Feb 20, 2010

To steek, or not to steek?

Once upon a time, I knit a tank top for my mom in under a week. It was Christmas, and I was determined. Held my own little endurance-knitting contest. WIN! It was finished in time. It was beautiful. I gave it to her. DONE.

But there was one flaw in the performance: The top was knit in the round from bottom to top, and although I bound off reeaaaaallly loosely for the neckline, as my mom puts it, her head is too big for the hole. ;) (It does fit over her head, but I take it she doesn't like how it feels when she pulls it on.) The neckline in question:

To steek, or not to steek?

So I took the thing back and told her I'd fix it. I don't want it just sitting in her clothing pile, wasting away for lack of attention. I could just undo the bind-off (little though I relished that idea) and re-bind-off with a much stretchier method. Right? Sure ... As I tried to make off with it, she asked me one of those questions that non-knitters ask with such nonchalance, but that make knitters cringe: "Can you just put a slit in the front?"

I told her that would probably be a little bit beyond me, but because my brain works like this, the idea keeps popping back into my head. I hate to think a thing is impossible, and the more I think about it, the more I remember that to give a good gift, one should give what's wanted and not what one wants to give ... and I'm one of those people who gets crazy ideas, and likes the idea of doing the crazy thing just to show it can be done, never mind whether it's the most practical thing. I could do any number of other things to make the neckline looser; I could even undo part of it and reknit it back-and-forth to make a slit in the front. But like I said, I'm a little crazy. So here I am, thinking of steeking the thing. And I've never steeked before.

I looked up some steeking resources this afternoon. Kristin Nicholas waxes poetic about steeking on her blog, and over some sweaters that look totally worth it. Mary Ann Stevens wrote a nice, thorough tutorial on how to steek, including her fancy (and currently incomprehensible to me, but still very attractive) covered steeking method. The more I read about steeking, the more I want to try it. Those colorwork sweaters are so pretty (and so impractical for the semitropical Floridian clime), and it looks like it'd be fun to knit a tube sweater and then cut holes for the sleeves (never mind that I'm not sure what that style of sweater looks like on me) ... but none of that answers the question of whether a steek will easily solve my mom's tank top problem, or whether it will be more likely to make me want to stab myself with my knitting needles because I have now created a completely mucked-up tangle of yarn that dreams of the days when it was a tank top.

Maybe I'm ahead of myself. Maybe there are people reading along who are like What the F is a steek???? and/or Why are steeks so scary, already??

Well, this is what a steek is: It's a place where you cut a big hole in your knitting and try to force the thing not to unravel. It's a little like purposefully putting a huuuge run in your stockings because you want them to button up the front — or really, a little worse, because a run is more like a dropped stitch, not a big fat wad of cut ends. (Want to see some scary scissors + knitting photos? Check out the unreinforced steek portion of Eunny Jang's Steeking Chronicles.)

I'm dramatizing it, of course. ;) Apparently, steeking with self-loving, felty-in-a-good-way Shetland wool is virtually a breeze. But my mother's top, being a tank top, being knit for Florida weather, is not made of Shetland wool. It's not even made of wool. It's made of cotton. Slippery, smooth, cool-wearing cotton. Which is probably one of the worst things it could be in terms of steeking potential. And I'd have to put the steek in right at the shaping decreases.

Which means I should probably not try it. But still. The thought won't go away. Maybe the answer is to practice steeking ... to practice steeking a lot ... before I make the final decision. And in the meantime, I'll sneak in a new bind-off on the neckline. ;D If it works, then maybe I won't have to worry any more about steeking this particular top.

But the steeking bug has bitten. And now it's only a matter of time...
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