February EZ Almanac Challenge: A cardigan for Jackson and the joys of steeking.

"Nothing keeps a baby as warm and comfortable as wool; even when damp, let alone wringing wet, wool doesn't become chilly, and to many of us it is well worth the trouble of washing carefully." -EZ

Is there anything cuter than a tiny lil' baby sleeve? I think not.

I just completed all the finishing on the sweater I knit for my soon-to-be-nephew, Jackson. I designed this one myself and if you've been keenly following along, I just want to mention that I did deviate a little from my original plan as the yoke was coming out a hair taller than I thought was appropriate for a 6-month/1-year size. Even with the best planning, these things can happen. But that's what makes designing your own knitwear so fun; you can end up somewhere totally different from where you started and be surprised by what you come up with (hopefully pleasantly surprised.)

When I first started planning this little guy, I knew I wanted a cardigan. Cardigan are just so practical for babies; as an Aunt twice over now, I know how hard it is to get pullovers over the heads of fussy babies. I also knew I wanted a fun color-worked yoke. Enter: The steek (cue the "dun dun dun" noise.)

Here's how I did my steek:

Pre-steek.

Pre-steek.

This is the finished and blocked (blocking is an important pre-steeking step) pullover or soon-to-be-cardigan. I like to do at least 7 stitches for my steek so that I have at least 3 tidy looking facing stitches for each front on the inside. Any less than 7 steek stitches and I just don't feel like I have enough security. But if you're getting down to the knitty-gritty (see what I did there??) you really only need a few stitches to steek properly, though your facing may stick up a little bit. If you are really up you-know-what creek, you can just cut into your knitting willy nilly as I did in Chivo's sweater last month, and if you have a forgiving color/stitch pattern, you'll probably be okay. Particularly if it's a project like a dog sweater that you're hardly emotionally invested in (the inside of that sweater is pretty rough but Chivo will never notice.) Another pro-tip for steeking: never weave in ends near the steek. This may seem obvious but I feel like it needs to be said. 

Mid-steek.

Mid-steek.

There are a few different ways to prepare a steek to be cut but I am most fond of the machine-stitching method. It works by sewing a line of straight, small, stitches up either side of the middle of your steek so that when the fabric is cut, the stitches will not unravel past that point. It's really fast to execute and super secure. You can even sew two lines parallel to one another for extra security, as I ended up doing. Some say the tight row of stitches skews the drape of the fronts but I think, given the proper tension on your sewing machine, it doesn't interfere with the structure in any noticeable way and looks really professional.

Post-steek.

Post-steek.

Voila.

Voila.

Mid-cut.

Mid-cut.

You perhaps noticed that my thread does not match my sweater. Unfortunately I did not have any thread on hand that matched this sweater. Upside: It was really easy to sew my second line of extra-security stitches because I could see the first line really well. These stitches will be turned down under the button band and become part of the facing, so I'm not worried about it. But if you're the type that likes the inside to look just as perfect as the outside, better use matching thread.

Tuh-dah! Jackson's little cardigan in all it's post-steek and post-button band glory.

Interesting historical button-band fact: do you know why women's button holes are worn on the right and men's are worn on the left? It is easier for right handed people to button sweaters with the holes placed to the left so in the age of rich women being dressed by chamber maids, the buttons were switched on women's garments so that they would be easier for the maids to fasten. Then I'm guessing all women switched so they wouldn't be confused with poor people that have to *shudder* put their own clothes on. By this logic I suppose all baby garments should, really, have the traditional women's button placement because babies don't dress themselves. Hmm, food for thought for the future.