July 2020 Meeting Recap: Mary Mortensen Discusses Stranded Knitting, Member Tips, and Show & Tell
by Kimberly Williams
Another month, another virtual meeting. It just isn’t the same as seeing your faces, but at least we can be in our jammies.
Our first round of stuffed animals was sent to Butterfly Boxes. Adrienne Enriquez updated us on the refugee situation in Portland. As very few refugees are arriving in Portland currently, Butterfly Boxes reached out to their partners to have the stuffed animals delivered to children in families with a member suffering from COVID-19. Keep knitting, crocheting, and sewing stuffed animals. This world needs more love right now. And remember, you can knit clothes for store bought stuffed animals, too.
This month Kim Winter filled in for Anna to present member tips. The theme this time was non-knitting tools we use for knitting. There were some good ones. From photo boxes and zippered bags for needle organizing to rubber bands for needle stoppers. We also saw medication organizers for notion storage and stretchy rubber tourniquet material for gripping needles. Any cylinder in your house will work to start winding a ball of yarn. If you like to snack while knitting, use chopsticks or small tongs to grab those Cheetos to keep your fingers and your projects clean. What about a salad spinner to get the excess water out of your washed garments before blocking. It’s hard to pick a favorite of this lot, but I think mine was the needle buddy made of a swatch pinned to your chair for easy storage of your working DPN or crochet hook.
Next month's member tip theme: how to prevent twisting when joining in the round. I can’t wait to see what ingenious ideas you all have.
Mary Mortensen stayed up late and joined us via Zoom from Kansas. Her presentation was all about steeking as well as some of the history of stranded colorwork. Stranded knitting is knitting with at least two colors on a single row where the yarn not in use strands or floats across the back of the work. These strands add a layer of warmth which was highly valued in the northern climates where the technique originated. Fair Isle is a type of stranded knitting using multiple colors made popular by a 1921 portrait of Britain’s King Edward VII sporting a Fair Isle sweater.
The intricate patterns created by stranded knitting are easiest when knit in the round and without breaking for arm holes. That’s where a steek is needed. A steek is the bridge of stitches added to the work that allow an opening to be cut without interrupting the stranded colorwork. Mary showed us several examples of these steeks. Steeking is often referred to as the process of actually cutting the knitting.
Mary shared many ways to reinforce the edges after you make the cut. Wool is naturally sticky making it a good choice for projects requiring steeking. For other fibers, you can reinforce the edges with a double line of machine sewing or hand sewing. Make sure you pierce the yarn and don’t go between the knit stitches. You can also crochet a line on either side of the column to be cut or even use needle felting techniques.
If you are steeking to make a cardigan, you will probably be adding a button band or some kind of edge after you cut the steek. To finish the inside edge, you can sew on bias edging to cover the raw edge. You can pick up stitches along the raw edge and knit a facing that you then tack down.
Other tips from Mary included being consistent in how you hold the yarn; the direction the yarn comes from will determine which color dominates; and that your gauge in stranded colorwork will most likely be different from single color stockinette. If your project includes stranded and single colorwork, you should check for the last tip and possibly change needle sizes to keep the gauge even. To achieve a smooth finished piece, avoid puckering by using less slippery wooden needles, or turn your knitting inside out as you knit to give your strands further to travel.
For first timers, find a smaller project with only two colors with short floats and short pattern repeats. Think hats or sweaters with the colorwork only in the yoke. And don’t try to add a steek to your first stranded colorwork project. Check out this great group on Ravelry for more tips and a collection of free patterns. Here's a list of other resources from Mary.
Mary did a fabulous job of explaining a difficult technique that would be so much easier in person. Thanks for taking on that challenge!
Once again several people sent in pictures of their finished projects for the virtual show and tell.
Want to watch the meeting? Click here.