(originally published on June 18 2007: I did not know how to add photos to the blog back then!)
The first time I heard a group of knitters talking about steeking I just didn't get it. "Why knit something and then cut into it;", I asked, "why not just knit two pieces?" Well, knitters tend to be patient at explaining and I was patiently explained to. I have to admit I pretended I understood but really, I didn't, because I hadn't then - still haven't - knit something that was knit that way so that it could be, should be steeked. I'll likely 'get it' someday and then wish someone had told me much sooner but for the moment if I knit something that wants to be in two pieces I knit it in two pieces.
However, the notion of steeking stuck in my mind and when I came across a lovely, soft, warm, oscar green men's machine knit pullover sweater with that common three button neckline I admired it and was putting it back on the rack because I don't tend to wear pullovers. Then - "Steek it!" - shouted from my subconscious. It helped enormously that it was in a thrift store so the monetary investment was not that great and would allow the sweater to be stuffed into a garbage bag and disposed of should the cutting experiment result in an explosion of wooly ends.
It still took some deep breaths, scissors in hand, to actually cut into that sweater. That little voice that is on the lookout for such actions was saying, "Somebody could be wearing this perfectly good pullover sweater." (I have no guilt or hesitation about cutting up sweaters that have holes in the elbows or moth holes and turning the 'fabric' into hats or wrist warmers or strips of material with which to knit; cutting into a garment I intended to wear as its original intent was new to me.)
Actually it was on a breath-out that I cut: doing something while holding breath is generally unhealthy and less than productive. I had folded the sweater along the center front and it was along this line that the scissors suddenly created a left and right front. I think I had my eyes open the whole time of cutting but I know I did feel them widen when the seam did not immediately unravel. In fact, when I tried on the newly-created cardigan sweater and was admiring myself/itself in the mirror, I realized the edges had nicely folded in on themselves like stockingette knitting tends to do and did not need finishing. I then, in madcap manner (as confidence will bring on) cut off the ribbed bottom which released the body of the sweater to drape nicely. The bottom end did not curl under but all the little stitches made a picot edge and after months of wearing not one of them has broken rank. The three buttons at the top and then the loose flow of the rest makes for a pleasant design.
I've steeked several sweaters from pullover to cardigan since then. Two I have finished the edges by folding in slightly and stitching with a sort of running stitch. Two 'finished' themelves.
Next time I hear someone discussing steeking I plan to mosey on over and put in my two cents worth.