Tutorial – Clean Steeks

Back in 2011 when I finished my first Fair Isle vest, I briefly mentioned how I cut steeks the super clean and tidy way. Today I finally have the time to explain and demonstrate how I usually prepare and cut steeks. I have tried different ways, but I think machine-sewn steek is my favourite and most preferred. I don't like the bulkiness of crochet steeks, I am afraid of unravelling of unreinforced steels, and I would not want to do hand-sewing because it's too slow. 


Here is the sample that I will used for demonstrations. It's knitted with leftovers of my Jamiesons of Shetland Spindrift 2ply stash on 3mm circulars.

I usually reserve 10 stitches for steeks. Of the 10 stitches, and 1st and 10th stitches are selvedge stitches, the seams are placed along the dotted line as shown in the chart on the right, and the steek stitches #3 to #8 will be cut away. Steek stitches #5 & #6 respectively represents the beginning and end of a round. It's where you would change colours. Usually I simply add in new colour and cut away the old one without any weaving or knots because I know yarn tails will eventually be trimmed away. 

When placing the seam between stitches #1 and #2, remember to smooth out and pull all yarn tails to the right, and vice versa for the seam between stitches #9 & #10. That way, you won't catch any of the yarn tails onto your seams. 

For machine steeking, I use very thin and almost invisible threads that I use for free-motion quilting. In this tutorial InvisaFil, a 100w 2ply soft polyester thread by WonderFil is sued for both top and bobbin threads. After all, I don't really want the stitches to be visible. Stitch length is set at 2 to 2.5mm, with upper tension set at 3.  It's not necessary to use a ball point needle. I tried a size 80 Sharp and it worked out fine. 

Look! The stitches are sunken and almost invisible on the right side. The wrong side is neat and now been strengthened by the tiny machine stitches. 

The key is you don't want your reinforcing stitches to be to close to the change of colour locations. Be generous and reserve at least a total of 8 steek stitches to keep away from the mess of angel hairs. 

Finally, make the cuts with a pair of sharp scissors. The mess is gone; all you left is a clean piece of art that you can do whatever finishing you want. I call this technique clean steels because the edges are already very tidy that you don't really need any finishing at all. 

Introducing... Star

Isn't that I just said hats are perfect for Fair Isle swatches? I made several of them this summer. Here is the Star hat, a sister pattern of Tourbillion. The pattern is now available in my Patterns page, for just 99 cents! It's also available through Ravelry. Like Tourbillion, Star has an Estonian double-strand cast-on, which makes a decorative and elastic ridge -- my favourite cast-on method for hats, gloves and socks! Also, the charts for Tourbillion and Star are interchangeable. Feel free to use the swirly crown shaping on Star, and vice versa, to get four variations! I can't wait to see your version!


The Winter 2014 Issue of Knitty came out yesterday. I was excited to see the unveiling of my pattern, Tourbillon. I previously called my hat "Swirl". I am grateful to the Knitty team for picking up a more unique name for my pattern. 


Hats are quick to make. Fair Isle is my favourite knitting technique. I can experiment with different colour combinations and chart designs without purling! How nice that is =) Also, Shetland wool is unique. It's stiff at first but after several washes the knitted fabric will become soft and warm to wear, with a light and fluffy drape. Also, it comes with many, many beautiful colours. I like to swatch with different colour combinations, and yes, hats are the perfect functional swatches for bigger projects, such are vests and cardigans. 

Fair Isle Knitting

I have almost forgotten about those years when I knitted so avidly. This weekend, while cleaning our house and reorganizing my books, these lovely Japanese knitting books drew my attention.

Somehow, those memories came back, wistfully. I had the urge to knit something, again.  

Then, I went to the closet, and looked for the vest made 4 years ago. It's true that I seldom were it (too bright for me!) but still, I love the intense visual effect of Fair Isle knitting! I really want to knit again.