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Terrifying

I don't proclaim myself a fearless knitter. To me, anyway, that seems kind of self-indulgent - what's there to fear? It's a hobby, not so precious that trying something new is sacrilege or an act of heroism. Cutting a steek is not like, say, needing to perform gravely risky surgery on the only astrophysicist left on Earth, with failure meaning the whole planet falls into the sun. Perspective, perspective in all things.

That is, I thought so until Friday, when the sleeves of the Nowegian Jacket reduced me to dizzy, squeaking hyperventilation. I'd outlined a cuff treatment I felt pretty good about - it involved a deeply-slit cuff, finished on either side with a turned-back edging. This was to be accomplished by working a narrow four-stitch steek, binding off and cutting when the notch was deep enough, working the edgings, then picking up along their top edges and continuing with the sleeve. Easy to dream up, easy to describe, and as it turns out, absolutely terrifying to execute.

The steek, cut, and looking quite docile and obedient. The unraveled half-stitch of gold at the bottom edge was to be expected; the blue steek stitch and gold border stitch appeared to be holding together just fine. I didn't reinforce in any way in order to minimize bulk at the edge - those stitches needed to go inside the hem, and thus needed to be kept clean and unencumbered. Besides - faith in Shetland wool was easy, glib nonchalance easier.

The reverse of the stitches picked up all along the gold border stitch. Notice that there's NO STEEK LEFT - it's unraveled completely. I say again, THE ONLY THING HOLDING IT TOGETHER ARE THE PICK-UP LOOPS. I didn't believe there was such a thing as scary knitting until I saw adjoining stitches, one by one, working free and coming undone as I picked up, totally helpless to stop it.

The picked-up edging knitted up, the loose steek strands waving and bristling and trying to escape with every tiny flex and twist of the needles.

Picking up the reverse-side loops for casting off together with the live stitches of the edging to make a folded hem. I say again, PICKING UP THE LOOPS THAT FORM THE ONLY BARRIER AGAINST COMPLETE RUIN. Even with a teeny needle, the mere act of picking them up loosened them dangerously, opening up their already-tenuous hold on those very short cut ends.

I didn't take pictures of the three-needle bindoff. It was horrible - stitches on both needles are stressed more than usual to knit them together. The cut ends were only 3/8 inch long or so - stretching the loops to put the third needle through freed them completely a couple times. The blindness caused by beads of sweat in my eyes (also: bloody, bitter tears) was not helpful in mustering the concentration necessary to keep fitful, spastic jerking and jarring at a minimum.

Was it worth it?

Because those ends are actually tightly encased inside the hem, they're held securely now. They'll start to felt with the first wash, but the whole shebang is already remarkably solid and stable. Lesson? Fragile relationships with sanity are best preserved by avoiding stupid mistakes - even Shetland wool won't hold if coning oil isn't washed off before cutting. Duh.

Even given all that, I might eat the yarn before I'll do it a second time. Please, someone tell me asymmetric looks are in this year?

Comments

Not sure I could live through this kind of unraveling danger! For a less intrepid soul such as myself, would machine stitching the steek before cutting help in this case? Or knitting a wider steek? The end result is beautiful, but do you have ongoing concerns about it unraveling?

What if you hand-basted it with thread and then removed the hand-stitching after stabilizing it? Or needle-felting the steek a little bit before cutting? Are these crazy ideas?

I recommend a nice glass of wine and a good light for the next one. You know you have to! It looks worth all the blood, sweat and tears...

Isn't part of what made it so scary that you hadn't anticipated it? I think the other side will be better, because you will anticipate it as being worse than it will be. Because you know what will happen and what to do now. I would do it with bright eyes and a bushy tail though, right after coffee. It's beautiful, if that helps.

Yikes!

Well it looks fantastic. What about picking up the stitches before you cut the steek? Am I crazy?

That sleeve looks so good despite the trying experience. You are a wonderful knitter.

AH! Reading that made my heart stop - I was so scared for you. It looks beautiful, though. I think it's worth the risk to do it again. Sort of like sky diving or something. :-) I can't wait to see the finished jacket.

The sleeve is a thing of real beauty.......it is art !
Looking at it makes me want to be a theatrical costume maker in my next life.....seriously.
I already wanted in this life but my grandmother would not have of it.....

I know, I am asking a lot of you....but could you one day write a tutorial for these kinds of steek ? As compared to the ones where you just cut a piece of knitting in half and which now seem like child's play.
I am not certain how you managed the end of the steek for it to look so clean and am curious how you did the corners at the bottom.....
Or better yet, just write a book about these kind of things....a well written technical book on modern equally well fitting garments is sorely needed....we already have enough of the others; boxy, shapeless and often difficult but uninspiring......and while you are at it, maybe also an explanation on how you used the pattern for the tailoring towards the bust........
I would be willing to pay for such a tutorial just as I would for a pattern.....
Well, my heart has stopped beating fast from reading your blog post and I will return to my by comparison very boring Sunrise Circle jacket....
Angelika

I'm generally with you on knitting being NOT scary. I mean, it's yarn. What's the worst thing that can happen? You have to reknit?

That is, until I read this post. Thank god the sleeve is gorgeous as well as death defying. You really are incredible at this.

Phew!!!!! You got my heart beating fast!

When are you going to design something for men? I would love to wear one of your designs!

I would knit the next sleeve, and then, before cutting the steek, give it a quick wash up to get rid of the spinning oil. After it's dry, I'd follow Steph's suggestion and pick up before cutting the steek open. It should work just fine.

It does look remarkably good. So tidy and trim! I agree that the second sleeve probably won't be as harrowing, simply because you've mastered the first sleeve. I second the suggestion of basting, though.

I love your blog and your projects, by the way! Yes, write books for us, but don't forsake your beautiful blog!! I enjoy very much your writing and your ingenious designs. Good luck with your Norwegian doublet!

Despite this harrowing experience, I feel that you might just go at this again with a bit more confidence. After all, consider what you've learned!

Can I borrow that paper bag after you're done?!

Whew - looks great!

It is truly beautiful, but um there is no way I could have lived through that. I think that clearly illustrates all of our fears of streaks.

Beautiful, beautiful work, I am impressed.

Oh, I know how you felt. The same thing happened to me when making an intricate children's Dale of Norway sweater, and I was using Baby Ull- which DOES NOT FELT!!! At any rate, your cuff slits are spectacular. The next one will be less anxiety producing, because you now know that you CAN do it. We have faith in you. But, I recommend a little zigzag stitching on the machine first--before picking up those stitches.

When you write about knitting it's as exciting as the suspense novels I enjoy! Whew!

Now that you know you can do the steek okay, don't relax too much while knitting the second sleeve. I had a tricky design go well and my gauge on the second sleeve was significantly more open because I wasn't as tense. I had to think "tight" as I knit.

My mom's shoulders are very uneven so she made a duct tape dummy and is loving the ease of tailoring. Have you named yours?

It will all be worth it when you appreciate that lack of bulk in the sleeve vents every time you wear it. It's really coming along beautifully.

Amazing and beautiful. Asymmetrical? I don't get what you mean, it looks fab.

Talk about your life-and-death steek photos! It's enough to make a non-knitter woozy! But the finished sleeve also makes me swoon in a most ladylike way. Wonderful!

It looks fabulous and you've got a set to steek that and not pass out. It just rocks!

Whew! I had to go and pour a glass of wine in the middle of reading your post! My gosh, your sleeve is gorgeous, I am glad you were able to keep the heart palpatations down so that you could complete that scary part!!! :)
You are truly a wonder...please write a book!

Eep! Too close for comfort, that! The end result looks fabulous, but I'm feeling for you, having to do it all again on the other side . . . but, um, yeah, I'd say this is one of those times when reinforcing before you cut is a GOOD thing. You don't want to have to live through that twice! But, isn't it nice to know that the end result is so gorgeously worth the effort?

Only you could make knitting sound so, well, *adventurous.* Again, it's the writing -- you have a gift!

That was a close one.

Just reading that made my stomach weak.

Angelika has said very eloquently what I felt and thought while reading this post. The finished sleeve detail is beautiful and elegant. Your bravery helps those of us who come behind you to be more adventuresome. Write the tutorials. Make them a book. We'll buy. Trust us on this.

It's beautiful! And whether asymmetric is in or not, yours won't be assymmetric, because you'll go on and steek the other sleeve and without batting an eyelid. I know you will.
Of course, I am *never* going near a steek myself, but then I'm a coward ;)

Oh my gosh, after I finished reading this post and began to scroll down, I realized that I had been holding my breath---barely able to move as if my motion might send that sleeve cascading into fragments of yarn scraps. Oh you must be so very grateful that that ordeal is over. The entire garment is stunning!!!

What can I say...you are simply amazing! The sleeve is absolutely gorgeous. I hope someday you do write a book...you have a gift and I appreciate that you share it with us via the blog. I'm looking forward to the finished product...but first, the next sleeve...I know you can do it!

Oh, but it's absolutely stunning! Well-played!

I don't know what to say; I'm still slightly breathless after reading your terrifying entry. Thank you for pausing mid panic attack to take a photo of your trial but please, please never do that to me again.

PS The sleeve is looking lovely!

Whew! Steeks are something too scary to even read about! Your results is just perfect.

lovely you are an artist
his cardigan is absoltly wonderful ..congratulations

Yikes! That scared the crap out of me! Would it not work if you knit the sleeve back and forth during the slit area and then join in the round when you've finished the slit and its edging?

If there were an Oscar for knitting, you'd win, hands down!

gorgeous! I think it was worth it but then I didn't have to go thru it like you, the ever-patient Eunny! You're such a wonderful inspiration to us all to perservere thru the hard parts of our projects!

WOW!! I am amazed. I haven't steeked yet- I have the yarn for a stranded project that will require it. Would increasing the steek to 6 sts give you some sanity without increasing the bulk too much.
It looks gorgeous though.

Wow! It may have been harrowing, but the end result is gorgeous! Just absolutely stunning.

Those picking up stitches pictures give me the heeby jeebies.

wow -- looking at the finished project, you'd never know how harrowing it was. brave, brave gal.

Holy crap...I caught myself holding my breath, too!

It rocks.

Your knitting is always so beautiful-- and I cannot imagine doing that 3 needle bind off with those little ends poking out. You're one talented lady!

I have already began budgeting funds for purchasing this pattern once it is done! I love seeing the jacket develop!
Would you be willing to give a guesstimate about the yarn requirements so that I can start looking for suitable yarn now.....

Oh hon, I truly feel for you. I had that happen on a sweater when I made too narrow a steek on my cardigan front. I'm glad that you didn't lose too much; the finishing looks wonderful! And congratulations on the dress form acquisition! With your talents, you deserve it!

Looks like the blood sweat and tears paid off.

Eunny, it looks gorgeous! Please make a second sleeve!
You say "Because those ends are actually tightly encased inside the hem, they're held securely now." But the edging is only hanging on those loose ends! I would be afraid that, if I pull the edging, I will pull the whole thing off. Or am I wrong?

holy toledo batman! i've been completely blown away. you might be slightly insane, but in a really admirable, genius sort of way. i don't know how you got through that without having a minor coronary, but the results are fantastique! kudos times 1,000,000.

Eunny, you've managed to frighten me! But my my, what a beautiful sleeve. Truly. I aspire to be as good. Maybe someday...

you are a wonderful writter!!

blood, sweat & tears. but it looks so FINE!

beautiful - i'm smitten.

so do you think a little hairspray would help with the raveling? wool is hair... could be totally off, but it kept popping into my mind while reading.

I have never steeked so maybe these ideas won't work.
First, I second the idea to pick up the pick-up sts before you cut
Second, would it be wacky to tape the sts w/ some sort of dressmaker's tape? I have no idea if such a thing exists but you don't want tape glue on them later.
Third, I second the idea that you get a magnifying mirror and go for it. You did one. You can do it again! You're a hero!

Eunny,
You are doing a great job with this design - don't give up! What if you knit the sleeve flat up to the top of the slit (w/ one or two added stitches at each side), then add your oatmeal trim. This would reduce stress on the fabric and yourself. Then, pick up the appropriate number of stitches to incorporate the trim into your circular knitting, and do the rest as usual. Since you already have a prototype, figuring out the # of stithes and pattern placement should be a snap.

Nice move on cutting when you've only got a bit of the sleeve done. You might have passed out if you'd done it after you had the whole thing finished!

I am so totally washing my sweater body before cutting. Thank you for scaring me straight! I'd never have anticipated this problem.

Wow. Deep breath. Hopefully you have recovered enough to enjoy looking at the beautiful result! I guess there were some lessons learned (happens with every project for me, but I never seem to repeat mistakes!) and now you know better for sleeve #2! I really like how the slit came out - I love the think yellow hem/border.

Might it be helpful to do a wrap or two between halves of the steek for the second sleeve? It'd add length to the ends, reducing the risk of stitches pulling out, but you could trim them down before fastening the edging so as to not have too much bulk.

OK, that was terrifying. I think the only thing that could have made it more scary is if you showed the scary scary scissors shot. I feel faint... thud.

Love your blog and all your tutorial posts, very cool!

Whoo! I know it's only knitting, but...it's KNITTING! That is some kind of outrageous fiber courage, girl. And it looks gorgeous, too. Highfive.

Well, it's a good thing I'm typing and not trying to speak b/c my heart's still in my throat. That has got to be the scarriest thing I've ever seen in knitting (b/c you know, spiders and snakes are still scarrier in my mind). The end result is absolutely perfect. Perfect. But only you can tell me if it was worth it.

Oooh. Nightmare. You are a brave, brave woman. I think I would have been crying and possibly screaming at the knitting all at the same time. It looks beautiful, by the way.

Beautiful detail, Eunny! I love these colors together too. ;)

Seems more than a bit ironic that you named your help column "Unraveling" -- but you know what? When you take us along for the ride, we not only learn from your experiences, we are able to hold your hand electronically and help you through the rough patches.

Hang in there!!

How nerve racking! But the result is absolutely beautiful! I'm glad I could help a bit with the inspiration :)

Whoa! That's knitting on the edge, all right. Looks like that gorgeous cuff was worth it, though! Brava!

Scenario: Eunny wears finished garment to party.

Partygoer: Wow! Amazing sweater! And you knit it?

Eunny: (humbly, yet with pride) Yes.

P-goer: How'd you do those slits?

E: (Whips out photo album of steeks) Here, take a look.

P-goer: Holy mother of God! (Drops to the floor.)

E: Umm...thanks?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I bow at your amazing steeking powers!

Oh MY GOD!!! I my nerves were wrecked just reading this post. Congratulations, really, your talent and bravery are awe-inspiring.

My hero! I wish I could have met you before I left the East Coast. I wait breathlessly for the next installment.

Maybe I am just slow. Why are you picking up stiches on the wrong side of the fabric? And where does the three needle bind-off come in to play?

holy jeeze. just reading about that and looking at the pictures was scary enough for me.
that sleeve is amazing.
you are my hero.

This post was frightening when I read it on the 29th. The lack of further comment is positively terrifying. The suspense is (virtually) killing me. What Happened Next?

Fabric, like plaids and such, get matched up in sewing very easily. Sewing patterns have these little markers on them that correspond between the various pattern pieces.

You start by pinning down, say, the back. Then you note where on your pattern repeat the little mark on the shoulder area falls. When you pin down the front - and the sleeve for that matter - you make sure the corresponding mark on the front and sleeve is pinned on the same place in the pattern repeat.

I'm such a noob knitter, but I think the only way you could get a sleeve cap to match up in pattern would be to knit it top down so as to be sure to start the pattern where you needed to in order to get it to match.

oh, that looks AWESOME!
don't most people do a line of tiny machine stitching alon the steek before cutting the fabric to make the yarn ends stay put?? i am sure yarn harlot covers this process on her blog and in her books, but if not, certainly in elizabeth zimmermann or alice starmore, no? did i miss something? maybe you don't want to use that method . . .

you're way beyond me, but it looks absolutely beautiful, even if it caused you such pain to reach!

He dances well to whom fortune pipes... Lewis

Watch subject. Bush is forever saying that democracies do not invade other countries and start wars. Well, he did just that. He invaded Iraq, started a war, and killed people. What do you think? How does that work in a democracy again? How does being more threatening make us more likeable?Isn't
the country with the most weapons the biggest threat to the rest of the world? When one country is the biggest threat to the rest of the world, isn't that likely to be the most hated country?
If ever there was ever a time in our nation's history that called for a change, this is it!
We have lost friends and influenced no one. No wonder most of the world thinks we suck. Thanks to what george bush has done to our country during the past three years, we do!

Yes, your jacket is TO DIE FOR, as usual! Call me crazy but I didn't have that unravelling problem with my steeks, maybe I had more stitches inbetween the 2 sides? Who can remember... On another note I made a fabulous sweater from a book by Norwegian authors, Takle and Kolstad, called Sweaters, 25 contempory designs in the Nowegian tradition, Pg.75. That puppy was knitted side to side, starting with one stitch, ending with one stitch and then you had to cut the tube and machine stitch neck and waist opening. Trust me, I was sweating with that one. It remains one of my most favourite sweaters.
Can't wait for you editions of Interweave Knits...no pressure :)
Susan

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