek it’, cutting it up the front, it to create a cardigan.

I knit Bodhi’s steeked cardigan in a delicious fall palette of Brooklyn Tweed Peerie.

For full details on how to reinforce and cut a steek see our post on steeking here. This post focuses on how to plan a steek for a Strange Brew sweater. This post is part of our multi-part series on how to design or knit a colourwork sweater.

Why not just knit it back and forth? Stranded colourwork is generally best worked in the round. The result tends to be tidier because it is much easier to see your pattern forming on the right side and it is easier to keep an even tension and loose floats. In addition, keeping edge sts tidy can be tricky when working colourwork back and forth.

How to plan a steek in your Strange Brew design:

There are a few things to take into consideration if you are planning a steek in your Strange Brew sweater. You will consider the placement of steek sts, pattern alignment, and how precisely to work the steek sts.

Steek stitches: In order to steek a sweater you will designate 5-7 sts at the centre front as the steek stitches. Throughout the sweater these 5-7 stitches are sacred, you must place all increases and decreases outside of these stitches so as not to impact them.

This is the hem detail on Bodhi’s steeked sweater. You can see that there are 5 steek sts between the white lines. I’ve also started and finished my ribbing outside the steek sts with 2 stockinette sts.
This is the yoke in Bodhi’s steeked sweater. There are 5 steek sts at centre front. All of the increases and decreases occur outside of these 5 sts. I also made sure my pattern started and ended on the same colour before and after the steek sts to keep the edge symmetrical. 

Once your sweater is done you will reinforce and cut up the centre of the steek stitches. The button bands will be picked up on either side of these steek stitches. The picture below shows Bodhi’s sweater with the crochet reinforcements (in red) and the button bands already picked up and knit.

Once your sweater is cut, the steek stitches will have been eliminated (you will have cut up the centre stitch and picked up button bands on either side of the steek stitches). Because you will gain the width of the button bands, there is no need to add 5-7 stitches to the Strange Brew numbers, you can simply use the stitch counts given in the pattern.

Pattern alignment: When knitting a steeked sweater it is best to have the pattern jog or beginning of round (BOR) occur at the steek (at the centre front of your sweater). This way there are no pesky ends to weave in, you are cutting them up anyway! Depending on your motifs you may need to add edge sts so your patterning is symmetrical around the steek stitches.

How to work the steek sts: In 2 colour rounds, colours should alternate at the steek, as shown in the charts below. Alternating colours in this manner means you wont end up cutting into a long float, and both yarns will be well anchored in place. For single colour rounds, you will work only that single colour at the steek stitches.

On the left is the checkerboard pattern and on the right is a vertical stripe pattern. Either method works well to mesh the yarns at the steek. 

Bodhi’s Fall Cardigan: an example

For Bodhi’s steeked cardigan I started with the idea of interlocking crosses for the patterning at the yoke and hem. It was a fairly simple idea that worked out to a 2 stitch repeat. I worked the 4-6 size, top down, in sock weight yarn according to the Strange Brew recipe.

I worked this sweater with 5 steek sts. The first stitch of my round was the centre of these 5 stitches. This means I had the BOR marker, 3 steek sts at the beginning of the round, the rest of the yoke patterning, then 2 steek sts at the end of the round. I changed colour at the BOR.

For the ribbing, I knew my button bands would be picked up on either side of the 5 steek sts so I wanted my steek sts to be in stockinette rather than rib, and I wanted to start and end the round outside of the steek sts with 2 stockinette stitches so it would look nice and tidy when the button bands were picked up. So, the centre 9 sts were in stockinette, the 5 steek sts plus 2 on either side.

You can see my centre 9 sts were stockinette for the ribbing at the collar.

I worked yoke increase rounds before and after the yoke patterning and made sure that none of the increases occurred within the steek. This meant I had to throw in an increase or 2 extra in the rest of the round to end up with the desired final number.

I skipped the short rows, but if you wanted to add them in to a top-down steeked design, you would knit 1/2 of your sts, place your marker for the centre back and work your short rows from there, following the instructions included within the Strange Brew recipe pattern.

The chart: The chart below shows how I worked the hem detail for Bodhi’s sweater. The first stitch at the bottom right is the first stitch of my round. So I had 3 steek sts, then my 2 stitch repeat, and each round ended with 2 more steek sts.


TIP: I recently picked up a great tip for steeking! Pick up the button bands BEFORE you cut your steek. It puts even less stress on those freshly cut stitches.

Steeking Large Motifs:

While Bodhi’s sweater has a small repeat pattern, you may be considering a design using larger motifs. It’s more important with larger motifs to consider the way the pattern will begin and end on either side of the steek stitches (and thus on either side of the button band locations). This is simplest to figure out visually, armed with graph paper, pencil and eraser!

Considering the example below, you wouldn’t want to end up with a full snowflake on one side of your button band and a half or partial snowflake on the other. You would want button bands to be located such that a full or half motif was maintained on either side of button band. With that in mind you may need adjust the total stitch counts through the yoke in order to allow for your chosen stitch patterns to have this sort of mirrored beginning and ending.

In this example, to work this pattern it would be necessary for your stitch count to be a multiple of 16 sts, plus 3 edge stitches, plus 5 steek stitches, thus it would be a multiple of 16 + 8.

Armed with a little planning you are now ready to go forth and plan yourself a Strange Brew cardigan!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Auburn Berry permalink
    January 3, 2019 8:22 am

    I love the idea of picking up the button bands before cutting the steek. When would you suggest blocking the sweater/soon to be cardi during this process?

    • January 8, 2019 12:25 pm

      Hi – I blocked mine before and after steeking, but I think after is the crucial one.

  2. Meredith MC permalink
    December 21, 2018 6:31 am

    I love how clearly you break down the steeking process. I knit my first steeped sweater two winters ago. I’m thinking it’s time for number 2, and I love the ice fall sweater as a starting point. Thanks for all the inspiration.

  3. Ann hagen permalink
    December 20, 2018 5:24 pm

    My so and grandson are both named bodhi
    It is a very fun name with all kinds of cool nicknames arising from it. Like Bonus, for instance. Great to see a girl Bodhi too!

  4. December 20, 2018 2:02 pm

    Meg Swansen has an article and youtube on felting the steek before cutting it. I’ve done a lot of steeks, but never with this method. Might be fun to try.
    https://www.schoolhousepress.com/blog/steeks/

  5. R K permalink
    December 20, 2018 9:25 am

    I recently read an article by Meg Swanson (Elizabeth Zimmerman’s daughter) to use a ‘dry felting’ needle to reinforce the edges next to a steek. it adds no bulk yet completely seals the sts tog.

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