Steeks and steeking are synonymous with knitting from the Shetland Isles and the gorgeously colourful and patterned work from Fair Isle in particular. They are Scottish words given to groups of stitches that will be cut and then ‘fastened or closed’. Traditional style Shetland sweaters worked consistently in the round as a tube, will have pre-planned and specifically placed, knitted steek stitches worked into the pattern. The idea is to use the steeks as a guide for cutting open arm holes, shaped necks or cardigan openings. Other traditional style sweaters including those from Norway, Sweden or Faroe, would also be knitted in the round as a tube and then have openings cut, but they wouldn’t necessarily use steeks – usually the knitted geometric patterns were the only guide for the cutter!
The main advantage to knitting in the round and then cutting openings is that its easier to maintain an even tension. When pieces are knitted in the round and then divided into two parts for the armholes and knitted backwards and forwards on straight needles, the tension is almost bound to change, even if only slightly, as you will be knitting and purling stitches.
It’s so much easier to knit Fair Isle or stranded patterns on a circular needle in the round, using only knit stitches with the front of the work always showing.
And when it comes to fastening closed, or reinforcing your steeks, there are many different ways to do it. I prefer the popular crochet method and, if you want to know more, I’ll be teaching this in January.
The photos are all from the Shetland Museum archive.
It was a real pleasure to be asked by Lora Millar and Deirdre McArdle, the inspirational duo behind Olannandmagazine, to contribute to their latest issue. Olannand is “Ireland’s first dedicated fibre and craft magazine” and since 2015 they have been online and on a mission “ to highlight Ireland’s rich craft scene, from knitting and crochet to tapestry weaving and embroidery”. They have done an amazing job and you can find the free pattern for the little Dream Cardi and lots more besides, in issue 14 on their website olannand.ie. This Dream Cardi is knitted in Jamiesons of Shetland Spindrift which is a fabulously cosy yarn and perfect for these autumnal days.
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Tagged book, Hand Knitting, Handknitted, knitting, magazine, pattern, patterns
I shall be teaching An Introduction to Knitting evening classes this autumn – it will be ideal for beginners, improvers, or for anyone who is a bit rusty and needs a reminder of all the wonderful things that can be easily achieved with simple knitting techniques. Each week there will be inspiring patterns for original projects to work on.
You will learn the basic principles of hand knitting: knit and purl stitches, simple shaping, textural stitches, lace, cables, knitting in the round, colour work, decorative cast on techniques and simple construction methods for folk mittens and socks. You will also learn how to work from charts, understand patterns and choose the right yarn for your projects. By the end of the course you will be able to build on your knowledge and progress to more complex work.
Find out more here and here
Swedish crochet nålbindning with a hook is relatively easy to learn (compared to its tricksy sister technique of nålbindning with a single needle) – if you can crochet you will be able to pick it up quickly.
Elsie Britt Sondell Wårnersson, a professional nålbindning expert, ‘discovered’ this technique about 7 years ago when examining an ancient glove that had been found in Jämtland Sweden. The Jämtland museum had labelled it as nålbindning – there were similarities but she believed it to have been made with a hook rather than a single needle. She called on her good friend the knitwear designer Ulrika Andersson to help her decipher and recreate the work – and crochet nålbinding was re-discovered. The Nordiska Museet in Stockholm has now officially acknowledged this as a ‘new’ technique, however there must be a distinction between nålbindning with a single needle and short lengths of yarn, and crochet nålbindning which is done with a single hook and unbroken yarn. They are not the same but they are equally old and visually there are similarities.
I am really looking forward to the Yarnfolk Wool Fest here in Northern Ireland on Saturday August 4th as I will be teaching one of my favourite workshops An Introduction to Crochet Nålbindning.
This is a really exciting opportunity to learn this ‘new’ technique that has only been acknowledged by the Nordic Museum in Stockholm as authentic in the last few years.
There will be beautiful Swedish yarn to use and original patterns to work from as you learn.
Find out more here and here