Eeeks . . . a Steek! What would Mary Poppins Do?

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the steeking process.  

          Confidence.  Conviction.  No messing about with self-doubt, avoidance, or second-guessing—unpleasant manifestations of a wavering or apprehensive character.  This strength can be seen in Mary Poppins.  The creation of P.L. Travers, Poppins is known to all of us as the no-nonsense nanny whose common-sense, albeit magical, approach to life is armor against any muddled succumbing to a mire of self-doubt or fear. 

After viewing the recent film Saving Mr. Banks, starring Emma Thompson as a Travers who is characterized by a veneer of propriety and intractability veiling a fragile and damaged psyche, I decided to purchase a biography entitled Mary Poppins, She Wrote.  As I read, I was struck by how the recent film starring Thompson, like the iconic Disney production of Mary Poppins, were both simplified  versions of complex stories—watered and stripped down forms made more palatable to main-stream audiences.  I also noted how Travers, as she appears in the biography, is a complex artistic woman, anxious and plagued by general physical and mental malaise.  She is also revealed to be a somewhat impractical individual who makes some imprudent romantic choices.  Reading the book made me aware of how Travers needed Poppins—a resolute, perky nurturer who always has the solution to the problems and pitfalls of life that, to the rest of us, present worrisome conundrums. 

I need Poppins, too.  Yesterday, as I decided to finally cut a steek in a Noro vest I’ve been working on sporadically for a year, an extended time period the result of my contemplating the neckline with dread and trepidation, Poppins came to mind, as did Julia Child.  Child was another plucky woman, one who told her audience to “Be fearless.” Like Poppins, she also understood the power of a playful side.  After advising budding chefs to be brave, she added, “. . . and above all have fun!”   Poppins, who mixed medicine with good cheer and “a spoonful of sugar” (at least in the saccharine Hollywood version) would have to subscribe to these sentiments. 

So inspired by these women and steeling myself, I cut my steek, and took pleasure in the neat separation of the center ladder dividing the two halves of the vest’s V-neck.  I had a goal in mind—to   finish this project before my winter break is over—officially on January 6.  When Poppins, in the Disney film, sees Jane and Michael’s untidy nursery, she tells them, “Our first game is called Well Begun is Half-Done,” and then magically assists the three children in cleaning up the room.  China flies onto the table and hats onto pegs, while wooden soldiers march neatly into toy boxes.  Poppins’s words apply to my vest, as it was “well begun” a year ago, but languished “half-done” for way too long.     Perhaps my completion of this garment was aided by a little magic, too.  How can one take scissors to one’s precious knitting without some magical muse to show her the way?

Now if I can only keep Poppins’s spirit alive this coming week, when I return to the classroom to teach high school English.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, when I try to feed my students their medicine of grammar and literature, they respond as Michael does to Travers’s indomitable nanny in the novel?  When she tells him he has to take his medicine:  “. . . Mary Poppins’s eyes were fixed upon him, and Michael suddenly discovered that you could not look at Mary Poppins and disobey her.”  One can dream. . . .

To work a steek, extra stitches are cast on in the middle, where the cutting will take place.

A sewing machine can be used to secure the sides of the steek or crochet can be used.
Here, I crocheted one edge in a contrasting color to show the line of single crochet.

The steek is ready to be cut!

I did it!

My vest is almost done.  I have to pick up stitches around the armholes and add some
ribbing there.  I have to finish by my deadline--tomorrow!


  1. Ooh Liz, it's gorgeous! Absolutely gorgeous! You clever thing! I am glad steeking does not occur in crochet - just don't know whether I could bring myself to make that cut!! I think I too need a dose of Mary Poppins' genes! E xx


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