Monday, January 23, 2012

Incompetent Pansy?

Okay, so it has been established that I'm a pansy. That was clear when I chickened out on my intarsia sweater and left it in pieces behind my closet door for almost an entire year. More proof? When I left my ski sweater in a bag for 3 months when all it needed was the armholes cut out and the sleeves sewn in.
But I'm not really a pansy. After all, I did finish that intarsia sweater- even if it did take a year.

And today I sat around for an hour doing what can send chills down a knitter's spine: Cutting into knitting. I practiced on my swatch hat. Remember my swatch hat?
 It looks like this now:
Yes, I spent an hour of my time transforming a decent (if a bit too-large) hat into this:
I'm sure you have questions.
1) What method of steeking is this?
I decided to try a crocheted steek, under the impression that it would be less troublesome than working a machine stitch steek.

2) Why bright red?
I used a bright contrasting color because that way it would be easier for me to see when it was time to cut. After the steek is done, the crochet stitches are tucked away and hidden so a bright contrasting color would be acceptable in the final garment as well as just for practice.

3) Why so many cuts?
I actually did a few different methods here.
First time round, I used a slip stitch to work up the hat and then turned and worked straight back down. This was incorrect.
don't work crocheted steeks like this.
It looked really bizarre when it was done. Also it didn't work because I accidentally picked up some floats along the back, and with a bit of friction it fell apart.
totally wrong. way to mis-read directions.
So, the next time around, I read the directions a bit more carefully. Also, instead of doing a slip stich, I used a real single crochet for each stitch. With this method, first I worked from the bottom of the hat up to the top on the left side of the center stitch, then I worked from the bottom to the top on the right side. So I used 2 separate lengths of yarn. That much is correct.
Unfortunately, It still didn't work out. In fact, it held even worse than the slip stitch crochet sample did. I was taking care not to pick up floats, but I suppose some might have slipped in. At any rate, here is a picture of it's holes after a bit of rubbing/friction.
So I tried again. This time, instead of doing what every tutorial told me to do, I just experimented. I said to myself "WHY do you have to do it with three stitches? Why can't I just do 2 straight rows of single crochet and cut in between them?"
And the answer is I don't know. It seemed to work as well as the others, actually much better. It is the sturdiest of all of them, but I imagine that's because I stayed in the ribbing and couldn't possibly have cut any floats on accident.
Finally, I did one more slip stitch steek, following directions to the T and checking after each stitch to make sure I didn't pick up any extra floats. I took super extra care. I promise. And yet:
I'm not sure if you can see those little brown cut stitches hanging out in the left side of the picture. BUT those are floats that have been cut. Look what happens with friction and time:
The horror!!! Thank goodness I chose to practice on a swatch, first! If this was in my sweater I would be hyperventilating!

4) Why aren't you just doing a machine stitch steek?
Good question! That's what I'm going to do now!
But my reasoning was:
      a) I have never used a sewing machine before in my life
      b) I don't have a sewing machine
      c) I don't want to make a mistake and end up unpicking machine stitches
      d) I don't trust the machine to not eat my sweater whole
      e) If I know so little about sewing machines that I harbor a belief that one can, in fact, eat an entire sweater, I probably shouldn't be messing about with one.
Unfortunately, it looks like I'm going to have to learn how to use one, because this crocheted steeking thing did NOT work out.
 I am currently working a swatch at a finer gauge to see if it is simply because of the bulky yarn. After all, Eunny Jang did mention of crochetd steeks, "This isn't particularly appropriate for superwash wools, plant yarns, or synthetics, or for anything at a large gauge. Without tightly woven floats or a firm base fabric, the tightest crochet won't guarantee hold."

5) Don't you need "steek stitches"- a section of stripes?
Nope. But it sure would be easier. If you have vertical stripes, you can just pick up one leg in one color and one leg in the other. My new swatch is knitted just like that, so when I do the next steek post I will have lots to show. :)

6) Why didn't it work?
I DON'T KNOW!!! This is one of those cases where I wish I was a really cool knitter and was like "voila here's how you do a crocheted steek! by the way, doesn't my complex fair isle cardigan look great? And don't all my pictures look professional?" or whatever, but the fact is I'm an incompetent pansy.

7) Is steeking scary?/hard?
Not on a swatch. It's fun. You should try it! I know I'm going to do some more experiementing. I have a whole ton of yarn that I could knit up and cut to pieces, and I bet you do too!

8) So what did you learn?
I learned that sometimes it's best to just dive right into things. If you have no idea what you are doing, it doesn't really matter because at the end you will have gained some knowledge. And if you learned nothing at all you don't even have to tell anyone! You can stuff your hideous ex-hat in the closet and pretend you never experimented with steeking. Not me, though, I am going to use the other half of the hat to practice machine stitch steeks. And while I'm waiting for my mom's sewing machine to get that part it needs, I'm going to knit a bunch of swatches and steek those too! Yay!

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