Thursday, October 16, 2014

Color knitting project: status report and request for help

So far...
For some time now,  I've been trying to work on a book about color knitting.  A lot got done. New ideas have been chased down and reduced to writing, projects have been done, instructions written, photos taken, illustrations drawn. Progress has been made!

Despite the progress, it feels like the book is as far away as ever. Content takes a long time to reduce to writing, and illustration takes forever, but, that's not the problem: it's the same as writing blog posts.  Books, however, are not just content, but have a lot more moving parts.

It's partly these--organization, indexing, layout--which are dragging me down, down, down. Yet far worse: self-editing is impossible. If I wrote it wrong the first time, it'll stay wrong: I know what I meant, communicating is the challenge.

The real publishing world is no solace either. Deadlines rule.  For a person of such untidy habits as myself, that would be fantasy.

Meanwhile bad things are happening...
In the meanwhile, all these darned color knitting tricks are flapping around, increasingly anxious to get out.  Worse, I'm already starting to forget some of the stuff worked out oh-so-carefully over the past year+. When I caught sight of a sample a couple of days ago and couldn't quite remember the trick of it, the real worry started.
(Not to mention that new and shiny tricks are distracting me, like new and positively thrilling methods for making cabled fabric.)

So here's the compromise...
What's been worked out so far is going to be released as blog posts.  Maybe after the CONTENT gets out there, the ORGANIZATION could be a separate project.  In other words, maybe someday, somehow, the book will follow after the blog posts.

And here's the request...
You, my lovely readers, absolutely never hesitate to point out when instructions are unclear, or when a stitch is illustrated backwards.  The comments fill up pretty quick when I make a mistake!  Although embarrassing (HOW, I ask myself, could I have overlooked THAT?) your comments are tremendously valuable. Many posts have been corrected, edited and re-illustrated over the years, many thanks.*

If the book content comes out as blog posts first, mistakes will be less likely to survive into book form, especially if you'll keep sending corrections. Please? If I've missed something, if something is not making sense, if a stitch is illustrated mismounted, consider writing a comment or e-mail ( Book errata are a terrible thing.

even if I do get fatally off track and distracted, and no book ever comes out, at least some of the tricks will have escaped my head where they are currently batting around and driving me crazy. Plus all that effort so far, you know...

No guarantee this project is going to come out in any particular order or with any particular regularity. There's a backlog of other knitting posts, so it's not going to be all-color all the time, either.

However, at least some color-knitting stuff ought to come out in some way. Maybe together,  we'll all see where this is going?

See you soon, with some color knitting posts. Warm regards and thanks,

*Note: Sometimes (rarely) Blogger eats stuff--sometimes posts, sometimes edits, and, sadly, sometimes comments (especially, for some reason, duplicate comments).  If this has happened to a past comment by you, please accept my apologies. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

"Dry blocking" uneven ribbing: a quick little trick

TECHkntting blog has a post offering several cures for uneven ribbing.  All of these work, but they have a limitation: you pretty much have to work them as you go.  If the sweater is already off the needles, these tips won't help. Today's post shows a new little trick which does. Nothing earth-shaking, you understand, but a handy little trick in the right situation.

The back story/other alternatives
Some time ago, a new knitter asked how to fix a sweater with wonky ribbing which she wanted to wear NOW! Four alternatives jumped to mind.

1) Remove the ribbing via the "snip" method and reknit the ribbing "down." This would have removed the wonky ribbing, alright, but is a sort of heavy-handed cure, best reserved for serious situations like length changes, I think.  Further, given that the ribbing had been knit wonky due to inexperience, there was no reason to think a re-knit ribbing would be any improvement. Plus, reknitting takes time, especially as there were seams to release. So, no go for this trick.

2) Let out the purl columns and latch them back up. (Scroll at link to Solution 2) However, this would have required obtaining live stitches, another time-consuming fix. Again, no go.

3) Try to block the wonkiness out by re-blocking.  The sweater had already been blocked, but I did not think the ribbing had been blocked the best way. Blocking ribbing is different than blocking stockinette fabrics: When thoroughly wetted, the ribbing (and only the ribbing!) is pulled down--tugged sharply and repeatedly--until it is as long and narrow as you can get it, then left to dry in that position. This was probably the best choice, but it would have taken maybe a day or so to dry. Strike 3.

4) Do nothing, wear the garment as-is and wait for time to cure the problem. This is not as odd a cure as one might think. On page 6 of her great classic, Knitting Without Tears, Elizabeth Zimmermann wrote:
I used to think that people in the Olden Days were marvelously even knitters, because all really ancient sweaters are so smooth and regular.  Now I realize that they probably knitted just as I do, rather erratically, and that it is Time, the Great leveller, which has wrought the change--Time, and many washings.
However, the knitter was not willing to wear the sweater as it was, so another no-go for her situation.

So, I got to thinking: what is it about Time or blocking ("washing") that makes knitting turn out more even? Well, knitting is a series of interconnected loops.  Each loop is connected in the rows and the columns.  (More info here, scroll to heading "soap opera.") Repeated stretching through wear or blocking re-settles the yarn more evenly across the fabric, so that each stitch in any given patch contains an average amount of yarn.  As-you-knit tricks work by controlling the amount of yarn in the fabric. With resettlement, the amount of yarn in the fabric does not change, but prior uneven distribution is smoothed out. When each stitch looks pretty much like the one next to it, wonkiness disappears.

What if there was a way to duplicate this resettling action? Maybe by tugging columns of ribbing with a needle or crochet hook? Yes! That trick worked.  Later experimentation on several purpose-knit swatches has confirmed the method. I privately have come to think of this trick as "dry blocking ribbing." Actual wet blocking is probably better and quicker overall, but requires drying time.  By contrast, this method requires working over each column of stitches, but no drying time: when you're done, you're done = pretty quick overall.

The trick
I want to stress: wet blocking is the premier method. However, this "dry blocking" trick is a good one to use when instant redistribution in ribbed fabric is what you need.

Before: wonky ribbing

After dry blocking: for contrast, the rightmost columns have not yet been worked

Easy to show, hard to illustrate, the method involves tensioning the fabric, then dragging the point of a slim needle down the purl column of the ribbing.  Work the front first (the fabric face which shows when the garment is worn). Flip the fabric and do the same trick on the back. Here's a one minute video.

If you are having trouble viewing the video, here is the http address:  You can cut and paste the address into your browser window if the link does not work.

One final thought: do you wonder whether this works on stockinette fabric? It works only mildly.  Further, the amount of stockinette in the average sweater is vast compared to the amount of ribbing, so this would be tedious. Bottom line: imho, with stockinette, wet blocking is your best bet.

Good knitting!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Basic crocheting for knitters: chain stitch (ch. st.), slip stitch (sl. st.) and single crochet (sc)

(Here's another post, half-written for years, which has kicked around my hard drive long enough.)
* * *
This post tackles the three most basic crochet stitches: chain stitch (ch. st), slip stitch (sl. st) and single crochet (sc).  All of these are of good use to knitters for edgings, drawstrings, fabric stabilization, seaming, attaching patch pockets and so on. If this subject interests you, sit tight, we're going for a ride--it's a long post with lots of illustrations.

Crocheted chain (chain stitch, abbreviated as "ch. st.")
A crocheted chain forms the basis of much crocheting.  On its own, it's useful too: crocheting the chain stitch is wonderful way to make a strong little cord, very good for drawstrings in knitted garments.  From the front, chain stitch looks just like a column of knitting.

What a crocheted chain looks like, as seen from the front

Chains traditionally begin with a slip knot. The easiest way to form one is to create a pretzel of yarn by lifting the ball end of the yarn over the tail end forming a loop, then draw the ball end under the entire loop just made, leaving the whole assembly very soft and loose, as shown below. Next, insert the crochet hook into the pretzel from upper R to lower L, so only the inner right leg of the pretzel is over the barrel of the hook.

set up to make a slip knot

Next, hold the yarn ends in one hand and the crochet hook in the other, then pull in opposite directions.  The left loop of the pretzel will snug up into a granny-knot made out of the tail end, and this knot will freely slide up and down the ball end of the yarn--voilà: a knot which slips, a slip-knot.  Leave the loop of the slip knot over the barrel of the hook.

finished slip knot over the barrel of the hook

Once you have a slip knot on your hook, trap the nub of the knot between your left thumb and left middle finger, then use your left forefinger to tension the running yarn in position above the loop (running yarn=yarn running out of the ball, ball end of the yarn) as shown below. Holding the hook in your right hand, reach up and grab the running yarn from UNDERNEATH, so that the running yarn winds around the crochet hook in the clockwise direction. With the lip of the hook facing you, slide the hook down along the running yarn until the lip of the hook is over the running yarn, then draw the loaded hook down, out of the slip knit, in the direction of the arrow, as shown.

set up to make the first chain

You will now find that the yarn you drew down out of the first loop has formed a new, second loop around your hook, as shown below.

first chain stitch made

Repeat the same yarn-winding action again and you will find a new loop is created each time you draw the hook through the loop.  This creates a chain of stitches--the chain stitch, shown below.  Note that when just about to work the chain stitch, there are two yarns over the hook: the just-made loop through which the hook is inserted (arrow #1) while the running yarn caught under the lip of the hook waiting to be drawn through (arrow #2) creates a second yarn over the hook-barrel.

crocheted chain closeup

The chain shown here is very loose.  In real life, however, you would snug up the loops as you make them, just as you would tension your yarn in knitting.

Slip stitch (
For knitters, chain stitch is handy for making cords.  However, its first cousin, slip stitch is much more versatile: imho it's the most useful crochet stitch a knitter can know. So useful and fundamental in fact, that even knitters who never held a crochet hook have almost certainly done the slip stitch. You see, structurally, the crocheted slip stitch is identical to the chain bind off. Yes, despite slip stitch being done with a hook and the chain bind off with knitting needle, they are the same exact stitch.

The slip stitch in crocheting differs from chain stitch in only one regard.  Whereas the chain is free-standing, slip stitch is worked attached to a previously created fabric. Like the chain stitch, slip stitch confers no particular height to the work. For height, more complicated crochet stitches such as single crochet, double crochet etc. must be used. Stated otherwise, although it is attached to a previously-made fabric, slip stitch more in the nature of a utility stitch: useful as an edging, fastening, or stabilizer.

Slip stitch always starts with a loop over the hook. In the illustration below, slip stitch is being made in a traditional manner: on a foundation row of chain stitch, and the existing loop comes from the last stitch of the previously-made chain (arrow #1). The hook is then inserted from front to back under the arm of the second chain from the end (arrow #2).  Once you have these two yarns laying over over the barrel of the crochet hook, use the hook to catch the running yarn "up from under," so it lays as shown below (arrow #3).

set up for first slip stitch
From the above set up, the slip stitch is worked by pulling the third yarn, which is the running yarn, through both other loops on the hook.  This starts the cycle over again, as shown below: one loop remains on the hook (arrow #1) The hook is again inserted from front to back through the arm of the next chain (arrow #2) then again catches the running yarn (arrow #3).  The second slip stitch is performed like the first, by pulling loop 3 through the other two.

first slip stitch made, set up for second one

After a making several stitches, you can see that the slip stitch looks very much like the chain stitch.  Aaaand, that's because it IS the chain stitch, with the added extra step of catching that attachment arm out of the fabric, before the running yarn is drawn through.  The "chainy" part is colored red.

slip stitch closeup
Here's the proof that the chain bind off and the slip stitch are identical: a closeup of the chain bind off at the top of a knitted fabric, also colored red, shows same structure as the slip stitch, above.  So, one immediate use of a crochet hook could be to speed up chain cast off by working with a crochet hook rather than knitting needles--the hook is substantially faster (so much faster that it's easy to get moving too fast and get too tight:  you have to really watch the tension). 

knitted chain bind off, closeup

Another common use for slip stitch is to stabilize a crocheted chain.   When you slip stitch into a chain as shown in the slip stitch closeup, you get a double-sided, double thick chain (a good trick to thicken and strengthen a chain-stitch for high-use drawstrings).

Slip stitch can stabilize knit fabric, too. When used on knit fabric, slip stitch does not required a foundation row.  In  other words, no need to make a chain, just start right in slip stitching through the knit fabric.  Below is a closeup of the slip stitch through the middle of a fabric--in this case, used to stabilize the neckline of a garment which would otherwise sag.

slip stitching through knit fabric to stabilize a sweater neck

When working the slip stitch through the middle of a fabric, begin by deciding on which fabric face of the garment you want the pretty-looking "chained" part of the slip stitch to appear.  We'll call this fabric face the "front," because it will be facing you when working the slip stitch.  Note, however, that sometimes the pretty side might be what you normally think of as the back or inside fabric face of the garment.

In the example above, the fabric being stabilized is the back of a stockinette sweater with a fold-over collar. The outside of the neck is hidden under the collar, so the purled fabric inside of the sweater neck (which you might see at certain angles if the sweater is worn unbuttoned) is the pretty ("front") fabric face in this example.

To start the slip stitching, hold the yarn on the not-pretty side--the back side.  Insert the hook from the front to the back and draw up a loop.  Keeping the loop over the barrel of the hook, move the hook one stitch over, then insert the hook through the fabric again and draw up a second loop from the back.  Finish the slip stitch by drawing this second loop through the first.  For each slip stitch wanted, repeat the process. Finish by cutting the running yarn then pull the resulting tail through the last loop. Work this tail in as you would for a cut-end in knitting--skim it in (with a sewing needle or with a knit-picker on the fabric-back, or weave it in).

Slip stitch can also be used to stabilize the long edge of a fabric. Because there is already a TECHknitting post on this, the instructions are not repeated here, but here's a photo to show the idea. (Both the post and the below photo show a stabilizing slip stitch on a garter stitch edge--the long edge of garter stitch is especially prone to flaring--but slip stitching can be worked through any sort of knit fabric.)
slip stitching to stabilize a garter stitch edge*

Yet another common use for slip stitch is in seaming, to attach two pieces of knitting together.  This is done exactly the same as slip stitching to stabilize a long edge, the only difference being that you would hold the two pieces of knitting one behind the other and slip stitch through both at the same time, matching stitch for stitch.  The below schematic shows the idea, however, you must decide for yourself which column edge to work along: the schematic shows the hook inserted 1/2 column in from the edge, yet a loose fabric might require an entire column.

Inserting the hook for slip stitch seaming (note that, in this diagram, the purl fabric faces are intended to be the "public" side of the garment, as would be the case with a cable sweater worked on a reverse stockinette background, for example.  If the smooth stockinette side of the garment is to be the public side, then the fabrics would be held smooth-face-to-smooth-face in seaming.)

If you have a slipped selvedge, a very pretty effect can be obtained if you insert the hook through the inner loops on each fabric edge.  Where the outer loops are forced to the fabric surface, you get a very pretty line of V's down the seam line.

a slip-stitched seam on a slipped knitted selvedge. The photo shows how very pretty this seam is, but not the equally pretty "valley" which opens in the middle of this seam when the seam is stretched. It's a subtle touch, very professional looking, but impossible (for me, anyhow!) to photograph.*

When used for seaming, slip stitch can be easily removed if you find you've gotten off your stitch-for-stitch count, or if you find your tension is wrong. This is a huge advantage over picking out sewing, especially easier than picking out mattress stitch. On the downside, a slip-stitched seam is bulkier than a sewn one, yet even this disadvantage can be minimized by working the seam in a color-matched thin (sock) yarn, instead of the bulkier main garment yarn.

Attaching patch pockets on sweater fronts is another great use of slip stitch. Worked vertically, the "knit column" look of the slip stitch makes this blend right in, worked horizontally, the slip stitch looks like a particularly lovely stitch pick up and bind off.

Eliminating gaps on cables is a good trick too. You know that gap that forms behind a giant cable where the cable arms twist over one another? A line of discreet slip stitching right between the arms of the outermost cable columns will seal that gap forever.  The stitching will show on the inside, sure, but on the outside the addition of an extra column will never show, the little V's of the slip stitch simply disappear amongst the stockinette columns of the cables themselves.  Here's a link to a project on Ravelry  which shows this trick used to close the gaps on a super-wide cable. (Link used by permission, thanks to Raveler HelloKnitty6).

Single crochet (sc)
In terms of progression and complication, slip stitch was "chain stitch plus:" chain stitch + attachment to fabric edge = slip stitch.  In this same way, single crochet is "slip stitch plus."  This time, the extra step involves making an extra loop with the hook before the final draw through: slip stitch + extra loop = single crochet. This extra loop adds height to the stitch. So, unlike (the very flat) slip stitch, it is perfectly possible to make a fabric in  single crochet.

Like slip stitch, single crochet traditionally begins on a chain foundation row. So, if this illustration looks familiar, that's because it's the exact same set up as for the slip stitch. However, this time, instead of pulling the running yarn (gray) through BOTH loops on the needle as for slip stitch, STOP when you've pulled the running yarn through only the FIRST loop, as shown below.
Set up for the sc.  This looks just like the set up for slip stitch, but to work the first step of the sc, STOP after pulling the running yarn through the first loop on the hook-barrel: the running yarn is not pulled through the second loop until the next step

The loop just made (gray) is over the barrel of the hook. Reload the hook: wrap the running yarn (which I've now colored red) around the barrel of the hook, slide the hook down along the running yarn until the running yarn is caught under the hook lip.  There will again be three yarns over the needle as shown below--the now-red running yarn, the gray loop previously made, and last on the needle, the loop from the original chain. Draw the red running yarn through both loops, in the direction of the blue arrow to make the first sc.

step 2 of the sc

The result (first finished sc) is as below.

first finished sc, worked on a chain stitch foundation

The cycle begins again by inserting the hook under the arm of the next foundation stitch and pulling a single loop through the arm only.

Work a several sc's and the structure becomes apparent--the top (red) loop looks just like a slip stitch (or a chain bind off, since those are the same thing) but the blue bar highlights the additional layer of (gray) loops.  These are the "extra step" loops--one per stitch--which make single crochet a taller (higher) fabric than slip stitch.

single crochet on a chain stitch foundation, closeup

Knitters commonly use single crochet as an edging on baby blankets, scarves and the like.   Below is a close-up of the look.

sc border worked on knitted (garter st) fabric

For this use, no need to have a foundation chain.  In other words, just as slip stitch can be worked directly through a knit fabric, so too with single crochet edging.  Begin by pulling the first loop through the knit fabric from back to front. * Retaining the loop on the hook, insert the hook into the next knit stitch and pull up a second loop. On these two loops, work the single crochet as shown above, second-to-last illustration. Repeat from * all the way around the blanket. A very neat finish can be worked the same way you'd bind off circular knits (the first method at the link would be the best one to use for sc).

Until the next post, good knitting (or should I say, crocheting?)

* The two photos with the asterisks (seam and stabilization photos) come from a TECHknitting Ravelry pattern for the Elizabeth Cap-- the slip stitch seam and edging help stabilize the cap's very stretchy garter stitch fabric.  If you go to the link, you'll see it works: some of caps shown with the pattern at the link had been regularly worn by the time they were photographed, but the slip stitching prevented stretching or sagging and kept them looking new.

This has been aTECHknitting blog post about crocheting for knitters, featuring chain stitch (ch. st.) slip stitch (sl st) and single crochet (sc).  Thanks for reading! 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Invisible afterthought smocking: a useful (and mysterious!) trick

Looking through the TECHknitting list of posts, I've found some which were finished but never posted. Here's one on smocking.

Pretty, and useful, too
Smocking on knitting is very pretty. It also has the wonderful property of narrowing fabric without having to use decreases or any shaping at all.  So, not only can you make very pretty sweaters with smocking, but you can use smocking to narrow a too-wide fabric without having to alter the underlying knitting pattern.  Two examples.*

First, a sweater too wide across the top of the body (actually, this is a very common problem for women, because the bust typically requires a larger width of fabric than the overbust area).  Adding bust-shaping is one solution, but adding smocking above the bust requires less pattern-alteration. 

narrowing a sweater in the overbust area via smocking

A second example: a sweater too wide in the waist. (As with the first example, this common problem in women's sweaters caused by the necessity to fit the bust, which can be significantly wider than the waist.) Adding waist shaping would have solved this problem in the first place, but smocking is a simple way to solve the problem, because it can be added to a pattern which has no waist shaping, without much pattern-alteration.

narrowing a sweater in the waist area via smocking

Invisible afterthought smocking
This post is about a kind of smocking which is done using a threaded blunt-tipped sewing needle, after all the knitting is done--it's called afterthought smocking, and it is a combination of knitting and sewing.

As the below illustration shows,  the yarn inserted by the sewing needle is pretty-near invisible: I used purple for the sewing yarn, and even though this is purple-on-white, the purple yarn shows only at very sides the pinch-pleat. If the pleating yarn had been the same color as the underlying fabric, it would be completely invisible.

Another invisible aspect is that the pleats are formed with no outward clue as to how they were made--no yarn travels over the top of the pleats, leaving their formation quite mysterious.

For both these reasons, I call this trick "invisible afterthought smocking."

The purple yarn is for illustration purposes only, normally the pleating yarn would be the same color as the underlying fabric

When smocking is worked on woven fabric, the fabric must first be painstakingly pleated.  The smocking then hold the pleats in place.  As knitters, we have the privilege of creating our own fabric, and therefore can make a "pre-pleated" fabric by working ribs: as you see in the above illustration, the ribs form the basis of the pleats.  Stated otherwise, smocking in knitting is worked on knitted ribs. The sewing acts to pinch the ribs together in an alternating high-low pattern, forming the "pinch-pleats" characteristic of smocking.

If you are planning a garment for smocking, working every fourth column in knit on a purl (reverse stockinette) background is a good standard of spacing. This type of ribbing, called 1/3, is shown above.

If you have a too-wide item you'd like to tighten, it is possible to re-work (convert into ribbing) an already-finished reverse stockinette fabric into 1/3 ribs--here is a link to a post about re-working stockinette scarves into ribbing, and the idea is identical with sweaters (the fabric shown above was converted from a reverse stockinette fabric---> ribbing in this manner).

If you are starting with a stockinette fabric made smooth side out, it's a bit more complicated.  Instead of converting a single column of reverse stockinette---> knit rib every fourth column, the three in-between columns have to be converted from stockinette
---> reverse stockinette, making three times as much work.   However, even at three times the work, converting is still a whole lot less work than knitting a whole new garment.  Further, if the item is a sweater, the area of actual smocking need not be very wide--the effects of smocking reach down considerably below (and, for waist-shaping, also reach above) where the actual smocking starts.

Once you have your ribbed fabric, the work is quite simple. Smocked pleats are usually made in sets of two at a time, a high pleat followed by a low pleat as shown on the illustrations. As you can see, the stockinette ribs are colored pink/red.  There are three columns of purl between the ribs. Each pair of red stitches represents the pinched end-points of a smocked pleat, and these pleat-pinches are joined by a loop of yarn worked through the fabric, which draws them together.  In other words, the pinch-pleats are formed over the four red stitches and the columns are pinched alternately, giving the unique smocked look. 

The sewing needle is used to put the smocking yarn into the fabric (each pleat-pinch is shown a different color).  Once the loop is threaded into the fabric, it is tightened to draw the four red stitches together.  Note that you actually tighten each loop as you make it: the schematic shows the loops untightened just so you can see what's going on.

This is an color-coded overview, each pleat shown in a different color. Below are closeups of the line taken by the pleating-yarn as it travels from pinch-pleat 2 to pinch-pleat 3 along the on the fabric-back, as well as a closeup of the looped path which the pleating-yarn takes as it forms a pinch-pleat

Specifically, these pleats are 4 stitches apart, the pinch-pleat takes two stitches, so each repeat is 6 stitches long (ie: high).  However, you can make your own pleats longer or shorter, the only important thing is consistency. This diagram shows one set of high-low pleats.  To add a second set, use the same spacing between sets of pleats as within a set of pleats.

The above diagram shows the path of the smocking-yarn as seen from the front.  However, the yarn travels from pleat-pinch to pleat-pinch (in our example, from pleat-pinch 2 to pleat-pinch 3) through the fabric back. When the fabric is flipped to the back, the stitch columns are reversed.  Specifically, the rib on which the smocking is performed shows as a purl column while the three intervening reverse stockinette columns now show as knit columns.

The below illustrations shows the path of the needle as it travels from pinch-pleat 2 (green) to pinch pleat 3 (blue), along the back face of the fabric. The stitches are colorized in accordance with the arrows on the above chart.  As shown, the needles travels in the half-stitch bordering the purl column.

beginning the travel from pinch-pleat 2 to 3, through the fabric back

Showing the position of the sewing needle just before drawing the pleating yarn through to travel from pinch-pleat 2 to 3. Secured into this half-column, the traveling yarn will not show from the front.

The final illustration, below, is a closeup of the path of the needle as it creates the pinch-pleat.  As you see, the pleating yarn goes in and out THROUGH THE SIDES of the pleat-stitches (highlighted in red), NOT over the top.

It is this path--not over the top--which distinguishes this form of smocking from any other. Further, it is this through-the-sides maneuver which keeps the pleating yarn invisible.

In fact, when your pleating yarn is the same color as the background yarn, the pleating yarn does not show at the pleats on the front nor as it travels on the back, making this a truly "invisible" form of afterthought smocking.  So invisible, in fact, that it is quite mysterious--suitable for mystifying your eagle-eyed knitting friends.

to create each pinch-pleat, the yarn travels in  loop through the sides of the four highlighted rib stitches, NOT over the stitch-tops

* * *
One last thing:  Not only can you smock on a 1/3 ribbing as shown in this post, but it is also possible to smock on any 1/X ribbing, such as 1/2 (k1, p2) , 1/1 (k1, p1), etc. The important thing is a single row of knit rib on a background of reverse stockinette.
 * * *
Good knitting!
* * *

* A third example of where afterthought smocking is useful: 1/1 ribbing is fairly common, and commonly stretches out.  Stretched-out 1/1 ribbing on a sweater- or mitten-cuff or on a hat brim can be tightened the back into usefulness via this trick.  The actual pleating is done the same way, with one difference: when pleating 1/1 ribbing, best to use a thinner yarn--a color-matched sock yarn, perhaps--or the amount of pleating yarn might make the fabric stiff.

This is a TECHknitting blog post on invisible afterthought smocking, which is about smocking handknits, also know as smocking knitting or smocking knits.  This trick is an invisible replacement for the smocking stitch on knits. Thanks for being a TECHknitter reader!

Monday, March 24, 2014

A faster, easier way to tink

Unraveling, tinking, ripping-out, frogging*: these are all names for un-knitting already-knit fabric, and there is a range of methods for doing it, from slow-but-sure to fast-and-bold. Today's post shows a combo method--fast, yet sure.

At the slow end of unraveling, there is tinking. "Tink" ("knit" spelled backwards) means to unpick knitting, working backwards down the row to transfer each stitch from needle to needle, while pulling the running yarn out of each stitch in turn, during the transfer process. Worked over a long stretch, this stitch-by-stitch approach is dull work, yet many knitters do it patiently, preferring to be slow but sure.

At the bold end of unraveling, there are the knitters who slide the work off the needles, yank out arms-lengths of yarn until the target row is reached, then pick the bare naked loops onto a needle. The upside of the bold approach is speed. The downside is the necessity to grab the naked loops without a lot of manipulation so as not to start ladders or draw the yarn out of nearby stitches. In practical terms, this leads to ply-splitting.

If correcting split stitches on the fly is not a problem for you, just keep on doing as you are doing now, no need to read further, you expert, you! However, if you're a tink-er wishing for more speed, today's post shows a combo method.

It is possible to slide the work off the needles, yank out yarn with abandon, yet slow down as you near the target row and catch the underlying loops perfectly: no ply-splitting, and here's how:

  • Slide the work off the needles
  • Unravel by pulling out yarn, as fast as you like
  • STOP one row (or if you are cautious, two rows) short of the target row.
  • take a very thin knitting needle in your active (knitting) hand, and unravel the last row(s) as shown in the below you-tube video. 

Note that you ARE splitting the plies of the EXISTING stitch (the one you're removing).  Yet, once that stitch has been pulled out, the underlying stitch (the one you want on the needle) is unsplit. If you take care to set the stitches on the needle RIGHT arm forward, the stitches will not be mis-mounted.

In some instances some of the stitches MAY be mismounted (left leg forward) because sometimes, it is easier to pick them up that way unsplit  IF you are getting mismounted stitches, you can either go through the work again, changing the orientation of the mis-mounted ones, or you can straighten them out as you knit into them, by inserting the needle through the back loop. There is more information at this post on length reassignment surgery (second and third illustrations).

Using a very thin needle speeds pick of the stitches of the target row. Further, you do not need to slide the stitches onto the original size needle to begin the re-knitting process, you can knit them right off the thin needle.  This is because the stitches you're catching onto the thin needle were originally formed over a needle of the correct size.  The thin needle is simply a holder.  As long as you work the new row with a needle of the correct size, no fabric-distortion will result. For further reading on this subject, here is a link to a whole post about it.

CAVEAT:  As neat as this trick is, I myself wouldn't do it on lace, or on anything knit with silk.

Good knitting! TK

*frogs say "ribbit-ribbit," sounds like "rip-it, rip-it," yeah?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Steeks, beta version, part 3: real world tricks and tips

Today's post, third in a series, shows how to adapt the new faced steek method to the real world. (The first post, an introduction, can be found here, the second post, showing the basic method, is found here.) Today's post shows adaptations for a full length steek in a one-color or striped garment.  In future posts, we will get to partial steeks (such as for sleeves or 1/4 neck or henleys) as well as stranded color knitting.

Adapting this steek to real life--tricks and tips

converting a purl column
to be a knit column on
the reverse stockinette
(purl) face of the fabric
The facings are anchored into the garment though a purl column (purl as seen from the smooth side of stockinette fabric). To get the tightest possible purl column, initially work the entire fabric in stockinette. Afterwards, locate, then drop (run out) the correct column, making a ladder (ladder shown in dark green).

Next, flip the fabric so you're looking at the reverse stockinette (bumpy) side. With a crochet needle, hook the ladder back up on this reverse side as a knit column (illustrated in darker green). The opposite of a knit column is a purl, so on the front (smooth side) of the fabric, this trick creates a purl column.

This trick of running out a column and hooking it back up from the reverse is called "converting" a column.  The purl columns in the samples of the previous post were converted using this trick.  Have a look. Just remember to keep a sharp eye that you don't drop the ladder so far that the foundation stitch(es) come loose.

If converting a column on an existing garment, then once you have live loops at the top or bottom of the column to be run out,  (more on this below) you can convert the purl column either working bottom-up, or from the neck down, whichever is most convenient.  In stockinette, working against the direction of the original work (i.e.: bottom-up in a top-down knit or top-down in a bottom-up knit) amounts only to a half-stitch difference, a difference very nearly undetectable by even the most eagle-eyed.*

 If using this method to add a faced steek to an already-created garment, the first issue is to get live stitches, and the second issue is whether you want the top and bottom bands to cover the steeked front bands (called a "discontinuous front band") or whether you prefer to have the front bands run all the way from top to bottom ("continuous front band").  (Of course, a hybrid front band is also possible--different at the top than the bottom.)

For a discontinuous front band, remove the existing neck and bottom band, thus exposing live stitches along the garment edge.  Next, the purl (anchor) column would be converted from an existing knit column, as discussed above.  The front bands (i.e.: the faced steek) would be added next.  After the front bands have been added, the bottom and neck bands would be re-knit, picking up stitches right through the bottom and top edges of the steek, thus sealing the steek-tube shut and laying the neck and bottom bands over the front bands. In the illustration to the left, the top- and bottom-band stitches picked up through the facings are indicated by the red lines. 

For a continuous front band, you would steek right through the existing bottom and neck band.  Best would be to undo the bind off at both top and bottom bands and put these on holders--this gives you the necessary live loops for the purl column conversion, as well as setting the stage for prettier bind off.  Once the original band stitches are on a holder, the next step is to convert the purl column (either from the top or the bottom, makes no difference).  After the steek and its facings are completed, the top and the bottom of the steek would be open, as indicated by the red stars on the illustration to the right. To close them, you'd pick up stitches through the ends of the steek--in other words, through both layers of the facing, both top and bottom, then bind off these newly-picked up stitches in one continuous line with the band bind-off. This creates one uniform line of bind-off at bottom and top edge, while at the same time closing the top and bottom of the open steek tube. 

What if your garment is made in a textured pattern?  Let's look at the original chart from the previous post (click to enlarge).

In addition to converting the purl column, you might want to consider converting the columns in your garment which correspond to columns 18 and 5, as well as the 14/15/16 set and the 7/8/9 set.  This will yield a smooth front band.  It also surrounds the (converted) purl columns (17 and 6) with stockinette fabric, thus assuring that these columns recede into the surrounding stockinette fabric, the better to hide the anchor anchored-in facing stitches. There is no reason to convert the 12/13 columns, nor the 10/11 columns, they will be hidden inside the steek-tube.

In my analysis, this faced steek is the narrowest which will remain structurally stable in use (but again, this is a new trick, so if your experience is different, let me know.)  However, there is nothing to stop you from making the outer facing wider.  Referring back to the original chart, this would mean adding additional columns between columns 7/8 as well as between 15/16. There is no need to add additional columns between 10/11 and 12/13, two columns to curl under on either side of the cut is sufficient.  However, you would need to knit more rows on the inner facing to match the width of the now-wider outer facing.

If you use faced steeks to make the front bands on a cardigan, you can simply sew buttons on one side, no problem. Buttonholes are a bit more complicated.  One option is to consider machine-made buttonholes.  Commercially-knit Norwegian-type sweaters often employ this trick. Most sewing machines with a button-hole function can handle knitwear, especially if you use a ball-pointed machine needle meant for knits and loosen up the tension so the feed dogs don't catch the yarn.  HOWEVER, TRY THIS ON A SWATCH FIRST (or get an experienced seamstress to do it for you!) 

If you do choose to add machine-made buttonholes, you might like to make the bands wider as discussed above, so that the buttonholes need go through only two layers (the inner and outer facings) thus avoiding the curled ends caught inside. In other words, with a two-column turn-under and a wider band, the cut edges would be located nearer the stabilized edge than the spot where the buttonhole is, so the buttonhole would miss that layer of fabric. 

If you want the button look but don't want to use a sewing machine for the buttonholes, all is not lost--if you think about it, the situation of a blind buttonhole band (blind band = buttonhole band with no holes in it) is the same situation as if you had forgotten a buttonhole in an ordinary (non-blind) band and had to add one afterwards.  Therefore, have a look at this post, which shows several different ways of adding buttonholes after the fact such as slip-stitch loop buttonholes, or attached I-cord loop buttonholes. The post also shows alternatives to buttonholes such as buttons with snaps underneath--you still get the button look, but no need for button holes

Yet another option is alternate closures. Here is a post which shows all kinds of alternatives to buttonholes: toggles, clasps, etc. In fact, ornamented pewter or even silver clasps are the traditional method for closing blind-banded sweaters in the northern climes where steeked sweaters are made.

If the look you want is real knit-in buttonholes, there is absolutely nothing to stop you from making the standard narrow facing, then extending the facing PAST the steek and knitting real buttonholes into this extension--see below.

Suppose, on the grand finale step for making faced steeks, you did not bind off the inner facing loops through the stabilized edge.  Suppose, instead, that as you withdrew the waste yarn, stitch by stitch, you pulled one live loop from the inner facing through the corresponding stitch in the stabilized edge as the waste yarn came out. Your result would look like this:
What the facing stitches look like when pulled through
the stabilized edge, including a close-up of the live loops
Now you have a series of live loops, and, wow--whenever you have live loops in knitting, these can serve as the taking-off point for all sorts of creativity. In this case, those live loops would make a lovely base for a front band extension. In other words, once you've drawn the live loops of the facing through the stabilized edge, you would then continue knitting the front band on these loops, each row running the entire length of the front band, using the same yarn as you used for the facing. If you used a non-curling stitch like garter stitch, and a one-row buttonhole like the Tulips buttonhole, the below illustration shows the result.  Note that in the following series of illustrations, the garment is turned sideways.  IRL, these buttonholes would be oriented vertically when the garment is worn.

A Tulips buttonhole on a front band extension--note
that the extension is bound off in the mc--or it could have been
bound off in the cc of the extension
If you'd like to get very fancy, there's nothing stopping you from knitting a fold-over facing extension, with or without the mc for the fold-line.  Into the resulting double-layer buttonhole band, you can make really pretty buttonholes by lining up waste-yarn buttonholes on both fabric faces of the extension, as below.

 Remove the waste yarn to get live stitches as below.

 If you work the two buttonholes closed together, the final result would be as below.**


Naturally, with front band extensions, you'd want to make the garment fronts narrower to allow for this wider band. Conversely, if your garment had somehow come out too narrow, you could widen it via a front band extension, one on each garment front, which is a heck of a good trick to know.***

If you consider inserting a zipper the no-sew TECHknitting way, you'll see that the zipper flange fits very very neatly between the inner and outer facings.  It would be best to attach the zipper flange to the inside of the facing first, then cut the steek, then trap when attaching the zipper/facing combo to the stabilized edge.  You can use the zipper live-loop method, or the zipper chain-loop method, as explained in the zipper post. For live loops, draw the facing loops through the zipper edge, then continue the 3-in-1-trick as usual. With the chain-loop trick shown at the zipper post, you would draw the final slip stitch of the 3-in-1 steek trick through the chain made on the zipper, rather than through a live loop, inserting the crochet hook sideways--as soon as you go to try this (on a swatch!!) you'll see what I mean.

If you really want a matching-color facing but can't find a matching color in a thinner yarn, one option is to simply use the same yarn (the mc yarn) for the facing, as long as you use the smaller needles--it is surprising how knitting certain wools with a smaller needle successfully compresses them to a smaller gauge.  This trick works best on the lofty, soft and fluffy "Germantown" type wool yarns so popular in the US--such yarns as Cascade 220, Patton's Classic Wool, Ella Rae Classic.  

Tighter spun Norwegian-type long-fiber yarn such as Dalegarn, or thicker premium yarns such as Madelinetosh Vintage Worsted do not compress as successfully, and will become stiff if you try to knit them on smaller needles at the rate of 1:1 (one column of facing fabric to 1 row of  garment fabric). If truly at a loss for a color match on these type of yarns, consider needlepoint yarns.  

Needlepoint yarns are very long staple pure wools which wear like iron.  This yarn is sold in little skeins or in cut lengths--get the skeins.  These come in hundreds of colors, making a color match is more likely.  Even in skein put-up, needlepoint yarns have very limited yardage, but for a facing, you don't need much yarn--get a couple or three skeins and ask if you can return any unused ones. Plus, being pure wool, needlepoint yarns take very kindly to being felted together (spit-spliced) end-to-end. Further, needlepoint yarns come packaged three strands together.  These strands are easy to separate, so you can choose to knit with only two of the stands, or even just one strand, making for a thinner facing as well as greater usable yardage/skein. 

If you want a contrast color (cc) facing, it's easy--choose a thinner yarn in a contrasting color--sock yarns are a good choice, or needlepoint yarns.  The purl row through which the facing anchors recedes amazingly, it's almost like a little canyon in the fabric. The cc color anchors at the bottom of this tight little canyon in an almost invisible manner. You'd have to grab the fabric and stretch it to see the cc dots at all.  If you absolutely do not want to take any chance of having the cc to show on the garment front, pick up the stitches through the anchor column using the original mc yarn, then switch to the thinner cc in the first row of knitting. For the final step (the three-in-one trick from the previous post) you'd switch back to the he mc yarn.

...and, the final trick of this post:
The top and bottom of the steek is the area with the most chance for cut ends to show, wear and eventually unravel in a potentially calamitous way. This is because the attachment of the facing and the outer fabric leave a gap at the top and bottom, and therefore provide the least amount of support for the cut ends in these areas.

If you want to put a steek into an already-knit garment, then you will have to resort to needle and thread to sew down the top and bottom right over the edge of the fabric.  Then, either sew the bottom of the facing-fabric sandwich closed, or pick up stitches for the bands right through both layers (but not the cut edges) thus knitting the opening shut, as discussed above (continuous bands).

However, if you are knitting a garment with the purpose to steek it later, you can substantially improve the top and bottom of the steek if you are willing to do just a few rows of flat knitting before and after the circular (tube) knitting into which you will cut the steek.  These few rows of flat knitting (back and forth) create a little notch at the top and bottom of the steek.  Because the sides of this notch are ordinary knit edges (i.e.: not cut-edges) they will not (in fact, they cannot) unravel, and the problem is solved. When you do this trick, you still run the anchor columns all the way to the top and bottom, it's just the top and bottom of the steek itself which is notched. 

Stay tuned to TECHknitting blog.  Next up--steeks on sleeves or quarter-necks (partial steeks), followed by (drum roll please...) color knitting. Regretfully, however, those posts are pretty far into the future, maybe even next year.  Life's little obligations just keep getting in the way of knitting, if you can imagine that.  

Until next time, good knitting! --TK
*The main giveaway showing which direction a column of knitting was latched up is the direction the stitches are pointing, a very subtle indicator, indeed.

**These buttonholes were made by simply pulling the live stitches through one another, each through the next, all the way around, then tacking off the last loop. You could also Kitchener-stitch the buttonholes closed, the front one to the back one. 

**When making a steeked garment, try the tube on BEFORE you get to the height of the armholes.  If it turns out that it is going to be a bit tight, work your design so that the steeks for the armholes are placed in the right location to make the garment BACK wide enough. In other words, the armhole slits will not be situated 180 degrees apart from one another, because the back will be wider than the front.  Then, you widen the front by steeking up the front, then adding front band extensions. You can, of course, make the front even wider than the back with this front-band-extension trick. (This is also a good trick for saving any too-narrow pullover you might find yourself knitting, regardless of whether you were originally planning to steek it!) 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Steeks! BETA, part 2: the basic method for a faced steek

The first post of this series laid out background considerations about 3 things: what steeks are, what a facing is, and what yarn is best to use.
Later posts will show further variations--steeking sleeve openings and color knitting, how to add buttonholes and zippers, etc.

But for today, this (LONG!!) post shows the basic method.  It is step-by step tutorial for a faced steek. There is no sewing machine or hand-sewing involved.  Instead the garment edges are stabilized with a crocheted slip-stitch, then cut, then covered with a previously-prepared knitted facing.

The basic version of this steek--the version shown today--is the sort of steek you might put into a striped or one-color sweater.  If you choose to try this method on a garment, proceed with the warning that this is a new trick, not yet fully garment-tested.

Everything about this trick--from the order of operations to the final result--is driven by this truth: once a piece of knitted fabric is cut, the cut-edge is liable to disintegrate. Although long-fiber and "rustic-type" wools can take a certain amount of handling after cutting, the more common soft and lofty "Germantown-type" wools are more delicate.  And with any kind of yarn, over-handling or pulling can turn that cut-edge into a truly terrifying mess of loose ends.

Preventing any chance of a mess means minimizing the amount of time during which the cut-edge is exposed. Therefore, a lot of this method involves steps to set the stage BEFORE doing the cut, followed by steps to quickly seal the cut-edge under the facing AFTERWARD.

Once you've run through the entire  process, it'll be obvious how the operations fit together. Yet, the preparation steps might be mysterious: confusing on first try. To tame confusion, this post features a lot of color-coding, schematics, diagrams and photos--as stated above, this is a LONG post! So, if you' are willing, here we go with a step-by-step tutorial for creating a faced steek on a swatch.

  • Main color (mc): a half-ounce of a soft and lofty multiple-ply wool yarn in worsted weight--the kind of yarn usually knit at 5st/inch.  Some common brand names of this type of yarn are: Ella Rae Classic, Cascade 220, Pattons Classic Wool.* The sample swatch is knit in an mc of Cascade 220 in green.........
  • Contrast color (cc): a quarter ounce of a lighter weight yarn in a contrasting color for the facing. The sample cc is a sport-weight lavender ........ wool of unknown origin.
  • knitting needles correctly sized for the mc yarn
  • another set of knitting needles three sizes smaller than the one used for the mc, as well as a small crochet hook
  • bright-colored waste yarn, a few yards, in a color unlike mc or cc. The sample uses a single strand of blue ........ needlepoint wool.
  • scissors
Order of the work 
  • Using mc and larger needles, knit the fabric swatch, color coded in this post in green ........
  • Using crochet hook and smaller knitting needles, locate the purl columns (also color-coded green ........)  which act as an anchor for the facing.  Use that column to pick up the stitches for one long edge of the facing ........ then knit the facing, but do not bind off.  Repeat for the second facing.
  • Using the crochet hook and the waste yarn ........ we'll fold and stabilize the garment edge.  Once the garment edge has been created by the folding, it is shown in bright green ........ 
  • Cut the steek--the scissors!  In the illustrations the cut is signified in red ........
  • With the crochet hook, immediately attach the unbound long edge of the facing ........ to the garment edge ......... This step--the grand finale--is a nifty three-in one trick which  binds off the facing ........ PLUS permanently stabilizes the garment edge ........  PLUS hides way forever, the cut edge. Note that the two columns either side of the cut are called the "cut-edges" and are symbolized in light gray .........
One last thing before we start:  If you click any chart, schematic, diagram or photo, it will become a lot bigger.

Knit a swatch
Rather than make you take the time to knit a tube, this tutorial shows the steek on an ordinary square of flat-knit fabric.  Once steeked, this swatch winds up in two separate pieces.   I think you can imagine that steeking a tube by the same method would leave the slit tube opened flat into a single rectangle featuring two faced edges.

We'll set up the square swatch like this:
Using the green mc, cast on 22 sts.
Row 1: k5, p1, k10, p1, k 5, turn work.
Row 2: p5, k1, p10, k1, p5, (Row 2 is actually just another way of saying "purl the purls and knit the knits.")

Below is a chart for those who prefer one. (If the color coding and column numbering on the chart is distracting, just ignore it: we'll come back to them later.)  Below the chart is a schematic of the fabric, showing the concept of the swatch.

As seen from the smooth side of the stockinette fabric, columns 6 and 17 are purl columns.  From the reverse side, these are knit columns, per photos below.
Below are photos which translate the concept into the real world--photos of an actual sample swatch "in the wool," showing front (left photo) and back (right photo).  This swatch is around 30 rows high.  The green arrows point to the purl columns.  As you see, although purl columns are practically invisible from the front, they're quite prominent on the back, where they appear as knit columns on a reverse stockinette (purl fabric) background.

Knit the facings
The next step is to knit the two facings. Here is an entire post about how to pick up fabric for a facing through a purl column.  I'll wait here while you read that.

Back again?  Good!

The below photo shows the direction of picking up the stitches for the facing ........ through one of the purl columns ........ (either column 6 or column 17). Note that the swatch has been turned sideways, so that the outer edge of the swatch (either column 1 or 22) is at the top of the photo.  Stated otherwise, the stitches for the facing are picked up so that the live loops point towards the center, where the cut will soon be made.  The facing is worked on these loops.

The method of the work is to draw a lavender-colored loop through the purl column with a crochet hook, then immediately transfer it to the waiting smaller knitting needle.  In the below photo,  the crochet hook is in the act of grabbing the running yarn to draw a new loop though the purl column, while the previously-drawn through loops are parked on the smaller knitting needle stationed under the purl column.

Once you have the anchor loops for the facing drawn through along the entire length of the purl column, work 4 rows of stockinette, then transfer the live loops to a holder.  ("Work 4 rows" means four rows of knitting above pick-up loops, with the fourth row remaining on the stitch holder to await further action later.)  Repeat the entire pick-up-and-knit procedure on the second purl column.

The below schematic conceptualizes what the fabric looks like once both facings have been picked up and knit.
 Note how the facings are picked up through the purl columns.
The below photo translates the conceptualization to reality. In this photo, you can see the smooth stockinette side of each facing against the bumpy reverse stockinette of the swatch.
Back view of swatch, both facings finished and pointing towards the center

Again, in the schematic, as well as the photo of the sample, the facings point towards the center, and are not bound off.

Fold the garment edge and stabilize with waste yarn
By the bright green color-coding ........, the stitch chart at the beginning of this post shows columns 9 and 14 are going to become the garment edges once the steek is completed. Before we go further, let's figure out why these particular columns will be the garment edges. For simplicity, we'll only look at the right side of the eventual cut, but, of course, the identical situation applies on the left.

If you look at the chart, the cut ....... is made in the trough between columns 11 and 12. Counting center-wards from purl column 6  ........  you can see that after the cut, 5 columns of fabric will remain: columns 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.  Column 9 will therefore be the center column of the remaining fabric between the cut and the purl column.

Once the cut is made, it will run alongside column 11.  We will therefore call columns 11 and 10 the "cut-edge."  ........   Due to a happy accident of knitting (called "stockinette curl") this two-column-wide cut-edge is going to flip right under columns 8 and 7.   Stated otherwise, columns 8 and 7 are going to become the outer fabric, column 9 is going to become the edge of the garment, and the cut-edge columns 11 and 10 are going to become the stuffing in the sandwich, trapped between the outer fabric and the facing .........  

By isolating the garment edge (column 9) two whole columns away from the cut-edge,** and by covering up the isolated cut-edge with the facing, that cut-edge is never going to come under tension (that's the theory, anyhow!)

There is another factor, too, which works to isolate the cut-edge.  You see, Col. 9 runs along the top of a vertical fold.  That fold is going to be permanently locked shut via a line of crocheted slip stitch. Result?  Even if the cut edge could somehow come undone while sandwiched between the facing and the outer fabric, the resulting loose end of yarn would have to somehow wiggle through a locked-shut 180 degree fold.

The fold is the heart of the trick, and here's how it's done.  If you fold your swatch vertically, with column 9 (or 14) as a single column of knitting along the edge, it will resemble the bright green ........ single column in the diagram below.

Once you've got the fabric folded at the correct column, you want to slip stitch this fold into place, using the waste yarn, as shown in blue, below.

(For more information about how to slip stitch, go to this post, which shows how.  Although that post is about slip stitching along a garter-stitch edge, the actual slip-stitching is the identical process to that here.)

Here is a photo, showing the slip-stitch process in the real world.

the column of stitches along the folded edge has been colorized bright green in this photo

This slip stitching is temporary, and will be replaced in the grand finale--the last step, right after the cut.

The below schematic  conceptualizes what the fabric will look like once both folds are locked down with waste yarn ......... Note the edge column of the bright green fold ......... Note also that the loop of fabric caught under/between the two lines of slip stitch is now colored light gray ........ showing that this will become the cut-edges of the fabric.

The below photo translates the conceptualization, showing what the actual swatch will look like at the end of this step. The bright green arrow points to the the folded edge ........ which has been colorized to be a brighter green than the surrounding columns. The blue arrow points to the line along which the waste yarn has been slip stitched ......... The fabric to become the cut-edges is visible through the slit, colorized gray.

top view of swatch showing both waste yarn folds 

The stage has been set: the facings are knit, live loops a-waiting.  The edge has been temporarily stabilized with waste yarn.  It's time for the cut .......  (the "eek" part of the steeking process).

As stated above, stockinette fabric wants to curl under. Our job in cutting is to preserve the stockinette structure as much as possible, so that the cut edge will curl the heck out of the way, to stay forever trapped in the facing-sandwich.

Therefore, the cut is made right up the trough between columns 11 and 12.  In other words, don't cut through the stitches in the columns, but rather, carefully separate the columns of stitches by putting the cut right up the middle.

Here's the schematic of the cut being made

Here's the photo:  you can see the curl is so strong that it actually follows the scissors: the instant you cut, the cut-edge wants to curl under.  On this photo, as well as the schematic above, the folded edge is colorized bright green and the cut-edge fabric colorized gray.

The natural curl of the cut-edge is reinforced by the waste-yarn fold.  That fold pins the curl tightly against the underside of columns 8 and 9.  In fact, this is one of the reasons the waste yarn is inserted in the first place--to control the location and tightness of the curl exhibited by the cut-edge.

Here's one more look at the cut edge curling under--a schematic side-view showing the sandwich surrounding the curled-under cut-edge.  The cut-edge is the stuffing, the facing is the bottom layer and the upper fabric (columns 8-9/15-16 on the chart) is the top layer.

The 3-in-1 trick:
trap the cut edge/bind off the facing/permanently stabilize the garment edge
We're now at the grand finale stage.  If you think about it, everything is done, except for sealing up the remaining long edge of the facing, thus forever trapping the cut edge inside the sandwich. This final seal is created using a crochet hook and a running yarn, creating a line of slip stitch right through the edge column, almost exactly the same way we did previously with the waste yarn.  This time, however, we're not only going to stabilize the folded garment-edge, but also catch the live loops of the facing at the same time, thus binding them off. Of course, the edge is already stabilized with waste yarn.  So, we have to remove the waste yarn, stitch by stitch, to make room for the permanent slip stitch along the same edge.  This is where the other purpose of the waste yarn appears:  removing the waste yarn stitch-by-stitch serves as an exact guide for which column to follow in this grand finale step.

As to how the work proceeds, if you look at the below schematic, you'll see the 3-in-1 trick in action.

On the both schematic and photo, you can see the waste yarn ........ (A on the schematic) coming out one stitch before the permanent yarn (B) goes in through the garment edge ........ and the facing .........

In both the schematic and the photo, the live loops of the facing are colorized red.  As the crochet hook passes by the knitting needle holding the waiting live (red) facing-loops, the hook catches the next loop in line.  It is then inserted upward through the folded edge column, there to catch the lavender running yarn. The photo shows a red loop already caught around the barrel of the hook and the hook already inserted through the edge, ready to draw down a new loop from the running yarn. When the running yarn is drawn down through both loops on the barrel of the crochet hook, the red loop simply disappears under the resulting slip-stitch at the edge. This attaches the facing to the edge, and binds off the facing at the same time, thus trapping the cut ends in between--a real 3-in-1 trick. A single stitch is left around the barrel of the crochet hook, and the whole process begins again by catching the next red loop from the waiting line.

Final result
Last but not least, here are photos of the finished result--a faced steek, with the cut edges forever tucked out of harm's way.

The back, showing the completed facing (Hmmm--looking at this photo, it seems the lavender wool was splittier than I thought!)
Above: back.  Below: front

The front. If you enlarge, you can see the "stitched" appearance of the lavender yarn along the garment edge. However, the purl anchor-column remains hidden, almost invisible.

In real life, you might make a facing a different color than the sweater: a scarlet facing on a plain gray sweater would be a fantastic design element, for example.  However, it would probably be more common to use a thinner yarn in the same color.  The lavender-on-green theme of this post was more for demonstration purposes.
* * *
Whew.  Such a long post. Buttonholes, zippers, sleeve openings, color knitting and other real world adaptations of this basic steek must await further postings.   Until then, good knitting!

* IMHO, of the three common brand names of wool listed, the Patton's Classic Wool is the grabbiest, the Ella Rae Classic the least grabby and the Cascade 220--the green mc yarn used for the sample swatch--of intermediate grabbiness.  The cc I used, the lavender sports weight wool of unknown origin, was both grabby and splitty (sports weight = a weight of yarn, thinner than DK weight, which is normally knit up at 6 or 6.5 st/inch).

** Separating the fabric edge from the garment edge--as we are doing here--is a long-time theme here at TECHknitting blog.   This series explains further (link goes to part 1).

You have been reading TECHknitting blog about steeks.