Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Stuff Of Legends

First and foremost, let me categorically state that I did NOT make this vest.  All due credit for this magnificent work of art goes to my friend Cheryl.  While the color work alone is impressive,  what makes this piece truly awe-inspiring (in my humble opinion)  is the technique used in its construction:  Steeking.  This vest was knit circularly in one piece and then cut to create the V-neck and armholes.  Yes, you heard me correctly folks, SHE CUT HER KNITTING – WITH SISSORS!    Yikes!  We will talk more about this in a moment.
I first met Cheryl last year, shortly after the shop opened.  She was a regular attendee of our social stitching periods.  I remember first seeing her work on this piece, and I asked the question that everyone else did;  “What are you making?  A bag?”.  It sure looked like a bag since it was basically a large tube, and because of the stunning color work – it  would have made a really fantastic bag.  However, Cheryl stated that it was to be a vest and that she had been working on it for many years.  I thought about this silently for a moment and came to the conclusion that she must be working the vest in the round up to the armholes, and then she would divide her work for each front half and the back.  Apparently, I’m not as smart as I thought I was because Cheryl proceeded to describe the little known technique of “steeking”.  I had never heard of it, and most knitter’s I have spoken to may have heard murmurings of this mysterious  process, but never knew anyone who has actually done it.   You can find a great description of it here:
Looking back on that day, when Cheryl announced she would eventually subject all of that beautiful color work (that took her years to complete!) to her scissors, every chin in the room hit the floor!  I could almost see all of those “thought bubbles” (you know, from cartoons) above everyone’s heads:  “Cuckoo, Cuckoo” , “Crazy Lady Alert!”, “Whaddaya NUTS?”!   We were all atwitter about this scary proposition, and someone told me that the legendary Elizabeth Zimmerman had commented on this technique in one of her books.  Allegedly she stated that after performing the steek (doing the actual cutting) the person should lay down in a darkened quiet room – presumably to contemplate the implications and ramifications of  committing this heinous crime upon your knitting!   
A month or so ago, Cheryl told us that she was getting close in her pattern and it would soon be time to make the cuts.  I practically begged her to let me sell tickets to this event, but alas she choose to do the dirty deed recently at home in her own quiet way.   Whether or not there were any mind altering substances involved while she steeled herself to actually do it, she won’t say!
Obviously this technique is not for the faint of heart, and it requires much courage and faith.  Now before you go running off to hack up your knitting, you should know that there are special stitches and procedures that must be put in place in preparation of steeking.  Please at least do some preliminary research and practice with waste yarn first! 
In closing, I salute Cheryl for her tenacity and bravery and for serving as a wonderful inspiration to us mere mortals.  I want to be just like her when I grow up!

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