Although I consider myself quite a seasoned knitter, I have never steeked. (Steeken? Stoke? Stoken?) Think I’ll stick to Steeked. Encouraged by the words of the late and great Elizabeth Zimmermann who in my mind remains, even posthumously, the fountain of all sensible knitting knowledge, I thought I would have a go.
Not wishing to teach Grandma to suck eggs, Steeking is the process of cutting through your knitted fabric in order to place a sleeve, or a cardigan front….or whatever you want to insert, the point being that you can happily knit round and round on a circular needle without having to purl very much at all or turn your work at the end of every row. So you knit a tube and cut it to shape at the end.
It occurs to me now that it mightn’t be proper to use the “grandma sucking eggs” phrase. I no longer know. Is it politically abusive to Grandmas, eggs, or chickens? If it is, I despair. No, I mean I’m sorry.
There are many things I no longer understand. Like fashion. I’m old, but not so old as to want the younger generations to behave as I did, or indeed dress as I did, or do. God forbid. But I do wonder when fashion stopped being elegant. In the early days of Dior and Chanel, Balenciaga and Hermes wasn’t the point to present the woman (usually the woman; men’s fashion seemed slow to develop in the 20th century, presumably in part due to 2 World Wars and uniforms and such) in the best possible light, accentuating her good bits and making her attractive all round?
I suppose I refer to the current trend in men’s trousers (or pants as they are known across the pond and in fashion circles outside of Savile Row). There’s the waistline of course, with which we have been living for some years now, and which should really be renamed “the groinline”; I am not the first to point out that when there is an acre of underwear on view from behind with the belt tucked nicely underneath the buttocks, the only thing holding the whole thing up is…..well, the bulge in front, if you have one. It can’t be comfortable, which I realise fashion has not been for centuries of corsetry and starched collars. And clearly isn’t, as witnessed by the number of times said people hitch up their trousers, only to find them settling in the same spot seconds later, requiring more hitching. It must be like having a fly buzzing around your head.
But then there’s the whole appearance. Can anyone find it attractive to see even a young man wearing what appears to be a bag around his nether regions with two skinny little drainpipes hanging down to the floor. It’s hardly Physique Pictorial, is it? And how do they get them on and off? I guess pulling them on is ok but do they need a helper to take off their trousers at the end of the day, to peel them down so that they turn inside out? In which case, when they turn them the right side out again don’t their arms get stuck?
And as for older men in drainpipe trousers….don’t get me started. And by older I really mean anyone over 18.
Truly, I’m not complaining or ranting. I’m just confused. People can and will wear what they like but I would like to understand it better. There are so many mysteries in life. Perhaps this is why I repeatedly turn to my knitting for solace, trying out techniques that are new to me in the knowledge that there is a long history of success somewhere in the background.
In one of her books Mrs Zimmermann suggested that after you had cut down the middle of your knitting for the first time you might feel the need to lie down in a darkened room for a little while. I thought this was quite amusing until today when I discovered that she was right again. I did indeed have to lie down.
I am a seasoned sewer as well as a knitter and so there are few mysteries of the sewing machine left to discover, but even so I worked up quite a sweat knowing that if something were to go wrong there was little hope of ever unpicking several lines of tiny machine stitches in a piece of knitted fabric. I modified the instructions which were to use a small machine stitch, two rows of on each side of the midline. My sewing machine, even though it must be getting on for 20 years old, comes with a triple-line stretch stitch that I thought would be perfect for the job and which I imagine was probably not available to Mrs. Z. . I also used a walking foot so as to minimise the knitted fabric stretching as it was sewn, and did 2 rows each side.
But actually taking the scissors to it really made me sweat. It felt very destructive, even though I sort of knew what I was doing.
As it turns out, like so many things it was all a big drama about nothing. I have sewn, cut, picked up armhole stitches and am knitting again. I can’t imagine ever knitting an armhole in two pieces again. No doubt next week I’ll be saying to someone, “Oh, if I were you I would just steek it”.
Now, perhaps I’ll take a trip to Gap and find some drainpipe stretch jeans.