It's done! The Thistle Shawl I've been working so hard on since February has been finished and was dropped off for judging at the State Fair this weekend, along with 7 other items.
I am so incredibly pleased with how it came out. It is the prettiest, albeit craziest, thing I've ever attempted to knit. And now that it's done all my brain can handle is plain ol' stockinette socks.
And now, the mini tutorial on how I steeked the shawl. The pattern author suggests using a sewing machine, but I like this technique for a couple of reasons. For one, I don't know how to even thread my sewing machine. (It was my grandmothers so it's sentimental to me. Even if its only function is decorative right now.) And two, this way takes more time but it allows me to make sure I secure each and every row. Which makes me a little less apprehensive about cutting later.
Before beginning you will need to make sure you know where the columns of steeked stitches are going to be. When steeking I tend to have an odd number of stitches in my steeking section. For this shawl I had 7. This allowed me to place my steeking columns several stitches in on each side to allow for any unexpected unraveling. Steeking works best with 'sticky' wool yarns. And I make sure that the anchoring yarn I use is clearly contrast to the other colors used in the project.
Ready? Okay, here we go. It's not the best, but hopefully it will give you a general idea.
First, you're going to want to create a loop through the first and second stitches at the bottom of your knitting, pulling it up like this, making sure your working yarn is at the right side of your knitting. (This photo isn't from the bottom of my knitting but I didn't think about doing a tutorial right away, so I'm making due.) You should be working these columns through the center of the stitches. Here you can see that I'm creating a column of pink stitches in the middle of the column of white knitted stitches.
Next, slide your crochet hook under the first 'bar' of stitches after your loop. When doing stranded colorwork I always make sure I grab every color. So here you will see that I've got both the green and white stitches on my hook.
Wrap your working yarn around your hook and pull it through, under the bars.
You should have two loops on your hook now. Pull the top loop (the one you just made) through the bottom loop.
You should now be back to one loop on your hook. Repeat these steps until you have made chains on both sides of the stitches you intend to cut through.
So, it should look something like this. I've chained through the center of both of the white columns of stitches (the pink and purple varigated yarn is my anchoring yarn), and will be cutting through the center of the two columns of green stitches.
The anchoring is done now. There's nice, tidy columns of anchoring stitches and now it's time to cut.
It's at this point that I generally pour myself a beer, drink it to relax a little and fortify myself, and then get out the scissors.
For this project I turned the shawl inside out first and cut through one color at a time. The white yarn in the back was pulled across my green stitches so it created little bars, which were easy to identify. I cut these first.
When I was done cutting those the back looked like this. Then I turned the shawl so the right side was facing again and started cutting the green stitches.
These are the scary ones for me, no matter how many times I've steeked. It's important to take your time here. You can do this one bar at a time if you like, but I generally pull several rows up at once. Make sure you get the little bar between the stitches, and then snip away.
And then you're done! It's oddly satisfying when you've cut through something you've spent so much time on and it's still in once piece. And knitting something as complex as this in the round saves you the nightmare of purling in fair isle.
Now I have to sit back and wait a few agonizing days until the fair starts to see how this did.