It takes a community to make a steek: A knitting journey

steek before

 

This Easter weekend I cut my first steek (cutting your knitting for those that don’t know). Its something I’ve wanted to do for a while – its on my 40 by 40 list of challenges and it just felt like a rite of passage as a knitter. But it made me think a lot about my journey as a knitter and how the online community I am part of has shaped it.

Up until about 2009, I was a lone wolf knitter. I could knit pretty well but within a pretty limited repertoire. If  I wanted to make something I would go into a yarn shop, flick through the pattern leaflets and choose one, buy the yarn and needles and get going. Sometimes I’d get a book out of the library or improvise something using a stitch dictionary (covering all needle arts) borrowed from my Mum. If I couldn’t find anything like the pattern I wanted I would work out how to make it. I didn’t really know anyone else who knitted.

When I wanted to learn to crochet in 2009 I got a book out of the library and taught myself. It was around the same time that  I discovered that you could also find patterns online – quite a few of them! I was still a lone wolf but now with a lot more access to patterns. A lot more.

As I explored the patterns I found online I started to realise that there were a lot of skills I didn’t have. People were doing things with odd needles on cords, with needles that had two ends and all sorts! Crazy and very intriguing. I began digging around on forums to find more and getting chatting to other knitters.

I can’t remember how or where but I found out somehow about the work of Barbara Walker and her top-down knitting method. I asked for it for my birthday and as I unwrapped it my husband was very excited to find out if the pages were actually gold plated it had cost him so much! Suddenly I was knitting in the round and designing complicated sweaters for myself in knitting and crochet.

Then I began blogging, thanks to a real life craft enthusiast friend, and started designing and my online community swelled and grew some more and the knitters and designers in it were doing more – inventing their own constructions, exploring the history of knitting, reinventing and reinvigorating traditional techniques that might otherwise have been lost (and even cutting their knitting!) – and I ran to keep up. I learnt more skills in the first two years of designing than in any other two years of my life (although the first two years of motherhood runs a close second!) Almost all of those skills was learnt either from the online knitting community, from the rich and varied written tutorials and youtube videos or from books that I discovered online.

So back to the steek. It  just would not have happened without the internet knitting community. I first heard about steeking online. I used a method of knitting the sweater (bottom up in the round with a raglan yoke) from books that I was recommended online and brought some of them online. The yarn was from my wonderful inspiring LYS, The Sheep Shop, where the knitting community of Cambridge thrives and is fed. The instructions are from a wonderful book Stranded Knitting by Ann Kingstone. Ann became a friend online and she is wise and kind and generous and I feel so proud to know her. I would not have attempted to cut my knitting had I not known it was from such an authority on the subject. She even told me of the tradition of having a stiff drink before your first steek (well I am not one to argue with tradition!) I was cheered along on instagram as I prepared to cut and congratulated there afterwards.

And as if by magic a sweater becomes a cardigan and a traditional skill that might have been lost within a few more generations is now a skill in my arsenal.

steek after

So this wonderful knitting community has spurred me to greater heights. Taking me from a lone wolf knitter who had no fear but didn’t know what existed out there in the wider knitting world, through the circular knitting epiphany on a design journey to a fully actualized knitter who can steek without crying!

Thank you community. You are generous and kind and inspiring. Thank you!

————————————————————————————————

This post was inspired by the Love your blog challenge from aplayfulday.com – a wonderful series of prompts to revitalise your blogging habits. This week’s prompt was ‘Interactions and community’ I decided to experiment with a longer writing style than I normally adopt – almost an essay.

There is no pattern or plans for a pattern for this sweater. You can read my making notes here.

Disclosure: I was sent Stranded Knitting by Ann Kingstone for free but with no obligation to review. Thoughts and views are my own.

Comments

  1. says

    Steeking is something that I’ve wanted to try for a while now and your pic has just inspired me to at least attempt it:) Glad to have found your blog, looking forward to next week’s post too.

  2. says

    What a great example of the knitting community as an information resource, and well done for steeking without freaking out. (I haven’t tried it yet – one day…)

  3. says

    Cutting a steek is still on my to-do list. Well done! Yes, I think it’s fantastic that the internet enables us to learn new techniques and keep old ones alive. And encourage each other.

  4. Carie says

    Hurrah for your first steek! I love steeking, it makes me feel very clever. And I think your husband is wonderful for tracking down Barbara Walker, in knitting terms I think those pages probably are goldplated!

  5. says

    I’d love to try steeking some time along with a bunch of things I read in “Knitting Without Tears” by Elizabeth Zimmerman :) … Now if only I could bring my pile of wips down!

  6. spinnygonzalez says

    Lovely post, and a nice journey from no circular to steeking.
    I didn’t know about the drink. Dang. No one told me before I cut my first steek. Do you think it could apply to subsequent steeks too?

  7. Claire (laralorelei) says

    Well done on taking the plunge and steeking – the day I cut my first seek I felt I conquered one of my biggest fears. I codlin;t have down that without the huge community of knitters out there

  8. says

    One day I will steek something! But today’s new thing is wrapless short rows – I love the way the internet keeps suggesting new techniques, pushing me out of my comfort zone to try something different and maybe better.

  9. the desert knitter says

    I find this post so reassuring, as I tend to be a lone-wolf knitter these days – nice to see that can change! (And brava for the steek.)

  10. says

    I love how the story of your steek encompassing everything that’s so awesome about the yarny community – new skills, new friends, generosity, support and the occasional stiff drink :)

    And your new cardigan is lovely! I’m sure it’s going to be much-loved :)

  11. says

    Wow! What a journey to steek :) And a gorgeous finished cardi to boot! It was such a wonderful read to hear about how you found the online community…makes me feel like more a wolfpack wolf :)

  12. nikkijpoulton says

    I always feel a bit of a thrill when I hear about steeking. It sounds so rebellious! I’m looking forward to my first steek ;)

  13. says

    My journey has been similar – initially happily crafting within my comfort zone but then finding other like minded types and growing and developing and designing and discovering so much

    BUT CUTTING YOUR KNITTING???? Oh my – off to read more

  14. says

    What a lovely post, and an adorable little cardigan.

    I’ve yet to cut my first steek. Perhaps I ought to start a 60×60 list…. :D