Here’s the thing about knitting: A finished object is a destination, and a pattern for that object is a map describing one route for getting there. You always have the option of choosing your own route! In the case of the Sólbein Cardigan — the featured pattern for the upcoming Fringe and Friends Steekalong — the route described in the pattern includes a sewing-machine reinforced steek with a full tutorial for how to do it (partially glimpsed above). There have been many people wondering if that method is a requirement, and it absolutely is not.
I’ve put the following few questions to Mary Jane Mucklestone about the Sólbein steek and what alternatives are available, so you A) are not scared off if you don’t have a sewing machine and B) can consider your options even if you do! We’ll dig a little deeper once the knitalong is in full swing, but I wanted you to have this information before you cast on—
. . .
The Sólbein pattern includes instructions for the sewing machine method of reinforcing the steek before cutting. Is there any particular reason why you wrote it for that method — is it your personal favorite?
I chose the sewing machine method because it’s what you see most often in Iceland. A line or two of machine stitches nails down all the strands without creating any additional bulk, another reason I chose it. I actually love to reinforce with crochet, a slip stitch catching 1/2 of two adjacent stitches. It’s really pretty and it helps the cut ends fold under. It does cause additional bulk, so for Sólbein I might use a finer yarn, maybe fingering weight. I’d choose a color to blend with the selection you’ve made, anything super different could possibly show through to the front. Personally I’d use whatever I had lying around that matched, which would be Shetland wool or sock yarn.
For those who don’t have a sewing machine, what are some of the other steeking methods they might research? And is any/every method an option here, or is there anything about Sólbein that would rule any of them out?
You can do the crocheted steek like I mentioned above, or hand stitching with sewing thread is also an option, I find I have to be really careful to make it pretty, but it works. I know it’s hard fitting a sewing machine into your knitting bag!
[ . . . TA DA! Mary Jane has even helpfully posted a tutorial for her preferred crochet steek method on her blog! . . . ]
Does Léttlopi really even need any reinforcement for the steek, or could a brave soul just go for it?
I think because we’re knitting at such a loose gauge it’s a good idea to reinforce the steek. If we used a tight gauge and more stitches for the steek, just leaving it and doing nothing could possibly be an option.
Having asked that, and having read the pattern, I will confess I’m actually slightly nervous (by which I mean excited!) about there not being more of a “bridge” of stitches to cut through. As written, one is literally cutting straight up the gutter between two columns of stitches. Would you counsel against anyone who might feel tempted to throw a couple of extra stitches in between?
Well in Iceland they’ll often just have a single purl stitch as a steek. So I was being cautious using two. I’ll admit it makes me a little nervous too, but like you, at the same time thrilled. It’s nice because there is really no bulk, just enough left to be a tidy little selvage. I wear my Sólbein a lot and nothing bad has happened to it. All those Icelandic knitters can’t be wrong! But that’s not to say you can’t add more stitches if it helps you feel safer and more comfortable.
PREVIOUSLY in Fringe and Friends Steekalong: Mary Jane on choosing yarn
Photos by Carrie Bostick Hoge, used with permission