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Last week I started working on a doll sweater pattern to help people learn how to make steeks using a small project.

Most of us are intimidated by steeks until we make something using this technique. Cutting up a project you've worked on for months can be pretty scary if you've never done it before. A sweater for a doll or teddy bear is the perfect starting point, and the dolls and teddy bears appreciate it, too.

The colors were inspired by my "So-not-my-palette Cardigan." I'm calling Dolly's sweater the "My-palette-after-all Sweater." "My-palette-after-all" because the color combination has grown on me, and "Sweater" because it can be a cardigan or a pullover. (Dolls are difficult to dress if the clothes are made the same as for humans, so a "pullover" normally buttons down the back.) 

As you can see, the body is done with one sleeve attached. The bead in the middle of the buttonhole band is an example of what I'll be using for buttons. I started with Dolly because she is closer to the size of an American Girl Doll than the other two "girls." With luck, I'll have possible adjustments for slimmer dolls in the 18" range.

When you make a steeked sweater, you knit a tube in the round up to the armholes (with extra stitches in the center front for a steek if you're making a cardigan) and then add additional extra stitches for steeks where the armholes will be. Sometimes there is shaping for the armholes or front neck, depending on the type of sleeves and neck. In this case, I just worked the sweater up to the neck, which would be cut later. (Not as scary as it sounds, because I made two rows of machine stitching inside the seam allowance every place I was going to cut.)

I ended up having to make the section from the bottom of the armhole to the shoulder longer than I had planned, so when Dolly had her first fitting, (after the armhole steeks were cut) it looked more like a dress than a sweater. This also made it a little tight around the tummy and backside...not what I had planned. Dolly was nice about it and said it was OK, but I knew she wouldn't wear it like that.

Fortunately, this problem is easy to solve. I removed one round of stitches between the first gold band and the black/magenta band, taking out the top round of stitches in the gold band, keeping the black/magenta band intact. Then I picked up the bottom round of stitches from the black/magenta band, and worked new ribbing down in reverse.

I decided to cut the center front steek and work the neck and front bands before doing the sleeves, so it would be easier to try on as I went. I bound off the shoulders and sewed fronts to backs, then made machine stitches over the new stitches.

Next, I made two rows of machine-stitching down the front just inside the steek on each side, moving to one side the loose ends of yarn that came from where I changed colors as I knit the sweater. I had made knots every time I had two ends close enough together to tie together without making a pucker. Those knots came in handy when I was ready to cut. 

After the machine-stitching was done, I turned the sweater body inside-out.



I got out my nice, sharp scissors and snipped off the loose ends. (After you anchor each piece of yarn with machine stitching, it won't come loose.)

Next I turned the piece right-side out again, put a rotary-cutting ruler between the layers, so I wouldn't accidentally cut the floats on the other side. (Always use protection.) Then I could cut right up the middle. You can see the center of the steek, because there is a jog where the new round starts. (If you make a pullover instead of a cardigan, you will put the beginning-of-round under one arm, possibly using some fancy tricks to make it look jogless. In that case, you won't have any steek stitches, unless you choose to make a seam at the underarm instead. But we aren't doing that.)


I sewed a couple of rows of machine-stitching within the seam allowance for the neck, to give it a slightly scooped shape. (You can make this as big or as small as you like, or for a boat-neck sweater, you can just finish off the top of the body without cutting anything.) Then I trimmed the area outside the stitching. From the front, I picked up the stitches for the neck ribbing and worked it in K2, P2 ribbing. Next, I picked up the stitches down one side of the front and made a button band, repeating the same thing for the buttonhole band (with buttonholes, of course). You can refer to the first photo where Dolly is wearing the work-in-progress, to see what the neck and front ribbing looks like.

All was going well, so I picked up the stitches for the sleeves, working the motifs in reverse order from the order used for the body, this time from the top down, and making knots as I did for the body, and ending with a few rounds of ribbing.



This time, I was careful to tighten the knots securely before trimming, because there is nothing to cut away. Here's the inside of the first sleeve, looking at where the rounds join.



Of course, you can weave in all those ends on the inside of the sleeve, maybe not a bad idea, since whoever wears it will move around in it.

If you take a look again at the first photo (where Dolly is still posing so patiently), you can see the steek still at the top of her right arm, while the other arm is encased in a finished sleeve. She should be able to wear the sweater this week. I still have the second sleeve to do and some finishing inside, just to make things tidy. Virtually no ends to weave in, though. They're all cut away.

I actually started the sweater on the Saturday before I wrote my last blog post, but neglected to change the "What's on my needles" comment. Oops! This project is taking a little longer because of my errors in design. First I thought I was getting 9 sts/in when I really was getting 8, making it too big. I worked the extra stitches into the steek. I ended cutting all that off anyway, but that took time I won't need to spend with the next version of this sweater.

Meanwhile the "girls" had a great Valentine's day. They spent six hours watching the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. After a nutritious lunch of soup and sandwiches, they indulged in some popcorn and chocolates.

On Thursday, Common Threads met at Karan's. Margareth finished this quilt as we enjoyed each other's company, and Karan popped it into the washer. (We're a full-service stitching group.) It looked lovely when it came out of the dryer. Margareth machine-quilted it herself. She's turning into quite a quilter. Here it is before it went into the washer.


Karan has been working on some redwork for a quilt and finished a purse that she has decided will be a project bag, as it's bigger than she had planned on.

We've been getting more snow. During a break in the weather, the pups had some fun playing in the backyard.



The crummy weather does lend itself to some other activities, though, like a cuddle on the couch.


What's on my needles: The second sleeve on the “My-palette-after-all” sweater for Dolly. 

What's on my Featherweight: Steeks for the “My-palette-after-all” sweater.

What's on my loom: I haven’t started anything with the leftover warp from the Multi Scarf. I’m thinking about what to make.

What's on my wheel: Stanzi is still ready to go with more Full Circle spinning fiber. Maybe this week.

What's on my iPad/iPhone: Listening to the choruses we’ll be singing from The Messiah for the performance April 9th. Finished Pets on the Couch (nonfiction) by DVM Nicholas Dodman. It was extremely interesting, entertaining and informative. I learned a lot. Now I’m listening to The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, a continuation of The Queen of the Tearling. On the Kindle app, I’m reading Dying to Read, The Cate Kinkaid Files Book #1.

What's in my wine glass: Black Box Mendoza Argentina Malbec 2015. All mine!

What's my tip of the week: If you’re knitting a solid-color sweater from the top down and want to add ribbing, you can just start the ribbing when you’re ready. However, if you change color for the ribbing, the color from the previous row/round will visit the front with the first row/round of purl bumps. I started K2, P2 ribbing on the black round on purpose, so you could see what happens. The arrow points to the black purl bumps showing in the ribbing.

You can avoid this problem by working 1 round of all knit in the ribbing color using the ribbing needles before you start the ribbing. It will leave you with a clean-looking boundary for the ribbing.

Note: This blog post was produced on the iPad and the MacBook, using the iPhone for some photos and some photo processing. No other computer was used in any stage of composition or posting, and no Windows were opened, waited for, cleaned or broken. No animals were harmed during the production of this blog post.

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Comment by Peggy Stuart on February 22, 2017 at 7:51am

Thanks, Barb! Here's a photo of the finished sweater, worn as a pullover.

Comment by Barb/WI on February 22, 2017 at 6:40am

The dolls are adorable.  Love the colors in Margereth's quilt!

Comment by Peggy Stuart on February 21, 2017 at 6:50pm
The machine stitching is just inside the steek (the extra stitches you cut into). They stay put forever, so they need to be close to the pattern stitches (the stitches that show on the outside of the sweater), so you can trim as much as you need to. Some yarns will stick together, so the stitching isn't needed but we like nice, soft yarns these days, and they don't cling to each other as well. There are other methods, such as crocheting up each side of where you will cut, I tried this once, but it didn't hold as well. If you look closely at the photo above the one with the scissors, you can see the machine stitching.
The stitches picked up for knitting the bands are right along the edge of the steek stitches, where they meet the pattern stitches. I like to pick up the outermost leg of the V of the steek st closest to the pattern stitches.
It actually is pretty easy. It's like cutting out pieces of fabric. It's just a looser weave/knit, so you have to do some stay-stitching. I'm writing up the pattern so a fairly inexperienced knitter can make a steeked project for a doll or teddy bear.
Comment by Rebecca Sundberg on February 21, 2017 at 11:52am

Great post Peggy! Question: you run machine stitches up the steek and then cut between them - then, when you pick up the stitches do you pick them up outside the machine stitching or do you pull out the machine stitching...I don't think I'm asking this quite right, but I'm not sure how you pick up stitches to knit the band. Do you leave the machine stitching in the finished sweater? I don't think I'd ever be able to do this - you do such a beautiful job - no way do I have that much skill. I'm still pretty much a basic knitter. However, the sweater is going to be beautiful and which ever doll gets to wear it is lucky indeed.

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