Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Leap of Faith

 If you are a knitter, chances are that there is some sort of project that you've seen in a yarn shop, something that someone in your knitting group was working on, or something you saw on a Ravelry project page that you just looked at and thought, "I don't know if I'll ever be able to do anything like that!"  For me, and probably for a number of people out there, that "bucket list project" was steeking.

Theoretically, I knew it could be done.  And I knew that if the people who lived on isolated islands in the North Atlantic routinely used this technique a couple hundred years ago, it was silly for someone who has access to an infinite number of knitting support websites and You Tube tutorial videos to think that steeking might be something that I'd have any trouble figuring out.  But, being a novice at it, I was still a little apprehensive about the whole thing.  Mustering up the courage to chop in half something you spent a good amount of money and about 40 hours of your time creating takes a little bit of effort.  But, as I do with most things related to knitting, I decided to just suck it up and trust that thing would work out.  I'd try it first on a swatch and if I had any trouble with it, I knew that the Universe would send me just the right article, knitting forum post, or teacher, as has happened so many times in the past.

Turns out, when I steeked the swatch I had knit, it worked beautifully.  I wasn't even working with 100% wool - it was Three Irish Girls' Adorn Sock yarn, a super wash 80/20 blend of merino & nylon.  I'm not a crocheter, yet working a slip-stitch crochet chain on either side of my steeking line was a breeze thanks to some fantastic steeking tutorials I found on the web.  (If you want to be extra fancy with your steeking edge, you might choose to work a single-crochet chain instead of the testers and I found that both ways work just fine.)

This pattern was a leap of faith for me in another way, as well.  It is the first time I've written a pattern that includes a hood.  I had knit a hooded sweater in the past, I understood how hoods were constructed, and I had quite a few of my own hooded sweaters at home that I could use as measurement guides (since hoods don't vary widely from the XS small adult size to the 3X size, I didn't need to really worry about having a wide range of hood measurements for different sizes.) But still, the hood is the last part of this sweater to be worked, and because it is steeked before I can really check the size, I knew I had to get it right the first time.  Whenever friends saw me working on this design and asked me about it, my answers always started out like, "Well, theoretically, I think it's going to be like XYZ....but there's a lot of about this design that is just a leap of faith."  I said that to one of the owners of my LYS, and she said, "That would be a good name for this sweater!  You should call it that."  And she was right.  It was the perfect name.

You might remember how things ended up going with my first attempt at this hood.  I knitted it to what I thought were the right measurements, steeked the sweater open and found out that the hood was a couple inches taller than I really wanted it to be.  I wrote a blog post about how I did surgery on my already-steeked sweater.  That sweater surgery was much scarier than steeking for the first time!

Still, even after the surgery, the hood wasn't perfect.  It was still a little bit too big, and I didn't like the way I had shaped the decreases at the top.  I knew I could get a nicer-looking curve to the top of the hood.  So, I rewrote the hood section and knit a second sample sweater along with my testers.

It was perfect timing because I wanted to knit something special for a friend's birthday (you might remember that post from earlier this month...this was the friend who taught me how to knit.)  So, I got to take photos of a second sample sweater with a perfected hood, and my friend got a unique birthday gift in her favorite color!

I was excited when I began the test knit for this pattern because the majority of the ladies who participated had never steeked before.  A couple of them told me that they volunteered specifically because steeking was something they wanted to try, and they figured what better time to do it than when they have a whole group of other testers plus the designer around to help answer questions if they get in trouble.  It was fun to live vicariously through their steeling experiences, since I am now a self-proclaimed steeking addict.  I MAY NEVER PURL AGAIN!!  Ok, that's a lie, but I am definitely very likely to convert flat patterns to in-the-round in the future if it makes sense to do them that way.

So anyway, I write all this to encourage other knitters who are on the fence about steeking.  Let me be clear - this should not be your first sweater pattern.  There are enough intermediate techniques used in this pattern (three-needle bind-off, grafting, picking up stitches, steeking, whip-stitching the steeked edge into place, and sewing in a zipper - if you want to finish it off that way) that you really should have a couple simpler sweaters under your belt before you work on this one.  But if you're an intermediate knitter who wants to take it to the next level, I promise you will feel like a knitting rock star after you complete this pattern.  And I provide either written instructions or links to articles and videos to help you through the techniques that might not be familiar.

So, make 2013 the year you tackle something on your knitting bucket list.  Honestly, with all the resources we have access to between the folks that work at our local yarn shops, the knitting pod casts and video casts that are available, and the wealth of information available on the internet, there is nothing that is too difficult for you to tackle!

The Leap of Faith pattern is now available in women's sizes 30" - 54" on the pattern page of my blog, as well as on Ravelry and in my Etsy shop.  I hope you enjoy knitting it, and I hope you get as much use out of your sweater as I do out of mine!

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