Over Christmas and New Year I took some time off and didn’t want to work on calculating a new pattern, but I did want to knit, so I started a second Cruden. I got most of the knitting done during my break but it’s been sitting in a corner waiting for the attention that steek finishing requires for a few weeks. Even though I love seaming most of my garment patterns are seamless — it’s just so hard for me to get around to the finishing!
Before the steeks are cut open the vest is a rather odd shape and it can be hard to visualise how everything will fit together.
The extended fronts allow the pattern repeat to be completed and the shoulders to be joined on a single colour row. No one wants to kitchener stitch in two colours if they don’t have to. I usually wear vests with a collared shirt, which can be uncomfortable if the back neck is too high and bunches up beneath the collar. This construction is a really simple way to drop the back neck below the centre line of the shoulder without purled colourwork rows or short row shaping. I find the colourwork is malleable enough that the back neck is sufficiently curved without decreases.
There are several different steeking methods, combining different set-ups during the knitting with different finishing techniques. They all create a bridge of extra yarn between the separate areas of the garment, either by working extra stitches or wrapping the yarn around the needle. In a garment like Cruden where the steeks begin part way up the garment stitches are bound off for the base of the opening and, on the following round, the bridge is added in.
On Cruden that bridge is (mostly) 5 stitches wide. I find that gives plenty of security when picking up stitches for the neck and armhole bands without adding too much bulk. Knitted steeks can be worked in any pattern that alternates both colours on patterned rounds and colour transitions should be kept away from the centre of the steek.
I like working the steek in vertical stripes because they make it really clear where to crochet and where to cut.
In a sticky yarn like this Jamieson and Smith Shetland it is absolutely possible to just cut the steek open. If you’re especially daring or plan to cover the raw, turned under, edge with a ribbon or facing you can go ahead and just cut up the centre of the stitch in the middle of the steek. Personally, I like the finished edge and extra peace of mind that securing the ends with crochet before cutting gives.
If your yarn is superwash, a plant fibre, or otherwise likely to slip out of crochet your best option is a (machine or hand) sewn steek which is usually worked on an even number of stitches.
Weave in all the ends except the tails attached to the still live stitches before beginning. Weave them in away from the steek stitches.
It can be helpful to think of the steek stitches numbered like this. The crochet will join each leg of stitch 3 to the stitches on either side of it — 2 and 4. Beginning at the bottom a row of slip stitch crochet will be worked to join 3 and 4 before turning the work and crocheting a second row back down to join 3 and 2.
If you aren’t familiar with crochet you might want to practise making a simple chain to get comfortable handling the hook and yarn before beginning.
Hook and yarn
Any hook size that is easy to insert under the stitches and pull yarn through should work but I usually start with a size smaller than the needle size I used for the knitting. If you have access to different hook shapes the pointier style is definitely easier.
For fingering / 4ply / jumper weight projects leftover yarn from the project should be fine but for a chunkier project you can use a lighter weight yarn for the crochet to reduce bulk. Either way you want a nice grabby wool here too. You might just be able to make out that I did the first steek in one of the dominant pattern colours and then switched to the orange so you could see them better. For your first steek choosing a contrasting colour makes the cutting easier — the riskiest part is accidentally cutting the crochet stitches.
With the work turned so the top of the garment is to the left (or the right if you crochet from left to right) insert the hook through the centre of stitch 4 and back up through the centre of stitch 3. Wrap the yarn and draw it through both loops. Insert the hook under the same two legs on the row above, wrap the yarn and draw through all 3 loops on the hook. I do this in two motions, first through the legs and then through the previous crochet stitch. Continue in this way until you reach the bound off stitches at the top.
Break the yarn, leaving a tail to weave in, and draw through the last stitch on the hook. Pull up tightly to fasten off.
Here’s a quick video so you can see how I work the crochet in action:
For the second column rotate the work so the top is at the right. Join the other leg of the stitch you just crocheted into (stitch 3) to the stitch that’s now below it (stitch 2).
When you’re done the crochet will form a ridge with each row of crochet stitches leaning away from the centre. Repeat for the other steeks.
Where the two front armholes come together after the back is finished on Cruden they form a 6 stitch wide steek made up of 3 stitches from each side. The crochet is worked in a continuous line up the same stitches.
This means that the two rows of crochet are worked into adjacent stitches, rather than a single centre stitch. You can see why I switched to the orange — you can barely see that there’s a row of brown crochet on the right.
Take a deep breath (or a nip of whiskey!) and spread the rows of crochet apart. You’ll see a ladder of the centre stitch yarn and the stranding behind it.
With the smallest, sharpest scissors you can find carefully cut through this ladder between the two rows of crochet.
Slip stitch or single (UK double) crochet?
Single crochet can make it easier to see where to cut because the crochet is more prominent. The downside is that it makes for a bulkier finished edge. It’s entirely up to you which you prefer.
Ready to earn your steeking badge? It’s really not that scary, I promise, and there’s no more badass knitting skill!