“I just want more of her.” A wonderful piece on the late lamented food writer, Laurie Colwin.

Houston, We Don’t Really Have a Problem

Dear Kay,
You know that movie with Tom Hanks and Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon where they’re astronauts? Apollo 13? When they’re on the fifth Moon mission and they’re all jacked up but the networks won’t even cover their little Live-From-Space broadcast because it’s just not news anymore?
You know when you’re having children, and you get past that first one, and the second one, and that third one comes out just great and what a cute baby she is–whoops did we get a baby book oh great here put in this lock of hair that’s plenty oh and maybe this hospital baby bracelet?
That’s what we’re talking about here with the subsequent steeks of my life. Steek the First was the epic, hands-clammy sort of knitting event that rivaled only the first time I went rapelling. (OK so I went rapelling exactly once and it was because I loved Ben Swift so mightily that I would fling myself off a low cliff for him.) Unlike Ben Swift, my sweater will never forsake me for some perky tennis player. But I have to say, I found Steeks Two and Three uneventful in the extreme. So I’ll include some creepy shots of scissors to make it all feel more alarming and dangerous.
The Neck Steek
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How weird is this thing? The reason you do this steek is a) so you can keep knitting in the round and preserve the pattern without interruption, b) so you can do decreases along the front neckline so that the neckline will be shaped. And c) because life just isn’t complicated enough already.
For Steek the First I didn’t show any photos of the literal, actual whacking of the knitting, and I recall somebody commented on that. YOU commented, I do believe. As IF I had prove how it was that I ended up with a hole in the middle of my knitting? Like I faked it? Like some freakin’ faked-up Moon landing? Would I lie to you? Even in the name of high-drama blogation?
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I even used the Ancestral Mom Scissors, the ones we as children were not allowed to use on cardboard or ANYthing. We weren’t even allowed to LOOK at these scissors. They were the lone possession of my mother’s that nobody else could touch. We could go through her jewelry box and wear her opal ring. We could clomp around the house in her high heels. We could do gymnastics on her bed. But the scissors. Well. So sacred are they that lo these 20 years after Mother went to the Knitting Circle in the Sky, I won’t let MY children look at these scissors.
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SNIP SNIP SNIP.
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Holey hole, Batman. It’s a neckhole.
I was so chuffed at whacking the neck steek that I cranked out the collar using a circular that was two inches too long but who the hell cares even though the resulting collar isn’t exactly tight as a drum or anything:
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While cranking this collar I remembered my fascination with corrugated ribbing. I LOVE corrugated ribbing! (Shut up, Cara.) K2, P2, but using two colors. The EZ way to do this is to start with Color 1 and K2, sl 2, K2. After you go all the way around, you use Color 2 and sl 2, P2, sl 2, and you end up with a ribbing that is decorative yet inelastic. Just the way I like my men!
Wellanyway, that was such fun that I moved on to
Armhole Steek the Second
See what I mean? See how this is right up there with chronicling a garter stitch scarf? See? Stay with me–maybe there’ll be an explosion or something.
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Steek. (The strip of checkerboard stuff.)
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CHOPPING THE STEEK.
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Great whackin’ maw resulting from steek being chopped.
Next time: The Return of the Perfect Sweater! We have test-knitters bravely trying out The Pattern to make sure there are no faulty O-rings. A full report to come shortly. LATER CLARIFICATION: Neckline designers, do not fear! Just to be clear, we’re still at the elementary stage of getting the very first basic pattern right, before we send it to all the neckline designers. I just want to make sure we’re sending you a solid pattern before everybody starts modifying it. See, if we find some dumb mistake in the basic pattern, and people start modifying the pattern using an incorrect pattern, it gets all, like, confusing. As soon as we’re set on this first pattern, we’re going to have a neckline-designing festival. Thanks to all for your patience! Perfection in ’06!
Love,
Ann

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38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. I don’t care how many times I see it it’s still scary as hell! It’ll be awhile before I get the courage to cut a steek if ever…

  2. Eeeeeek!! Scary scissors pictures! Eeeek!

  3. “steek.” Sounds an awful lot like “steep.” Which is what a teabag does. Which makes me think I need a cup now to soothe my nerves after all that slicing and dicing.
    Thanks for making my otherwise bland Sunday afternoon exciting.

  4. My mother had scissors like that. The rule was, if those scissors are in one hand, there had better be fabric in the other. Thanks for reminding me of this. Oh, and nice steeks.

  5. I love how this is ALL MY FAULT.
    But I did enjoy the Documentation.
    So the sweater is done tomorrow? xoxo Kay

  6. All steeks titilating on my end, Ann. I may or may not have peed a little. Over and out.

  7. Um, hi! I was a crew-neck designer for the Perfect Sweater…and I never received a pattern…do you not want me anymore? Have I blogged something so tasteless that you’ve booted as a Perfect knitter? IS IT ALL OVER?!? *dramatic sob*
    Ok, so really, it’s just that the Cascade is sitting on my desk, reminding my husband that the stash is now taking over the house..and well, my marital bliss is at stake if I don’t knit Perfection, and soon!

  8. Yea, Ann! That was fantastic! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is something so unbelievably liberating about cutting one’s knitting. Great job!

  9. I had shivvers watching that unfold. Ann, you are so brave. I’m sorry I missed you and the friends in Chicago. Who were the Lake Geneva women? I would love to know if they write and blog.
    Looks like it was wonderful. Next time I’ll host on a day I don’t have to work!

  10. I recently started reading your blog. You two are amazing! I love reading about your latest projects and seeing pictures. I will finish all my knitting projects as soon as the college application process is over with. Keep up the good work, ladies!

  11. You had me on the edge of my seat right till the end!
    Looking forward to *The Pattern*. Is there a projected date for when it may be ready for release to the masses? Suspecting it still may be a while, but I’m starting to make my Olympic knitting plans. No pressure though. :-)

  12. Looking at those pictures brings back the same knot-in-the-stomach feeling I had when the seamstress who was making my wedding dress hacked through $22 a yard lace based on nothing more than my say-so about how deep I thought the neck line ought to plunge.
    Thanks for the flashback. Got any more of those bourbon balls?

  13. My mom had a pair of those sacred scissors. I was gifted with my own set when I graduated from college and I’m still a little scared to use them!

  14. Yeah, that is just like bungee-jumping. Fuggedaboudit. (I’m not LOOKINGGGGGGGGGG!)

  15. I didn’t hear any mention of, nor do I see, any machine reinforcement stitches. Really, Ann, did you do this steeking au naturel?!?!?!
    And I have a pair of scissors like that, the ones my boys refer to as “the ones you keep hidden even though you know that we know where they are.” I had a friend once who said she taught her boys about her special scissors like this: “You know that scissors can hurt you, right? Well if you use these scissors MOMMY will hurt you. Any questions?”
    Thanks for the marvelous docu-drama!

  16. I fret and sweat over steeking prior to the actual event but once those scissors are in my hand, I’m like a thing possessed and so far everything has fallen into place. I don’t think I’ll ever stop worrying about them though. Looking good there, I want to see this gorgeous creation in all its glory.

  17. this entry had it all — drama, conflict and a happy ending!

  18. Gosh, you made steeking look (almost) easy! I have a pair of scissors like that as well – keep that cardboard away!

  19. There was a piece in the NY times yesterday about a guy who drives around NY in a truck sharpening scissors like that. Still cannot imagine steeking with them though.

  20. I feel so proud, knowing that you have decided we are qualified to look at the Mom shears. And I can’t wait for the perfect sweater update–yayyyy!

  21. It’s senseless, gratuitous violence like this that gives the internet a bad name. For heaven’s sake, to think that children can go on-line and see scissor usage like this. Oh, the humanity. Between this and the whole bourbon ball de-bourboning thing, I’m thinking a call to the FCC is in order. Next think you know, you’ll be saying things like, “Hey, is that a steek in your pocket . . .”

  22. I can still hear the sound my mother’s “Don’t Touch” scissors made when they cut fabric -(nothing else- EVER- but fabric). I hadn’t thought about them in years.
    Thanks for the memory – and for posting the corrugated ribbing stitch, its what I didn’t know I’d been missing but need for mitten cuffs.

  23. Even more Sacred than the Scissors, was (were?) the Pinking Shears. To this day, I don’t own a pair of Pinking Shears.

  24. OMigod. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.
    Could you PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF PETE warn me next time before you show pictures of mangled knitting and cutting?
    I can watch autopsies and knee surgeries and look at blood and guts and gore, but cutting your gorgeous knitting is just too much.
    Um…I won’t have to do this steek cutting and knitting and cutting some more for the ULTIMATE SWEATER WHICH I AM STILL NOT GOING TO KNIT, am I?

  25. I was on the edge of my seat. I’ve steeked several times and I still find it fun, if not scary. Perhaps you need to seek higher thrills in your knitting. You could steek while rappelling?!

  26. P.S. I wanna know the answer to MaryB’s question as well – were you steeking au natural? Sounds kinky.

  27. I’ve done enough Fair Isles and resultant steek cutting that it’s not making me get sweaty palms any more, but I still use a tiny pair of pewter embroidery scissors to cut them. It’s more accurate with the small blades and I don’t worry about snagging something underneath. Those big blades look scary.

  28. Thanks for sharing. I may be the last one out of the plane, but if I can still see al the other parachutes open below me, I think I might be able to jump after all.

  29. Blimey, those scissors are impressive! As are the steeking pics – I really must do that one day. Like waaay in the future….

  30. I finally ordered my yarn for the Perfect Sweater. You see, I work in a yarn shop and the Cascade rep came by today with the color cards so I was able to choose the Perfect color (9406) for the Perfect Handknit.
    Nevermind that I’m on a stash diet until Feb 1st. I’m hoping that the yarn won’t show up at the shop until after that so I won’t get in trouble from my fellow shashalongers.

  31. I just Love that sweater!
    I do hope new mothers are keeping up the “don’t use these scissors or else”.
    Barb

  32. Having totally spoiled my own mother’s shears I … nah, I don’t have the smallest compunction threatening anyone who comes near my Ginghers with Consequences. Mamma never actually SAID “non toccare,” but the shears themselves had a weight and presence that ought to have gotten through to me before I dug into the cereal boxes with them. I’m cringing in shame. All I can say now is, “I saw the light!” and “If you boys use these scissors, I’ll donate all your Playmobil knights to charity.”

  33. The sweater looks absolutely gorgeous.
    My brother used my mother’s special scissors to cut through the cord on her sewing machine. It was plugged in at the time; he was apparently angry at it.
    The shock threw him across the room and an arch-shaped hole got melted in the scissors. Still, he got up and later denied all knowledge of the incident, claiming that his best friend had done it instead.

  34. Boy am I scared with scissors and knitting. I would love to take a class on steeking. BTW, I love the sweater and especially the colors!!! Awesome.

  35. Lydia wins.

  36. We’ll soon have a steek cutting over at my blog, too, so, um, thanks for making it such a tough act to follow. Especially given that my scissors are imbued with absolutely NO history aside from the fact that they have cut three previous steeks open. Your sweater is looking lovely!

  37. Oh, I feel faint.
    (But maybe someday I’ll be brave enough to steek, as I too have a pair Mom’s Special Scissors from childhood–and I used them to cut paper today. I felt guilty about it though, so it will probably be a while…)

  38. Aaauugh! I can’t watch!