Red Feather Spice

Since before we even started dating, I’ve been knitting for my husband. In fact, by the time we started dating I think I had already made him three pairs of socks and a scarf. One of his favorite stories to tell is how we went into the movie theater to watch The Joker and came out with a half-finished sock (I can knit without looking, but I can’t turn a heel without looking!). In my defense, we were really good friends before we started dating and he’s from an area of New Zealand where it doesn’t really get cold. His first pair of handknit socks were such a game-changer that he literally asked when he could get a second pair as soon as he had them on his feet. He took to my handknits so enthusiastically that for our first holiday season together, I knit him a sweater. And then I knit him another one a few months later, and another one a few months after that.

I’ve almost knit sweaters for the men (ok one man) in my life before. In fact, I was working on an octopus embrace sweater when the sweater curse struck and I realized that the work needed to create the handknit wasn’t worth the relationship! After that, I refused to knit anything larger than a sock (just because they’re small doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot of stitches!) for my partners. My husband, who at this point now has 4 handknit sweaters to his name from me, is the first man I have ever given a sweater to. He’s also 100% worthy of each of them and is always willing to oo and aww when I show him progress updates.

Knowing that we had a winter baby on the way, I wanted to make him something particularly cozy this year (after all, there would be a time that he would have to take the dog out on his own). There are about 8-10 sweaters that I’ve favorited over the last few months because I thought he would like them, so I don’t have a good reason for choosing to make a Spice Cardigan other than the fact that my local yarn shop‘s birthday was coming up (they had a giveaway bag if you spent over x amount, which is so easy to do with sweater quantities) and I have been wanting to work with Spincycle Yarns for a while. In fact, it wasn’t until after I purchased both the pattern and the yarn (I snagged some Forge by Hudson + West Co to go with the Spincycle) that I realized the pattern required the cardigan to be steeked. But we’ll get to that in a little bit.

When it comes to sweater construction, I don’t have strong feelings about top-down, bottom-up, or pieces that require seaming. I usually pick a sweater pattern by the design itself and then throw myself into it. Having said that, I’ve never knit the sleeves of a sweater before knitting the body of a sweater. This is not an uncommon technique, many knitters even do it so that they can use the sleeve as a gauge swatch. Andrea Mowry actually wrote Spice in such a way that you knit the sleeves before you knit the body of the sweater. True, it’s easy enough to knit the body of this sweater first and then set it aside for the sleeves, but it was sort of satisfying to have “completed” two parts of the sweater before even casting on for the body.

The colorwork stitches being every other stitch is nice as well, the yarn flew between my fingers as opposed to requiring that I slowed down to pick up a float from time to time.

I suppose this brings me to steeking, that thing I’ve successfully avoided my entire knitting career. Until this sweater. After attempting a few stitches of the crochet reinforcement, I ended up deciding to use the straight stitch on my sewing machine instead. Though nerve-wracking, it was easier than I thought it would be to sew through the knit fabric. Next, I picked up the stitches for the collar based on a suggestion from Tincanknits and tried to knit a row (and put off cutting the fabric a little longer). This method result in a cramped working space, so I ended grabbing my scissors and spending two minutes cutting the knit fabric before continuing the collar.

Now that I have a steeked project under my belt, I can say that it’s honestly not that bad. I don’t see myself seeking out projects just to steek, but I don’t see myself actively avoiding them either. All in all, I would (and probably will) steek again.

An orange cardigan with a shawl collar and five toggle buttons laid flat.

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