theraineysisters knitting and so much more

July 30, 2007

From Sally — Finishing Steeks

Filed under: Knitting Tips,Widdicombe Fair — surly @ 3:31 pm

My baby blanket, Widdicombe Fair, is finished. Baby X has not yet made his way into the world and so I can now tell my husband “I told you so.” (He was a bit nervous about my finishing this in time.) I have a few in-progress photos to show you before I get briefly into steek finishing. There is no video, alas, because my videographer was on her way to Colorado before I got to that point. (More on that later.)

Here is the blanket as I finished the last row before binding off. I’m including this just to show how it makes a nice little corner even on the needles.

Instead of a regular bind off, I did a two-stitch I-cord bind off. It gives a little more firmness to the edge and makes a nice miniature welt that matches the garter stitch in my opinion. While working on it, I had a bit of help from my assistant. If you look carefully, you can see his favorite toy — a chewed up rattan coaster — tucked up into the knitting in the upper left-hand corner.

Here is a close up of the border with the I-cord bind off.

I know you all want to see how I finished the steek, which is kind of embarrassing actually. I’m not the expert finisher that my sister is. Moreover, I had a lot of trouble taking photographs of what I was doing with one hand while still trying to do something with the other. So please take a moment to lower your expectations and then we may proceed.

First of all, steeks are wonderful things. They do add a tiny bit of bulk or thickness; that’s usually not a problem but just something to keep in mind. I think the yarn from Virtual Yarns is a bit heavier than other fair isle weight yarns, and so there is a bit more thickness to my blanket steeks than there are with some of the fair isle garments I’ve knitted. I try to keep that in mind when I figure out what I’m going to do with the finished product.

There are a lot of different ways to finish steeks. Truth be told, if they are not going to show you probably don’t have to finish them at all. (This only applies, of course, to items knitted out of Shetland wool which sticks to itself.) For example, I never bothered to finish off the armhole steeks to a child’s sweater I knitted at least ten years ago. My son wore it and then my niece. The steeks are still fine. They haven’t unraveled. Nothing was done to these steeks — no hand or machine knitting of any kind.

The traditional way I learned to finish steeks is the cross-stitch method. After you cut the steek, you trim it down to two stitches or so and then trap the raw steek edges with Xs of yarn. I did that when I first started out with fair isle. Here is what it looks like. *Covers eyes in embarrassment.*

Maybe it’s just my crappy technique, but I’ve never thought this method looks all that great. Its advantage is that it is really simple and requires absolutely no machine sewing.

I’ve now switched to doing a crocheted edge along the steek because it makes it flatter (thus reducing that little bit of bulk) and I think it looks more finished.

I know of two ways to do a crocheted edge to finish a steek. One way is to crochet on either side of the center stitch of the steek before you cut it. To be able to do that, the center of the steek has to be stable enough to “hold” the crocheting and therefore it’s recommended that you spit splice your color changes instead of just adding in new yarn. (I think you could do a variation on this in which you do the crocheting close to the edge stitch on each side and then cut but I’ve been afraid to try it.) To me, doing all that spit splicing at the center of your steek sort of ruins the benefit of the steek. As a result, I’ve never tried this method. I suppose it would always work at the armhole steeks of a cardigan because you don’t use those steeks to change color. It would also work if you were only using two colors. (Examples: Jade Starmore’s Persian Tiles or the Kauni Cardigan.) If you are interested in a better explanation of this method, it’s described in great details with lots of photographs on Eunny Jang’s blog here.

The method I use requires a sewing machine. You don’t need to machine stitch the steek to keep it from unraveling — the reason you do it is to stabilize the edge so that you can crochet along it. Here is where the bad photographs start. I don’t do anything to the cut edges of the steek until I have finished the border. As that child’s cardigan demonstrates, those steek stitches are perfectly happy to just sit there. Once the border is finished, I sew a line of stitches between the edge stitch and the cut edge. I use the edge stitch, which has folded in nicely, as a guide for stitching. I try to stitch through the middle of the third stitch from the edge stitch. You could do it closer to the edge, especially if you are a better seamstress than I am. You want to make sure you don’t sew through anything but the steek. Susan could probably give some great tips here; I just muddle through.

Once I stitched the steek, I trimmed it close to the stitch line.

Then I began to crochet along the edge, inserting the crochet hook into the middle of the second stitch from the edge stitch. (That is, I did that except in those places where my sewing line wasn’t as straight as I would have liked.)

A close up of the crocheted edge:

Close up of the crocheted edge of one my sweaters:

For a blanket, it would probably also look nice to knit a facing to cover the steek (although you would have more bulk) or cover the steek with a matching gros grain ribbon. I didn’t do that because I’m lazy. Here is the baby blanket blocking.

For those persistent few still reading, here it is off the blocking wires:

Sadly, my little assistant who so loved this blanket, is gone. He and my daughter left yesterday for Colorado. I cried like a baby when they left.

She’s happy; that’s what counts. (She may not be as happy when she sees I posted her picture.)


  1. Thank you for posting your methods of steeking. I am intrigued by the different methods. (Crocheting worked on my Quebecoise Russian Prime) The blanket is absolutely gorgeous. Now you’ll be knitting all night long, waiting by a phone and imagining it ringing…with your helpful little assistant chewing on his coaster…

    Comment by Nancy — July 30, 2007 @ 3:42 pm

  2. and your little assistant’s name might be….

    Love the blanket, and the puppy.

    Comment by Tiny Tyrant — July 30, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

  3. WOW. that blanket is fantastic!

    Comment by Nishanna — July 30, 2007 @ 3:59 pm

  4. Its truly lovely, as is your daughter. The assistant is cute too.

    Thanks for the tutorial. Your crocheted steeking method looks great. I’d like to try it sometime.

    Comment by Gale — July 30, 2007 @ 4:11 pm

  5. Sally, Your blanket is stunning! Your work is so beautiful. Cats and mice is blocking as we speak. These blankets are so much fun you would not have to twist my arm too hard to start another!

    Comment by Kim LaBerge — July 30, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

  6. From Susan to Surly — I cried like a baby looking at Nora’s beautiful face! The blankie is gorgeous and your steeks are looking fine. I have used this method on all of my fair isles and like it for the smooth edge and the fact it covers the cut edge in a fast and attractive way. 

    PS — Baby teepin on the blankie is 2Qt4Words!

    Comment by lv2knit — July 30, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

  7. Such a beautiful baby blanket! What a lucky little one to receive this gift.

    Love the picture tutorialon steeks. I have had a vest sitting here for 6 months now needing steeks but just can’t bring myself to do it. You make it look so easy!

    Comment by Knitserland — July 30, 2007 @ 4:32 pm

  8. It’s gorgeous, Sally! A work of art. I would be too tempted to frame it instead of giving it to a baby who might have little accidents 😉

    Comment by Marina — July 30, 2007 @ 4:34 pm

  9. That blanket is just freaking adorable. I cannot let my mother see it, the words “Baby Blanket” will not deter her. Your helper was quite diligent! Thanks for the steek pictures, I’ve yet to actually get to one (I’m slow and fickle) but the pix really help.

    Comment by Carrie K — July 30, 2007 @ 5:15 pm

  10. Thank you for the clear tutorial! Congratulations on finishing a lovely project.

    Comment by June — July 30, 2007 @ 5:21 pm

  11. It’s beautiful …. she’s beautiful…. now to make up for posting her photo all over the blogosphere…. you better knit that little bandito of hers a blankie too!!! soooooooooo ready to start persian tiles???

    Comment by Michelle — July 30, 2007 @ 5:35 pm

  12. Love the blanket and the steek series. They are most helpful to me.

    Thanks again,

    Comment by Gail R — July 30, 2007 @ 5:42 pm

  13. Beautiful! both daughter and blanket, of course. I admire your courage, I haven’t dared show my daughters on my blog yet and risk reactions of outrage.

    Comment by Laura — July 30, 2007 @ 5:49 pm

  14. Gorgeous blanket, beautiful daughter, cute puppy — a post with everything — even technical expertise. Wow! I’ll have to try the crochet edge sometime.

    Comment by Pam — July 30, 2007 @ 6:18 pm

  15. I hadn’t realize how much your daughter looks like you facially —I guess being smaller and blonder hides it some. Must make the blanket though. (Maybe in red. . . . .)

    Comment by Jennifer — July 30, 2007 @ 7:06 pm

  16. What a beautiful blanket. Such a lucky baby, too. Your daughter is beautiful.

    Comment by Jewel — July 30, 2007 @ 7:59 pm

  17. Sally- You guys are talented, attractive and so darned funny.
    Is there anything a Rainey can’t do?

    The blanket is beautiful, and so is your daughter. Did she take
    the assistant with her? Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

    Comment by Lorraine — July 30, 2007 @ 8:49 pm

  18. Wow! The blanket is just gorgeous (the border pattern really complements it), and thanks for all the details about hiding steeks. I’m sorry you no longer have your snuggly little assistant or your daughter there with you….

    Comment by Octopus Knits — July 30, 2007 @ 11:34 pm

  19. Absolutely amazing baby blanket! Very beautiful.

    Comment by AJ — July 31, 2007 @ 12:07 am

  20. Absolutely beautiful. I am in awe.

    Comment by bunchkin — July 31, 2007 @ 4:28 am

  21. Thanks for a wonderful tutorial! Your blanket is just stunning, but your assistant really captured my heart –
    just adorable!

    Comment by Deirdre — July 31, 2007 @ 7:19 am

  22. Don’t know what we’d do without you. Thanks so much for the tutorial I’m off to finish my steeks! Oh, and the blanket is beautiful, that’s one lucky baby.

    Comment by Mindie — July 31, 2007 @ 7:36 am

  23. I learn so much from reading your blog. I have been knitting for 50 years and never thought of crocheting an edge. I always used lace seam binding to cover the steek. The blanket is beautiful.

    Comment by Michele with 1 L — July 31, 2007 @ 8:28 am

  24. Thank you for showing us the finishing touches to the steek. Takes a little of the fear out of cutting! Sorry to read that your assistants have gone to Colorado. Have your booked your flight for a visit yet?

    Comment by Wendy O'C — July 31, 2007 @ 8:31 am

  25. What gorgeous work! How lucky that little baby is to receive such a beautiful blanket. Your workmanship is truly stellar. I am in awe of your talent and I wonder where you find the time to knit such intricate pieces.

    Comment by Mary Lou — July 31, 2007 @ 9:04 am

  26. What a lovely blanket and a great tutorial to go with. I may abandon my messy cross stitches having seen this. Your daughter is lovely.

    Comment by anmiryam — July 31, 2007 @ 9:42 am

  27. WOW!! The blanket is stunning. Bless the baby who gets this beautiful work of art.

    Comment by Ursula — July 31, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

  28. OK, so we won’t tell her 😉 She is a beauty though, and I can empathize with parting parents {hugs}. The blanket is beyond gorgeous! And thank you for the showing of the finished steeks. Your cross stitched ones looked good to me btw! If I had half of either of you or your sis’ talent I’d be great! This is such a great learning and inspiration place and I thank you both:) OK, gushing ended…

    Comment by Carol — July 31, 2007 @ 5:39 pm

  29. I’m stunned by all of the comments. Thank you so much!

    Comment by surly — July 31, 2007 @ 9:22 pm

  30. The baby blanket is beautiful and I think your finishing looks just great. Mine is worse. I’ve done two vests, and my cross stitching didn’t come out as even as yours. Only another knitter will be looking at the inside and knitters are very kind.

    Comment by LaurieM — August 1, 2007 @ 10:07 am

  31. Hey, I haven’t seen your kids for like decades, if ever. She. Looks. Just. Like. You. But with blonde hair.

    Comment by Cousin Marti — August 2, 2007 @ 9:13 am

  32. The blanket is fabulous! The crocheted edging is a great idea -the only time I’ve finished a steek was by knitting a separate narrow strip and then sewing that to it. Maybe the first side was picked up and just the end tacked down. I recall it was a lot of work, but looked great when it was done. Maybe you could do a tutorial on the 2 stich eye cord bind off? It looks great and I dont’t think I’ve seen it before. Lucky baby who is getting this blanket – maybe they will do the right thing and frame and display it! (after taking a beautiful photo with baby under or on it, of course.

    Comment by Nancy Nelson — August 2, 2007 @ 11:04 pm

  33. Your blanket is beautiful and your daughter is stunning! Thank you for the tutorial. 🙂

    Comment by Romi — August 4, 2007 @ 12:32 am

  34. Thanks so much for this great info on finishing steeks! I’m about to tack down some armhole steeks in a sweater I knit last winter…and it’s great to see clear pictures of how to do it. (Or not do it!)

    I confess I’m going to use the cross-stitch technique. It will get the job done – and it is just an armhole after all!!

    Thank you!


    Comment by Life Looms Large — August 27, 2009 @ 9:46 am

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