Now to the drama: the steek! This time around, I got impatient and decided to work my reinforcement without blocking (I’d recommend blocking first – I felt much less confident working with the puckered fabric). I almost cut the steek without blocking as well. But I lost my nerve at the last second (or you could say I came to my senses) – and I’m glad I did, because the blocked fabric is so much more stable! Here’s my reinforced steek, ready to cut.
The crocheted steek is outlined in detail in the original pattern (I recommend reviewing the online version so you can see larger photos), so for my KAL Sally, I decided to use a different reinforced steek. This is a sewn steek, and it’s a great alternative if you’re not keen on crocheting or you want an extra level of security. For structure and appearance, I chose a blanket stitch. It’s a stitch you can work quite snugly without excessive distortion, so I went ahead and stitched through every stitch instead of every other, as I had with the crocheted steek. To work a blanket stitch reinforcement, first look at the original tutorial (scroll down to Step 7: The Steek!) to find the stitches you’ll work through. Then, instead of crocheting through them, work a blanket stitch through them. I used the MC on my sweater (extra stickiness of the angora blend = extra stability to the steek). But my colorway is so low-contrast that it’s difficult to see the stitches, so I worked a little sample below in a light-colored linen-blend yarn. Just as with the original crocheted steek, I started at the neck and worked through the adjacent legs of the first 2 stitches of the steek panel. They’ll form a little rooftop (looks like an upside-down knit stitch). To work the blanket stitch, insert the needle through both legs you want to secure… Draw the tail of the yarn that’s coming from the fabric behind your needle (this forms a loop between your fabric an the needle)… And pull your needle through firmly, getting the stitch nice and snug. Repeat right down your column of stitches all the way to the hem edge. Then you’ll work the other side. Starting at the hem edge, you’ll work through the adjacent legs of stitches 3 and 4 (which, combined, will look like a knit stitch, since you’re now working upside-down). When you’re done, weave in all your ends, making sure to work away from the steek and into the body of the sweater (I like to work through the purl bumps and floats in back, splitting the strands with a sharp needle to mesh the tail securely into the work.) In the tutorial, I cut from the neck side, right between steek panel stitches 2 and 3. This time I made my cut from the hem side. Coming from this direction, there appears to be one column of knit stitches going straight up the middle of the reinforced steek panel. This “knit” stitch is actually made up of the adjacent legs of two different knit stitches, but the whole thing’s upside-down, so the two legs form a V. If you’re working from the hem side, you’ll cut right down the center of the V. It helps to stretch your work horizontally a bit before you begin, so the V spreads a little, making it easy to cut right down the middle. And voilà! A cardigan is born! Superwash Experiment I also wanted to work a superwash steek so I could test its stability. Steeked garments are traditionally made from “sticky” fibers (Shetland is a favorite). You can rest assured that if you’re working with a yarn that’s a huge pain in the butt to frog or untangle, it will make a very stable steek. But what about yarns without that sticky “tooth”? If you’re working with superwash, you can always use a sewing machine to reinforce your steek (zigzag stitch is popular). Do that along the same column of stitches in the reinforced crocheted steek – but you can also work additional rows of zigzag before and after that row – just be sure to leave a gap where you’ll be cutting. You can further machine-reinforce it by adding a thin ribbon directly under your zigzag, so it has an additional layer to grab onto. If you’re using cotton, especially smooth mercerized cotton (or silk or another relatively slick fiber), I would really recommend a machine reinforcement. But for the sake of scientific experimentation, I decided to work a superwash sample by hand. The sample? A pet sweater! Pets are wiggly enough to test the steek. And unlike you, a pet can’t leave all that hard work hanging in the back of her closet if she busts out her reinforcement and you have to make an ugly repair. Next week, I’ll include the modifications I used for the Pet Sally, in case you wish you make your small dog or cat such a matching sweater. (If you were looking for your next holiday card idea, you’re welcome.) To test the superwash steek, I used a crocheted reinforcement per the original pattern on one side and a blanket stitch reinforcement on the other. Because you kind of need the button placket in place to test the integrity of the steek, I also skipped ahead and worked the plackets. The Verdict While both plackets feel structurally sound, I recommend the blanket stitch reinforcement for superwash – it did feel more secure overall, particularly while picking up the stitches for the placket. Next time, we’ll pick up the button plackets and make the cute crocheted buttonholes. In the meantime, feel free to hit me with questions on the Sally KAL group on Ravelry. Related: