Steeking is one of those techniques that has the ability to break even a few expert knitters into a cold sweat. You hear of it, often mentioned in hushed and reverent tones, as if it’s some mystical, secret initiation rite. It’s often viewed as one of those things that only the most talented (or fearless) knitters attempt. So what is steeking? Simply put, it’s using scissors to cut an opening in your knitting. Gasp! Cut your knitting?! Why would anyone do such a thing? Because it’s easier. Yep. Steeking is easier than the alternatives - shaping, colorwork worked flat, lining up button holes with patterns, matching patterns on one side with pattern on the other, binding off evenly for an opening, you’re always knitting in the round so there is no purling…you get the idea. Just because it’s easier, doesn’t mean it’s less scary. You’re not going to learn to ride a bike by reading about the laws of physics and the geometry of a bicycle. It’s easier to get on a bike and learn to ride (with help and guidance, of course). But getting on and riding is also much scarier. You could get hurt. And if you don’t secure your steek, yes, your work could unravel. Did you catch the magic words in that last sentence? Secure and Could. Before I did my first steek, I didn’t realize that steeked items are worked in such as way as to allow for extra stitches that are later secured, cut, and tucked, to form the edge/hem with which we’re familiar. It makes sense, as any item I have that is steeked has a hem that includes the cut and frayed edges. I just never really thought about it being worked into the design as extra stitches and worked with the intention of being steeked and turned into a hem. As for the “could” part - most steeked items are worked using “sticky” yarns, like wool. This helps eliminate some of the unraveling. Also, when a sweater snags and accidentally runs, it usually runs vertically, not horizontally. Steeking uses that inherent design element of the knit stitch to it’s advantage, as steeks are usually cut vertically, which means the loose ends would need to “run” horizontally. But knowing it’s not likely to unravel doesn’t make it any less scary, after all, it still could possibly unravel. So how do you secure a steek before you cut it? The most common methods include sewing the stitches by hand or by machine, or using crochet. I prefer the crochet method. And after reading more about it, I’m not alone. For me the crochet method is easier because I don’t need to get out my sewing machine, or find matching thread. I can use the same yarn so my gauge remains somewhat similar and there doesn’t look like there’s one more thing going on in the mess (How did I get another end to weave in and why is it thread?!). And for some reason, my brain can understand how the crochet rib “locks” the stitches together, but I can’t seem to understand how sewing it would do the same. But that’s just me, obviously sewing it works, because sewing is the prefered method for many too. None of the methods are better than others, like your chosen style of knitting, one is likely more “comfortable” for you. There are a number of great tutorials on line, so I didn’t see the point of duplicating them. They are great references and explain the nuances much better than I could. And if these three aren't enough, simply google "secure a steek". Meg Swanson Kate Davies Tin Can Knits Should you decide that you just might want to try steeking, the Ravelry pattern database is chocked full of great projects. I’d recommend starting with “Steek This Coffee Cozy” by Remily Knits. It uses worsted weight yarn (great way to use up bits from your stash and play with color) and is only around 25 rows, so it works up fast, but being a coffee cozy, the steek is only about 3” - which is a great length to help keep your fear of cutting your knitting fairly manageable.
I do have to say, after reading, learning more about it, and steeking my own cozies, I won’t immediately dismiss a pattern I like just because it’s got a steek - I might think about it a bit longer, but I won’t automatically say no to it. Also, it was fun to see the tube turn into an open piece with button holes and edges, there was something rewarding about that. I just might add another steeking workshop to the roster for the fall.