Waifs down a mossy path: Dries Van Noten’s clothes for next spring.

Skatepark Steek

donegalsleevesteekcut.jpg
Dear Kay,
To give you a sense of how gone I am on this Donegal project, I packed up the entire knitting command center–the charts, the swatches, the backup skeins of yarn, the Alice Starmore Celtic Collection book because I’d failed to photocopy the page I needed, the whole megillah–and took it to the skatepark for a three-hour stint while Clif wallowed in his subculture and I in mine.
O what a scene it was, with all this mess arrayed around me, sitting there slurping my Christian skatepark coffee (it was so delicious that it would make ANYbody believe). I fished out my supersharp new FISKARS to whack the first steek on this sweater.
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It took about half a minute, and the great maw of the sleeve hole opened up like something from the book of Revelation.
In this pattern, Alice says to run a line of backstitch through the centers of the first and last stitch of the steek. I hadn’t done this before, but I wasn’t one to question her on this or much of anything, so before coming to the skatepark, I had added this extra bit of stitch insurance:
donegalsteekbackstitching.jpg
You can sort of see how those stitches look a little different, what with the stitchery added in there.
Once I whacked the steek, the backstitching was clear on the back:
donegalsteekbackstitchbackview.jpg
Isn’t this FASCINATING? It was only after taking these photos that I realized that I was sitting in a skatepark coffee bar, taking pictures of my knitting. The guy behind the counter was studiously watching a DVD on his computer or otherwise avoiding eye contact with me. His movie, something with a swelling soundtrack and probably involving Matt Damon, really added to the drama of it all.
At this point, a bunch of skaters came in to turn on the Titans game, and I resolved to stop taking pictures of my knitting in case Clif came in and had to explain what his mother was doing.
I’m working the sleeve with a 12-inch size 3 needle, which isn’t exactly the easiest needle in the world. It’s like you’re knitting for a Barbie, all cramped up and constantly swapping out yarns. I despise double-pointed needles, especially when doing colorwork, so I’m resolute if grumpy.
And yes, I did consider making this thing into a skirt. It would save so much futzing. It would be so cute.
The amount of spit-felting would make your head spin–but the result will be a sleeve with no ends to weave in.
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End of day: steek done, Titans won, and Clif avoided me for three straight hours.
Love,
Ann
PS Singing Revolution update: I know you’re all wondering! It is going to take longer for this DVD to make its journey than it took to achieve Estonian freedom. Let’s just say that after six weeks, it’s made seven stops. There are 103 folks on the list. You do the math.
I’ll be tracking its progress on this Google Map. Fun! Who doesn’t love a Google map!
For those of you on this long-running Freedom Train, it’s helpful to hear from you when you get the DVD.

View The Singing Revolution in a larger map
PSS By the way, speaking of awkward needles, at Rhinebeck I saw an 8″, size 0 needle. Like this. What in the world would you make with something like that? Misery!

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57 Comments

57 Comments

  1. Wait, backstitch what?!? I had NO IDEA that “run a line of backstitch” in steeks was allowed with regular old yarn. I always assumed it had to be done with a sewing machine. I think my head just exploded a little bit.

  2. I would make nothing with that needle :(…And by the way AHHHHHHHH…..you cut the sweater…The very word steek makes me break out into a cold sweat. Can’t wait to see the finished sweater.

  3. Well I’m grateful for the pictures for one, lol. You do know Clif REALLY loves you, don’t you ? I still cringe at the “cutting of knitting ” idea .

  4. The sweater is beautiful!
    I’m knitting a sock on an 8″ US2 needle right now, another sock on an 8″ US3, and a fingerless mitt on an 8″ US6. I haven’t tried an 8″ US0 but I have one–they’re much easier than DPNs, though you still need the DPNs for heels and toes and whatnot.

  5. Oops- posted comment in wrong place. Try again, and I repeat, “Christian skatepark coffee” scares me more than steeks.

  6. I must echo the other commenters.
    ZOMG YOU CUT YOUR KNITTING!
    Christian skatepark coffee, so is the coffee Christian or is the skatepark Christian? This also opens up a huge slate of questions for me about the possibility of skaters or coffee drinkers of all faiths coming together over coffee or skating or both but not simultaneously.That would be messy and possibly scalding. I think you’re on to a solution for peace in the middle east. I’m just not sure what that is.

  7. Hooray for spit-felting!
    Beautiful steek; either you have nerves of steel or that is really awesome coffee.

  8. I’m totally impressed that you’re willing to do steeks away from home. And at a skatepark! That takes some serious knitterly moxy!

  9. I believe that there must be a large market of sock knitters with either really small hands or masochistic tendencies. Those 8″ needles REALLY make my hands hurt.

  10. THREE hours at the skate park with Clif? I don’t know if I should be envious of the time you had to knit, or think you’re crazy for hanging at the skate park for three hours. But then again, our local skate parks don’t have parent lounges and coffee bars. If they did, I think my kids would be skating a lot more!

  11. A friend of mine bought several needle sizes of mini Clover plastic circs when they first came out a few years ago for knitting socks and the cuffs of her kids’ sweaters. She liked knitting with circs but didn’t like the magic loop or using 2 circs so they were perfect for her but didn’t even tempt me. My fingers cramped just watching her manipulate stitches around those tiny things! Can’t wait to see your finished Starmore.

  12. I love the new blue cords on the Addi Turbo needles; makes me want to get rid of all my ugly brown corded ones and get them in lovely blue.

  13. I am patiently waiting for the DVD. since I missed Estonia on our Baltic cruise due to being on medical isolation, I shall rejoice when the disk gets here.

  14. You are on a whole nother level of brave.

  15. My hands can’t even tolerate a 16″ circ because the tips are so short. My paws need a good 5-6″ of needle to hang on to. Hence my deep love for the Magic Loop technique, although even that can be problematic at the “corners” when knitting a stranded design.

  16. Man that steeking is magical. I suspect though that your willingness to do it at the skatepark had a lot to do with amnesia on how much work it took to knit the whole thing in the first place.

  17. >>It is going to take longer for this DVD to make its journey than it took to achieve Estonian freedom.
    LOL! Being knitters, we are by nature patient beings. Needing a skate park to go and knit in. Hockey arenas are too cold, lack good coffee.

  18. Why don´t you use to circs, like in knitting socks? I always do for Fair Isle, and it works really well!

  19. Thanks again for the photos…excellent work! My answer to both the 12″ size 3 and the 8″ size 0 is simple…magic loop. Socks, sleeves, mittens, necks, and many other circular items are just so easy with a 40″ circular using the magic loop method. The next time you’re in MN, I’d be happy to wax poetic whilst I show you the “magic”.

  20. I love it. That sweater is gorgeous and I am so glad that you unearthed it and are finishing it. Thanks so much for taking us on your journey. I have only knitted one steeked vest and it was from that very same Alice Starmore book (way back in 1993 – I just looked it up in my handy knitting journal). It’s the Fair Isle vest on the guy fly fishing in a beautiful Scottish stream. I was on a budget and knitted it in many colors of acrylic (bought on extreme clearance) so there was no wool stickiness. I remember being a little nervous at the time but didn’t know that I was suppose to be terrified. All worked out fine.
    I look forward to more in-progress pictures and finished pictures!
    Francie

  21. What else can you make with a tiny circular needle? An American Girl doll sweater, that’s what!

  22. I was going to suggest the magic loop technique as well! When I took my magic loop class for socks, my instructor recommended as a great technique for sleeves on sweaters!
    I always used DPNs for socks until I tried magic loop, and although I wasn’t sold on it at first, it quickly became my favorite way to knit socks! So much less fear of dropping stitches off the ends of the needles!!
    The sweater is beautiful, by the way, can’t wait to see it finished!!

  23. Well, I’ll try not to take this personally because I’m sure any one who drinks Christian coffee won’t do this on purpose…but!…you forgot me on your google map! The first stop was St Paul, MN and then on to Green Bay. Yes, we are both north of the M-D line and west of Lake Michigan but, if you need proof of the uniqueness of the locations, they wear green on football days and we (the “we” who care, not “me”) wear purple. For geographic proof, we are west of the St Croix River headwaters and Green Bay is east. You must have been looking at pictures in the winter: everything was white!
    That back stitch with yarn is interesting. Some day, maybe just on a swatch, I’m going to try the “just cut it” method. Think of the freedom (hopefully only for the knitter, not the stitches.)

  24. I think I’d probably prefer two 12″ circs (or maybe even two 16″), though you’d have to be a little careful with the floats at the changeover from one to the other. Easier on the hands, though.
    I’m betting the only reason Starmore put that line in about backstitching was to placate nervous nellies afraid of cutting a steek. In “Book of Fair Isle Knitting” it’s never mentioned, and shetland wool, in particular, simply goes nowhere when you cut it – especially in a steek that wide.

  25. I would use the 8″ circular for socks, except that I prefer dpns. I don’t want to think about the number of projects I’m working on with itty bitty teeny tiny needles.

  26. Your talent is a constant source of inspiration to me! You take that to a skatepark! I am awed. I take only the simpliest projects out in public. And I can’t repeat what I exclaimed when I saw those size zeros on a fambly blog…but jeez! Wow, you made me use three exclamation points in one post……..

  27. Steeking ON LOCATION. I love it! A whole new level of knitting portability. And so funny, I was just thinking about The Singing Revolution as I started to read your post – you know, wondering where in the world the DVD IS. It’s like you read my mind and answered with a cool map.

  28. I’m somewhere on the list for The Singing Revolution. If there are other Baltimoreans on the list, I’d be glad to host a movie watching party at Chez Moi when the dvd arrives here – sometime in 2010? With…um…snacks. And knitting, etc.

  29. Steeking at a skatepark…you are a god! I wouldn’t wear that sweater to a skatepark let alone construct it (if I could, which I can’t.)

  30. Just wondering: Is it the coffee that is Christian, or the skatepark? Is Clif skating to full-blast Kyrie Eleison (sp?). Is that the road that he must travel?
    And do you think it’s possible that we will wear out this DVD? So green!
    xoxo Kay

  31. i think it depends if the coffee
    has repented and given up caffinee
    i just bought a box calender
    365 stitch patterns for 2010
    and 365 swatches for a banket would it work

  32. Oy. Am I overwhelmed!
    -Steeks.
    -Christian Coffee.
    -Google maps.
    -complicated knitting AWAY FROM HOME (not to mention from solitary confinement…)
    Ann, you’ve given us more examples of why you Mason-Dixon ladies ROCK!
    LoveDiane

  33. Gwyneth and Kay, I had the same question on which was Christian. I can’t wait to see that sweater. I tried an 8 inch circ for a hat ( not size zero ) and I hated it. I’ve done socks on two circs, don’t know why it wouldn’t work fir a hat, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

  34. Thank you SO much for not posting a photo with the scissors poised and glistening, pre- or mid-steek. Those shots give me the willies or the all-overs, depending on my location.
    The sweater continues to look fabulous and your fearless, mobile knitting continues to amaze and delight.
    Oh, and even though I am not on the tour, I love the map! (I love most maps.)
    Carry on :)

  35. I can’t believe you steeked in public, much less in the skate park! I’m amazed! And yay for spit splicing! And that DVD appears to have gone within about 20 miles of my house between Tennessee and Minnesota – I should have grabbed it.

  36. Ann, I look at knitting like this – so beautiful and you are my hero – I worship at the feet of Ann who can make something so intricate and pretty! I get ferklepmt when I can’t follow a solid cable scarf chart!
    Can’t wait to see the finished sweater –

  37. I’ve got a pair of 9″ size 1 bamboo HiyaHiyas that I used to knit a pair of socks while I was on vacation last summer. They take some getting used to, but they are absolutely TSA-proof. No security officer at the airport is going to SEE, let alone take away, a pair of toothpicks on a string. I prefer the two-circulars method or 5 DPNs, but my 9″ circulars were great on the plane (with a box of dental floss in by bag as a thread cutter and a floss threader as a darning needle for finishing work).

  38. This is such a wonderful post! (I have to confess that think of this as “classic Mason-Dixon Knitting”–it has everything including John Madden-style annotation, detailed insight into arcane techniques, and beautiful, beautiful knitting.) I can’t wait to see the finished product! I am filled with suspense concerning how the steeks function in relation to the neckline and armholes: I’ve studied the photos in your previous post until my head feels hot but I can’t quite see how cutting at the steeks results in something that, um, looks like a sweater. Breath is being baited over here! Knit on!

  39. No idea what you would do with a single 8″ size 0 needle, but with TWO 8″ size 0 circs, I could cause some damage.

  40. Looks great! And public steeking is so brave! Question: In this pattern are you picking p stitches and knitting the sleeve down from the steek? Or are you knitting it separately to sew on later?

  41. I think that is the most beautiful sweater I have ever seen. I could never make it, but I must try. The colors are so hypnotizing!

  42. Clover has an eight inch circular too, it’s got to be the cutest needle ever. Check this blog http://closeknityarns.com/knitting/?m=200907 to see it in action.
    It’s like knitting with the 12 inch circ, only more cramped, but I got used to it.

  43. What in the world WOULD you do with an 8-inch human hair???????

  44. That is a fabulous sweater! It might be a whole lot easier on your hands if you used two circulars to knit your sleeves. I usually knit both sleeves at once on two circs when I am knitting top down sleeves.

  45. That is a fabulous sweater! It might be a whole lot easier on your hands if you used two circulars to knit your sleeves. I usually knit both sleeves at once on two circs when I am knitting top down sleeves.

  46. 8″ size 0? what would I do with it? why, use it for a stitch holder, of course ;o)

  47. I believe I’ve just developed a strong conviction that my future children should be skateboarders. And I’ll take skatepark coffee of any denomination.

  48. All I can say is “you are incredibly brave” cutting a steek at a skate park is the bravest thing I can imagine. Cutting a steek in the privacy and QUIET of my house is scarey. It is a gorgeous sweater and I hope you model it. Bonny

  49. Wow – I’ve not been so riveted by a knitting project ever. I keep checking back ever hour or so, as if you are just going to lickety split through the rest of this garment. It’s like the Lost of blog posts – I can see related blogs developing to discussing theories about rifts in the Alice Starmore space-time continuum or whether there is some sort of mysterious beast that will emerge when all the steeks are cut . . . also contemplating knitting all of my future knitting projects as tubes to be cut and shaped at a later date. You go, Ann!

  50. Steeks good, Alice Starmore better, knitting in public at a coffee shop the best — always gets me through knotty knitting challenges – too embarrassing to go stamping out of the room in public cursing, I guess. Haven’t been bitten by the Fair Isle bug yet (not flattering on me) but would kind of look forward to the steeking part if I ever did. And that Celtic Collection (first viewed in a bookstore years ago) is breathtaking. All in all sounds like you had a fabulous afternoon!

  51. That is just all kindsa awesome. That you & Clif do the skatepark thing, so symbiotically. That you take photos and cut steeks, even in the skatepark coffeebar.
    I would say the sign of how gone you are, though, is comparing the armhole to something from the Book of Revelation.
    And I’m wondering if the DVD would ever come to Qatar, if I asked nicely, even though I missed the signup back when….

  52. Ann dearest, stop the Barbie knitting, get yourself a 32″ circ and magic loop it. One piece of equipment to tote-hand cramp free and I SWEAR you’ll still get odd looks and stares. Yes, yes, I’ve been told it’s not as ellllegant looking but this is a Starmore project. The elegance is indeed in the fabric dripping off the needles.
    I’m gunna try that backstitch tip on my current creation–excellent timing. I’m up to steek cutting on the project.

  53. “The amount of spit-felting would make your head spin–but the result will be a sleeve with no ends to weave in.”
    I just wanted to let you know this cute little statement rhymes, and could be the mantra for fair isle knitters everywhere! And its metrically pleasing too. Who knew knitting could be so easy on the ears!

  54. I love your blog and info – so inspiring and fun! I’ve done sleeves that were supposed to be done on dp’s on 2 circular needles (2 needle sock method – Cat). The results for me have been great and it’s a lot less awkward than 1 short circular!

  55. On your recommendation I rented “The Singing Revolution” from Netflix. Very inspiring movie. Your sweater is also very inspiring!

  56. Whoops! I forgot to let you know that The Singing Revolution came and left me again… sometime around October 31.

  57. >>Christian skatepark coffee (!) LOL. Gotta love those Christian skateparks!