Why do you weave in your ends away from the steek centre?
This is just a personal thing: I know that many knitters recommend just leaving the ends in the middle of the steek (as everything will be trimmed later), but I personally don’t like to do this. I want the back of the work to be as clean and firm and stable as possible before I begin the crocheted reinforcement. When one is working the crochet, one is poking and re-poking one’s hook through the fabric, pulling up yarn from the back of the work. It is all too easy to catch one or more of the hanging ends, and get oneself in a wee bit of a tangle. Also, in the pattern I’ve just written, the start of the round is one stitch to the right of the five steek sts. I find that it makes things much easier and simpler to just weave in all the ends off to one side, away from the steek stitches, before I start to crochet and cut.

Would you recommend blocking before steeking?

I tend to give the front and back of the work a quick steam before steeking (with an iron on the wool setting, without touching the fabric) just to allow it to relax. I don’t recommend blocking any more vigorously than that – if the stitches are stretched significantly before you work the steek, then they will be more likely to want to pop out of the crocheted reinforcement. (I have seen this happen . . . AIGH!) You can give your garment the full blocking treatment when you have finished it completely, with the steeks properly secured. . .

How about working with heavier yarns?

My new cardigan pattern is actually knitted in a worsted / light aran weight (can you guess which yarn I’ve used?!) My samples (and those of the test knitters) used sock yarn and a 3mm hook to crochet the steek reinforcement, and this worked really well. With all yarn weights I would definitely recommend using a finer, strong yarn that won’t snap, and a smaller hook for your crocheted reinforcement.

Does it matter what colour yarn I use for the crocheted reinforcement?

I used yarn in a contrasting colour for illustration purposes. I would say that, just as if you were sewing an invisible hem on a skirt with needle and thread, that it is probably best to use a yarn that is quite close in hue to the main colour of your garment. If (for example) you were knitting a white cardigan, and used black sock yarn for the crocheted reinforcement, then you would definitely run the risk of the reinforcement showing through between the stitches of the sandwich edging.

Where precisely do you pick up the stitches to work the edging from the right side?

I’ve worked quite a few of these ‘sandwiches’ now, and I would say that for the neatest result (ie, for the edging to sit properly flush against the main pattern), you should pick up your stitches in the gap between the outermost steek stitch and the first stitch of the main pattern. See the diagram below: there are two pattern stitches on either side, and five steek stitches in the middle. You pick up the stitches along the pink lines.

Several of you asked this question, so I’ll add this diagram to yesterday’s sandwich tutorial, to clarify things.

In relation to picking up the stitches from the right side, and my instruction to “make sure you push your needle all the way through to the back of the work, and draw the yarn through from the wrong side,” Donna asked: “are you creating new stitches thru the knitting rather than picking up stitch from the front ie the already knitted stitches?” The answer is: YES. It is is necessary to pick up through the fabric to get this effect on the back of the work.

This is the usual way in which I pick up stitches and it is clearly not everybody’s way (which is why I mentioned it). And in relation to the moot “fence post” issue Lynn raised in her question, logic would indeed suggest that there should be one less loop on the back of the work than the front but . . . having made multiple sandwiches, I have honestly never noticed this. I always check that the number of stitches is the same for back and front needles before beginning to knit them together and it always is… I have been told by my knitting buddies that I pick up stitches in an “odd” way, and I generally begin the process by attaching a slip-knot loop to the back of the work before starting to pull the yarn through. . . perhaps this provides me with an extra stitch? Your thoughts are welcome.

How do you work an i-cord bind off?
This is a very simple (albeit time-consuming and yarn-greedy) bind off. It is probably my favourite finish for a cardigan edge.
Here is how it goes:

Cast on 3 stitches using cable cast on. *k2, k2tog tbl. Slip 3 stitches from rh needle to lh needle. Pull the working yarn across the back * Repeat from * to *. At final 3 sts, finish by k1, k2tog tbl, slip 2 sts to left hand needle, k2tog, pull yarn through.

The result is a neat, raised, corded edge.

How does the sandwich facing relate to the button bands?

The beauty of this method is that the sandwich is the button band! You’ll see precisely how when I show you some photos of my new cardigan (hopefully tomorrow). Another fantastic thing about the i-cord bind off is that it allows you to create neat, integral buttonholes (by binding off a couple of stitches in the normal fashion, and working a couple of rows of plain i-cord over the top of the gap). It is (of course) an EZ method, and I use it on my Manu design, as well as on the new cardigan. It is by far my favourite buttonhole.

Could I use a different bind off?

Yes, of course. Use any method you like. For example, you could simply complete the sandwich by grafting or working a three-needle bind off when you are knitting the back and front stitches together. I am intrigued by the Dale-of-Norway three-needle bind off / picot facing method that Lisa mentioned in her comment. It sounds lovely – I will have to try it.

Could I knit the loops of the crochet reinforcement together with the back and front stitches?

I’d say not. You do not want to put any strain at all on that reinforcing chain. If you tug or pull at it in any way then you run the risk of the cut edges popping out. Don’t do it!

Thanks for all your questions and comments! I hope I’ve covered all your queries.

35 thoughts on “steeks 4: your questions answered

  1. Hi Kate! Wonderful tutorial. I have a question? Will the floating threads at the back of my work which traverse the steek stitches be caught? The pattern I am using leaves quite a long float of my second yarn colour behind the extra stitches for the steek and I can’t ‘see’ how these will be safe.



  2. I’m a new follower to your blog and am finished knitting a Philosopher’s Wool sweater. I am a new knitter and have never done a steek, but your blog has given me much confidence as your instructions on all 4 of your posts are extremely clear. I do not have 5 rows to work with as I only have one purl stitch down the front and at the arm holes.
    But I am going to do a swatch and work all your techniques on that and then go onto the sweater.
    Thanks again and great knitting!


  3. Just found this great tutorial, and I was wondering…. everything I’ve read about cutting steeks mentions that the vertical cut edges are (fairly) stable. I understand the need to create a reinforcement, “but” — what do you think about removing the crochet stitches as you bind the two little flaps together, in order to remove bulk?

    It seems to me that picking up stitches on both sides of the knitting “from the same stitch” would be an even stronger reinforcement than crochet.

    I would like to see a tutorial about how steeks are worked in the round in a garment with inset sleeves. I read about it (as in it can be done) but have only found one fuzzy picture and zero tutorials.

    Love your blog!


  4. …………well now ………………….. I am going to try this wonderful method on some steeked pocket openings on husbands jacket. Front-side will get the icord bind off treatment, under-side will extend through as pocket lining, yes!……………………..not quite sure how as yet but you have me totally inspired to try.
    Thank you Kate, for this and for your blog which is always a great pleasure to see in my inbox.


  5. Thank you Kate! Your steek tutorial has answered all my questions and you have made it seem so simple! I have your patterns as you know but have been reluctant to cast on a big cardigan as our weather here is so tropical that I would hardly get to wear it and as for hats and mittens well for only an hour in the mornings BUT after this tutorial I had a brainstorm that I can use all your lovely patterns to make myself some headbands as I am always wearing them….now I know just how to finish off those edges and add a couple of buttons. Thank you so much. Looking forward to the cardigan reveal, you never know I may knit this one :-)


  6. Thanks for this great series! I love cutting my knitting, but I have never done it quite like this. I can’t wait to try this!


  7. Wonderful series of tutorials. Do I not recall a little top where the Fairisle section did begin to unravel around the armhole? What was it that went adrift there? I am generally in awe of your technical expertise.


    1. You are thinking of this:

      Two things went wrong: 1) the top was grabbed and chewed by puppy-Bruce as I was finishing it; 2) I cut the steeks without any reinforcement, so the edges weren’t very strong.

      Unlike most Shetland yarns, the Renaissance Dyeing Poll Dorset that I used for that top is quite ‘slippery’ as it is worsted spun. In hindsight, I should have definitely added a crochet reinforcement!


      1. Ah! After feeling so inspired by your beautifully clear instructions, Kate, now you’ve got me worried. Will steeking work with other types of yarn? … a mixture of merino and cashmere for example.

        I’m also still a little confused about the icord. I understand how the separate one is constructed, but not how to marry what you describe above to the edge I’m trying to cast off.

        And while I’m here, I would like to thank you for your wonderful blog. Can’t tell you how much pleasure it has given.


  8. All this is completely new to me although, apart from fair isle, I am a reasonably experienced knitter. Would you please explain to me the ‘fence post’ rule that has been referred to during this series?

    Also can this method of knitting in the round be used for any other styles of knitting, eg, Aran with lots of cable and such, lace, etc or does it only work with fair isle?


  9. First of all, thank you for this AWESOME tutorial.

    I was feeling all safe, cozy, and excited about steeking after reading your excellently written instructions. Until I came to this: “You do not want to put any strain at all on that reinforcing chain. If you tug or pull at it in any way then you run the risk of the cut edges popping out. Don’t do it!”

    Gulp! So what about steeked arm holes or, for instance, the steeked edge of Rams and Yowes? Is the whole blanket edging a sandwich? And if the crocheted edge can’t take any strain, how on earth does a steek hold up with wearing? Surely and obviously it must, by now I’m feeling afraid again. *~*


  10. Wow! What a series! I do not have enough time to knit colorwork right now—I spend my time knitting diaper covers and wool pants and mittens and hats and owlet sweaters for small boys—but I can’t wait to see your new cardigan pattern! I really, really, really want to get going on colorwork and steeking. Just give me a few years to get the younger child into kindergarten and I’ll be there!


  11. I have had very little enthusiasm for steeking before but this is really an excellent tutorial! I am SO EXCITED to try steeking something immediately. I was even eye-balling one of my old pullovers last night…. Can’t wait to see your new design maybe it can be my first steeked sweater? Thanks again for taking away the mystery of where and how to pick up the stitches for the crochet edging as that was my main hiccup about trying a steek myself.


  12. Lisa from the picot edge method here! I had a bit of a vague moment yesterday when commenting and was mixing the way a number of the baby wear patterns from Dale of Norway cast on and do a picot edge facing, with, this the steek sandwich method. Anyway curiosity still got the better of me because I knew there were more similarities to the two methods despite one being used for cast on and one for bind off and also one was post-knitted the other was at the beginning of a bottom up design. Having said all that, after swatching – it works and produces a lovely picot edge on the edge of the steek sandwich. I sent pics to Kate to riff off and hope that she can use it somewhere down the track. The key if anyone else wants to try is instead of knitting two sides of the steek sandwich you just knit from the first side and as deep as you want the steek sandwich to go then you do a picot row (K1, YO rep) then continue to knit the rest of the steek sandwich on these same stitches. Pick up the backs of the knit on stitches with a thrid needle and do a 3 needle bind off catching together the knitted stitches and the picked up stitches. This folds your little panel of knitting in half at the lace edge to form a picot. Sorry about the dodgy instructions there is a reason that you Kate are the designer and I am the faithful knitter!! happy knitting.


  13. Thank you so very much, Kate, you are so good to explain things. Now I have no more fear to try steeking :-)


  14. Thanks for the tutorial! One last question: would using superwash sock yarn for the crochet reinforcement create a problem? Is it necessary to use sock yarn that can felt? Or does the sandwich protect against later unraveling?


  15. Looking forward for your new pattern to try out the wonderful described steekmethod!

    Have a nice springday and thank you for your blog!


  16. Thank you for the wonderful explanations. Also: so sorry that my comment/question about the “fence post rule” in response to your previous blog entry had a typo in it that might have been confusing to many readers. It should have said “always” rather than “almost.” I’d be grateful if you could edit that for me. I suffer from some neurological problems related to migraines and lately have been typing words similar to the ones I actually mean to use. Sorry!

    And, yes, if you begin picking up stitches by placing a slip-knot loop on the back side of your fabric and then you use that loop as one of your picked up stitches, you would be adding a stitch to the total stitch count on the back side of the fabric, ingeniously solving the problem about which I had been concerned. Fabulous!


  17. First, I can not wait to see your new pattern, second thank you for sharing your ideas! Third just a huge thank you!


  18. Kate,
    Thank you so much for this tutorial series. Although I have steeked before (including my own Owls), this technique has added to my skill set. I can’t wait to give a try, I might even have to knit a swatch to practice! Thanks again, and all the best!

    P.S. Looking forward to the new cardi pattern!


  19. Wow! Great series. I am a big fan of fairisle knitting and have tried various methods of steeking. I’m thinking I have to cast on for a new fairisle soon so I can try your method. It looks neat and clean which is high praise indeed for a steek! I am anxious to see the new pattern because it may just be my next project.

    A sincere thanks for all the time and effort you put into this
    Leslie, from beautiful Bucks County, PA


  20. Great information about steeks! You have convinced me to add steeking to the list of skills to acquire in 2012. Looking forward to seeing the new pattern!


  21. Thank you Kate, you are a most excellent teacher! Looking forward to the new pattern and trying me some steeking! (Even the word sounds less strange after this series – hurrah!)


  22. I can’t wait to try your Postmodern Steeking Method ; ) Thanks for making it so easy to understand – I’ve learned so much from your patterns.


  23. Hi Kate

    I’ve followed your blog for a while now and i love reading what your up and your lovely photos and of course wonderful Bruce he looks great, i have 2 dogs and they fill my days always making me smile.

    I have always wanted to have a go at steeking, i went to Iceland and came back with a suitcase full of wool, its very cheap there. I am a slow novice knitter but would love to have a go. Can you advise what to have a go at to give steeking ago before embarking on your wonderful rams and yowes, a small project to get going.

    Thanks for your inspiring blog

    Gaele x


  24. Thank you for posting your steek tutorial. I am busy finishing up a lace shawl so I can use your steek sandwich technique next. I have been sewing (I love incorporating tailoring techniques) for over 40 years and have also taught sewing, so encasing the raw edge of the steek is the perfect technique for me.


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