Last year when I was teasing you all about the next Fringe and Friends Knitalong (“fafkal” as they’ve come to be known), I no doubt planted the seed in some of your minds that it would be about steeking. Which was true at the time! But it got pushed back a year, for various reasons (making way for the Logalong), so I’m just that much more excited to let you in on the secret today, which is that yes, next up will be the Fringe and Friends Steekalong! My partner in crime this time will be my pal Mary Jane Mucklestone, a colorwork legend in our own time, and the featured pattern will be her exquisite Sólbein Cardigan, which I’ve been dying to knit since first laying eyes on it on the dock at Squam last year. It’s among the most beautiful uses of colorwork I’ve ever seen, with that fluttery featheriness that comes from the tonal stranding, plus I’m so excited to knit my first steeked garment along with all of you and Mary Jane.
WHAT IS STEEKING?
For anyone new to the term, steeking is cutting your knitting. Most people prefer to do colorwork only in the round, but that would rule out anything that’s not a tube. So for instance, to get a cardigan you knit a seamless pullover with a couple of extra stitches up the front where the opening should be. And when the pullover is done, you cut straight up through those stitches to create the opening, then add your button band or other edging. I KNOW! I’ve only ever done it on a swatch, but it’s going to be thrilling.
NOTES ON THE SWEATER AND YARN
Sólbein is one of Mary Jane’s brilliant instances of knitting Léttlopi at a looser than traditional gauge — lopi being a yarn with an unparalleled character and halo that magically fluffs to fill — which means it knits up quickly and creates a fabric that is light as air and also not quite as warm as a typical Icelandic lopapeysa. You can read more about lopi yarn here, but it comes in an incredible array of colors (find it online at Tolt, Fancy Tiger and others, if your local doesn’t stock it) and is quite affordable.
What makes the Sólbein colorwork so effective is the use of tonal colors, so to preserve that you want to choose light, medium and dark shades all in the same family. If you decide to go with three totally different colors, you’ll get a completely different effect, which could be differently stunning. Have some fun with the swatching for this!
If you are thinking of substituting yarn, take that into account about the gauge — most aran-weight yarns will not knit up so nicely (especially with colorwork) on larger needles, so you would want to substitute a bulky yarn, and make sure you’re using one suitable for steeking. It needs to be yarn with grip, definitely not anything slippery smooth or superwash.
Technically, you may knit any steeked garment you like for the kal, and we’ll also talk about how to add a steek to a pullover to make it a cardigan. But I hope you’ll knit the gorgeous Sólbein with us! Just look at the excitement on Mary Jane’s face!
OK, she always look like that. ;)
Like the last one, I’ve decided to save this to enjoy during selfish-knitting season, after the holidays, which means you have from now until the end of the year to dream, swatch, and think about any modifications you might make. And we’ll cast on January 1st.
That’s also when I’ll announce the rest of the panel, but obviously MJM is on it!
HOW TO PARTICIPATE
To knit along simply use the hashtag on Instagram or wherever you post: #fringeandfriendssteekalong. By all means, please share your swatching and planning between now and then, but try to refrain from casting on until the official start date. And meanwhile, make sure you’re following @mjmucklestone on Instagram!
Are you excited?
PREVIOUSLY in Knitalongs: Fringe Marlisle Knitalong
Top photos by Carrie Bostick Hoge, used with permission