I've recently started volunteering at the local Yap n' Yarn session held at Orkney Library in Kirkwall, and one of the questions I was asked in my 'interview' was "do you know how to steek?". It's a skill I've picked up this year, but since people were keen for me to demonstrate steeking, I thought I'd run up a mini tutorial. Keep in mind that this is just one of many ways to create a steek in your knitted fabric, but it's never failed me if I make sure to follow every step.
Here's the swatch I'll be demonstrating a steek with:
It is knitted flat using chunky weight yarn (Stylecraft Special) on 6.5mm needles. This technique works exactly the same for knitting in the round, but for the sake of photos and this tutorial, I'll be working with a flat panel.
Take a crochet hook (I'm using a 4mm hook here) and find where you want to insert one side of your steek. You're looking for where two columns of knitting line up with one another. Starting at the top of your knitted fabric, insert the crochet hook into the left arm of the right-hand stitch, and the right arm of the left-hand stitch:
With the crochet hook, pull, the tail of the yarn through both legs and tie it in place to secure it:
Then, in the same space, make one single crochet and continue to single crochet all the way down the fabric, following the same line of left arm of the right-hand stitch, and the right arm of the left-hand stitch.
Here's a close-up diagram explaining where you'll be crocheting. The black cross is the symbol for single crochet, and as you can see, they are placed over the legs of two separate columns of stockinette stitch that face one another:
Now here is where steeking varies the most between knitters. Some people like to insert a steek that sits one stitch wide. I've highlighted in this image where the cut would be made if you were making a narrow steek:
I personally prefer to leave a large gap between crocheted rows. This is because I mostly knit stranded colour work, such as Fair Isle, and inserting a narrow steek means there's more room for error. When I've tried to do narrow steeks, I've accidentally caught the crochet with the scissors, and everything has unraveled. Creating a wider steek will produce longer ends on the reverse side, which may need woven in, but I prefer to err on the side of caution and leave a wider gap.
To do the next row of crochet, you must start from the edge you just finished. If your first row of crochet ended at the bottom of the fabric, you must then start the second row from the bottom, and work towards the top. The blue arrow shows the direction of the first line of crochet, and the yellow shows the second line:
Now it's time to take a deep breath and get ready to cut into the fabric! Find where the middle is between the two rows of crochet, and begin to cut:
Cut all the way to the end and there you have it - a steeked piece of knitting!
If you turn the pieces over, you'll see the ends I previously mentioned. If they are long enough, you can weave them in using a crochet hook:
When I started trying to steek, I made a few little swatches to practice with. I highly recommend that you try steeking several times on scrap pieces of knitting before taking a pair of scissors to a sweater that took a hundred hours to make!
I hope this little tutorial has been of some help - it took a few times trying for me to get steeking right, but it's definitely a good arrow to add to your knitting quiver if you're looking to learn a new skill.