Stranded Knitting: Post 14, Steeks, Part 1 & 2 (Video Episodes 15 & 16)
What is a steek?
The word “steek” comes from an old Middle English word meaning to “close” or “fasten”. To the Scots, to steek means to “sew” or “knit” something together. In knitting, a steek can be a wrapped steek or one created with extra stitches.
A wrapped steek created by wrapping yarn a number of times around the right needle as a placeholder for an opening (cardigan front, armhole opening, or neck shaping). This wrapped yarn is then dropped off on the next round and another wrapping is created. The process is repeated to the end of the opening. The resulting loops (formed by the dropped wrappings) are then cut and woven in.
An extra stitch steek is a number of stitches (usually 2-11) added to a knitted project at the point of the opening. These extra stitches are worked in the round and serve as a placeholder for the opening. This method of construction is commonly (but not exclusively) used for stranded patterning when it is preferred to keep to “public” or right side facing the knitter. The added advantage is there is little to no seaming and in the case of using stockinette stitch, purling is kept to a minimum.
Where are they used?
Work to desired length from rib to underarm. Next round, work to desired number of stitches at underarm. Place these stitches on a holder. Place marker, then cast on (commonly backwards loop) the desired number of steek stitches. Place another marker. If stranded pattern, work steek stitches in simple design, commonly alternating shades…i.e. stripes or checkerboard patterns. Work to shoulder. Last round, cast off steek stitches. Cut steek open and pick up stitches around opening for sleeves or armhole ribbing (vest), front opening (cardigan), or neck openings (front and back)
Front neck: Work to start of neck shaping.
For crew or round neck, place center stitches on holder. Place marker and cast on steek stitches as above. Place marker. Work to shoulder, shaping neck opening as indicated. Cast off steek stitches on last round. Cut steek and pick up stitches around opening for neck rib.
For V-neck, place center stitch on holder (safety pin). Place marker and cast on steek stiches as above. Work to shoulders, shaping V-neck as indicated. Cut steek and pick up stitches around neck opening for neck ribbing. Work a central double decrease at central stitch.
For back neck, Steeks are used to create a slight dip in back neck for ease of wearing. Work in same method as front neck, only over fewer rounds.
Cast on half steek stitches. Place marker. Cast on body stitches. Place marker. Cast on remaining steek stitches. Round begins in middle of steek stitches. Work to front neck shaping. Cast off front steek and cast on steek for front neck. Pick up stitches for front rib after steek is cut.
Blankets, Shawls: place steek stitches at edge of flat project. Work in round with right side always facing toward knitter. Cut steek and open to flat shape.
Sleeves: work both sleeves at same time with steek stitches separating the two. Right sides always facing knitter. Cut steeks open and seam up sleeves.