Steek, Medium Rare

Hey! Hey, you guys, you guys, you GUYS!!!! I mean… hey, WHOA!

Did I go and make this sound way the hell more complicated than it is? AGAIN?

Srsly - not that I don’t love being likened to Bach, and all - but this stuff isn’t rocket science. (Or economics. Or politics. Or internal combustion engines. Now those are hard to follow.) Honestly.

Let me see if I can clarify a bit. Here’s the chief gist of what I was blathering on (and on and on) about. On the left, a diagram of Belshazzar Delight Maximus, as produced normally by the Method Workshop program. On the right, the same diagram, elongated and truncated to emulate the way I’ve been knitting it - a 3-2 ratio.

Belshazzar Aspect Ratio

Belshazzar is 48 changes per lead, and it’s palindromic, which as you may recall is a high-falutin’ way of saying that half-way through it reverses and repeats, just like a verbal palindrome. I’ve put a green line at that half-way point, called the “half-lead” in ringing parlance. Now, if you work this the way I initially expected to work it (and the way I want to work it now), using 4 rows of knitting for each change, that means 48 x 4 = 192 rows of knitting to complete one lead. At a row gauge of 12 to the inch, that’s 192 / 12 = 16 inches. That will fit on the front/back of a sweater. In its entirety. And it’ll look nice and balanced, pretty much like the original diagram.

Whereas in the stretched-out version on the right - which is how I’ve actually been knitting this stuff up until now (it even looks remarkably similar to my knitted version, I think) - I’d either have to make the body of the sweater 48 x 6 = 288 rows, i.e. 288 / 12 = 24 inches lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ong, or truncate it somewhere around the 192-row point, leaving it unbalanced. If you look at the two diagrams sideways - no, wait, wait, I can do that for you -

Belshazzar Aspect Ratio

- you get an even clearer idea of the balance of one as opposed to the imbalance of the other.


The funny thing, of course, is that these diagrams were created with no regard to what they look like - they’re really only a form of musical notation. But they just happen, purely as a by-product, to look really really cool. Well, this is me, taking advantage of that circumstance. I have a lot more to say about this one of these days, about how the rhythms of the numeric sequence are manifested visually in the diagram layout… but that’ll have to wait until another time, because right now there’s more dramatic business afoot:

Last night…





First I bound off the swatch, none too neatly I might add.

Megaswatch, Bound Off

Then I got out the Big Scissors. Even though I have never done this type of steek before, I did NOT take out insurance - did not run any extra stitching of any kind on either side of the cutting line. Remember - it’s only a swatch. This turned out to be incredibly liberating. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Srsly - try it. Make a swatch. Any swatch. Use waste yarn. Whatever. Even if you’re not planning a specific steeked project. In fact, especially if you’re not, because then there is no pressure whatsoever. Cut through it. Just cut. It’s only a swatch, so the stakes are laughably low.

Hell, I didn’t even need alcohol. I barely even took a deep breath. I just… cut.

Of course, you may still want some alcohol - or at least a deep breath - before looking at the pictures.

Cutting the Steek Cutting the Steek Cutting the Steek

Click on any thumbnail image to biggify - image will open in new window.
Cutting the Steek Cutting the Steek Cutting the Steek
All action photos taken by The BoyTM

There. Done. No muss, no fuss, no nothin’. Piece of cake.

Then I trimmed back some of those extra columns of stitches…

Steek Trimmings

… leaving about 3 on each side, and pinned back the hem facings.

Hem, Pinned

Hem, Pinned

Sewed them up, then washed and blocked the whole thing.

Megaswatch, Blocked

Here’s the resulting hem:

Megaswatch Hem

On the right side, this edge…

Megaswatch, Band Edge

… looks better than this one…

Megaswatch, Band Edge

… but that’s just a matter of adjusting tension on the base-color float while doing the colorwork band. The discrepancy isn’t entirely deliberate, but I was sort of playing with different tensions to see which worked best. I have my answer.

Next stop, adding a horizontal band to the top or bottom edge.

Today Jennifer asked me, not at all unreasonably, why I didn’t continue the megaswatch first to test out the 4-stitch-per-change approach. Thought about it. But by last night I was pretty eager to cut and hem and learn what I had. I still want to swatch a whole different method - Nemesis Delight Maximus - and though the reverse stockinette hem facing has turned out more stable than I expected I think I still want to play with alternatives. So that will give me a fresh start and an opportunity to test the new aspect ratio. It won’t kill me to do a whole ‘nother swatch - as you may have gathered, I rather like swatching.

Even if you don’t, though - I still recommend making a swatch just for steeking practice. And then cutting it with huge scissors and gay abandon. Once you’ve done that… you may never be afraid of anything in knitting again.

Oh, and by the way…

No Longer Jelly Bean

There goes one more portable project, right down the tubes.

No Longer Jelly Bean

Yup - fraternal no-longer-jelly-bean socks, finished and blocking. I love them… but nevertheless, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s one less project to toss in my bag at a moment’s notice.


Compulsive, me?

20 Responses to “Steek, Medium Rare”

  1. The Boy (tm) Says:

    Superb photography!

  2. The Boy (tm) Says:

    Wow! I was FIRST!

  3. Marina Stern Says:

    Pretty socks! Pretty swatch!

    Funny Boy ™.

  4. carys Says:

    ooh, the swatch is so purty! and i love those ex-jellybean socks. does this mean you’ve started another pair of socks to toss in a bag at a moment’s notice?

    what will you be doing with the big swatch? it looks like it would make a very cool purse or handbag!

  5. Emma In Seattle Says:

    The swatch looks gorgeous. I’ll have to knit my own swatch to attempt my first steek.

  6. helen (of troy) Says:

    it is interesting isn’t? cutting knitting should be require.. for every knitter, and early on in their knitting career. There is something so liberating about it… Its another way to own your knitting!

  7. Jesh Says:

    ack ack! get the scissors away from the knitting! *chews fingernails in fear*

    seriously though, I think I finally understand what you’re talking about. and I do like it! it’s pretty *and* mathematically sound. :)

  8. Toni in Florida Says:

    Just as I don’t need to understand beautiful and complex music to love it, I don’t need to understand everything you wrote in your last post to see that the resulting pattern is gorgeous. And that’s why knitters like me love designers like you, ’cause you do the hard part (and apparently love doing it), the designing part, so the rest of us can simply knit the results of your brilliance… and look brilliant to non-knitters who think we did it all ourselves! Thanks for that.

    As for steeks, I’m unlikely to ever need to cut one, as I live in Florida and there’s little to no call for wool here. And other fibers just don’t steek well, ya know? Although I might need it for charity knitting, if I make something for someone in a rather more northern climate, I suppose. So thanks for that, too!

  9. Linda Says:

    OK, let me start with “My name is Linda and I’m a steek virgin.” With that understood, a couple of questions:

    1. You cut before you block? What holds the stitches from just falling apart in your hands?
    2. Do you need a sewing machine to sew down the facing?
    3. What keeps the cut edge of the facing from unravelling?


  10. Janice in GA Says:

    So the steeked edge got turned under the rev stockinette band, yes?

    And is there a slight difference in gauge between one side of the swatch and the other, or is that just an artifact of the photography?

    Either way, I am with child to see the next installment with the 4-row changes.

  11. Mardi Says:

    I’d also like answers to Linda’s questions 2 and 3, and to Janice’s first question, please. And I have one question of my own (which you may have answered in an earlier post that I missed) which is - are the colorwork bands on each side based on the same change-ringing pattern as the stitch pattern on that same side? They don’t seem identical.

    And my brain still hurts!

  12. crochetist Says:

    I refer you to “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” by Doulgas Adams. There is a lovely passage in there about the correlation between numbers, music, and their physical representations.

  13. LauraS Says:

    I’ve never knit a cardigan, so I wasn’t completely following what all the portions of the swatch were for until I saw how you cut the steek and turned the band facings, etc. I’m pretty delighted with how one creates facings. Thanks for showing all the pictures.

    For some reason, yesterday when you were talking about the aspect ratio I thought you meant the aspect ratio of the colorwork, and I couldn’t figure out how you were going to change that unless you used a different stitch pattern. Got it now–textured part, not colorwork part.

    I think you’re right that the textured part will look even better better using four rows of knitting for each change. I’m interested to see how that will look.

    Also, I’m really interested in the mechanics of how one does the colorwork part. And it’s NOT because I want to sit around and try it myself with various color combinations and see how they look. No. Because I have work to do, and being able to pay my mortgage is a good thing. Note to self: I really need to schedule a vacation in here somewhere. I think it should involve a secluded beach house, lots of yarn, and Internet access.

  14. Colleen Says:

    I’ve looked at 18th C artifacts….cotton no less, which were cut. There were about 6 extra stitches, 3 per side, cut up the middle. They were folded in, with the cut bits folded in again, and loosely hemmed down. After 250 years, a few ends had worked their way loose. But not many. And that is in COTTON, with no stitching, just a simple, ordinary sewing thread hem.

    Do a swatch. Don’t worry so much, it works well!

  15. Maria Says:

    I still cannot get over how amazingly nice the colors of those ex-jellybean socks are. I mean, that was some very ugly colored yarn before.

    You know what will happen now, of course. I’ll find some discounted yarn that is nice fiber but ugly colored, and will try the same thing. Except I’ll end up with variation on mud, avocado, and dirty orange.

  16. Connie Says:

    I know *exactly* how you feel about the portable thing–I finished all these projects in March, including three socks, plus finished three more in April. Now–I’m without a small circular project. (Well, that’s not *quite* true; I have two fingers and a thumb on a pair of fingerless gloves. Still, they take ZERO time, you know?) So I have a scarf-cum-blankie project, an afgan project (I’m knitting two squares for it currently, but it only counts as one project), and a lace project. Only one of which is conducive to going with me everywhere.

    Pretty pretty sockies, though.

    And for what it’s worth, I just read your second-most-recent, and it seemed positively translucent to me. ;-)

  17. Sally Says:

    Great fraternal socks…and girl, get out your steel wool and rub the rust off those big scissors. My husband creates things metal, and he feels about rust the way knitters feel about moths…kill them, kill them all!!

    And the change ringing sweater is going to be absolutely beyond fantastic.

  18. Lyrel Says:


    OK, steeks are terrifying - but the outcome is gorgeous.

    as for not having any portable projects …. something that I really understand, but only because everything I’m working on needs TOO MUCH CONCENTRATION to knit and chat - excepting that very tedious afghan I just (finally) completed - so, now I get it - another simple (aka boring) project is required

    who cares, my sock package has just arrived, and I can start it tomorrow - yeah!!!

  19. Mary Says:

    Omg! omg omg omg… I ring bells, and knit, wow! - bounce bounce bounce! (Mary)

  20. Kate in Somerset, UK Says:

    I read this post several days ago and yesterday realised that your diagrams reminded me of 16thC lace designs:

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