I know I know, steeking is super scary. Every knitters greatest fear realized: cut knitting! What if it unravels? What if all of that beautiful work comes apart? Well, I tell you, it won’t. Armed with some steeking knowledge you will be just fine. Let’s get started!
This tutorial covers:
Finding the method that works for you
There are many ways to steek, this tutorial outlines the method I used for the Clayoquot and Sweetshop patterns. If you would like more information on some different methods of steeking (or more info on steeking in general) check out Knitty, Eunny Jang, and Kate Davies.
If you are designing your own sweater using our Strange Brew recipe, check out our tutorial on designing a sweater with a steek here.
What can I steek?
If you look around online there are a LOT of opinions on what yarns can be used for steeking. We have successfully steeked superwash and woolly sweaters. If you are worried your yarn won’t work, knit a little swatch and give it a steek, then you can be confident!
Let’s get started!
What you will need to steek:
- A sweater ready to be steeked
- Some yarn (you can use the same colour yarn as the sweater MC or a contrasting one, I found it didn’t matter so I used a contrasting colour to make this tutorial clear)
- A crochet hook a few sizes smaller than the needle size for the sweater
- A darning needle
- Some sharp scissors.
First up, knit yourself a sweater and block it. I knit the Clayoquot cardigan (with the alteration of contrasting pockets). Sew down your pockets, and weave in your ends. If yoiur ends are at the steek point, just leave ’em, we are going to cut them anyway! Any other ends should be woven in away from the steek.
Where should I steek?
The Clayoquot pattern has 5 steek stitches (numbered below). The right crochet reinforcement will use half of stitch 3 and half of stitch 4, and the left crochet reinforcement will use the other half of stitch 3 and half of stitch 2. The cut comes right down the middle of stitch 3.
First you will need to secure your yarn to start your reinforcement. Make sure, as you go, that your crochet reinforcement is nice and tight. It has to hold those stitches in place.
- Make a slip knot onto your crochet hook
- Put your hook through the top of stitch 4
- Pull through a loop (you will now have 2 loops on your hook)
- Pull your working yarn through these two loop (you will now have 1 loop on your hook)
Next you are going to make a single crochet chain down the steek, through half of stitch 4 and half of stitch 3
- Put your crochet hook through the right half (or leg) of stitch 4 and the left half (or leg) of stitch 3
- Pull through a loop (you will now have 2 loops on your crochet hook)
- Pull your working yarn through these 2 loops (you will now have 1 stitch on your hook)
You will continue working steps 1-3 in each stitch until you have worked all of the stitches. At the end, put your hook through the center of stitch 4. Pull up a loop, pull your working yarn through both loops on the hook. Cut your yarn, leaving a 6 inch tail, and pull the tail through the last live stitch, fastening off your work.
Your first crochet reinforcement is complete! The second reinforcement is worked in the opposite direction, starting at the bottom of the sweater and working your way to the top. You will be working your single crochet chain through stitches 2 and 3.
Button bands before the steek
I learned a great tip and had to pass it along: pick up and work your button bands before you steek. It’s not 100% necessary, but it makes things a little tidier and allows you to put a little less stress on those cut stitches. Below you can see I’ve got my maroon crochet reinforcement and I’ve picked up and worked both of my button bands before cutting.
Time to cut!
Take a deep breath, some sharp scissors, and here goes nothin’!
Picking up the button band after the steek
Picking up the button band is the same as any sweater, just a little further in than usual. Insert your needle from the right side to the wrong side and draw up a loop. Continue picking up at the rate specified in your pattern. You may also want to check out the ‘steek sandwich’ that Kate Davies uses.
Sewing down the flap
When I finished steeking my sweater and putting on a button band I found there was a little extra flap. In order to keep the ends from rubbing I sewed down the flap with a whip stitch for a little extra security.
All that’s left are a few ends, blocking, and some buttons to sew on! Your pullover is now a cardigan.
June 13, 2021 @ 1:58 pm
I tried it look great then my stitches started separating from crochet chain….. wahhh I ending up machine sewing it down and covering mess
Is it because I used superwash yarn?
June 14, 2021 @ 10:41 am
Hi Donna – It sounds like maybe your crochet chain wasn’t quite tight enough, you want is really tight to hold those stitches in place. Glad you were able to save it with your sewing machine!
February 14, 2021 @ 5:00 am
Thank you for a great tutorial! My pattern only called for a 2-stitch Steek (! I wish I had known to add a few more)…but here I am. Would you recommend using an edge stitch + one Steek stitch to stabilize? I’m not sure how to approach this. Thanks for any advice.
February 14, 2021 @ 11:38 pm
Depending on how wide your stitches are, you might be able to stabilize the steek using a sewing machine and zigzag stitch (two rows) then cut between them? Another option would be to do the pick-up 1 or 2 stitches outside of where you had planned, so you essentially widen the steek. This may be OK, depending on the colourwork pattern, and how it ‘butts’ up against the steek.
February 15, 2021 @ 5:56 pm
Thank you! I think I will try to “widen the steek” and use the crochet technique. I’m not quite confident enough to try and sew it. Next sweater I make will have a pretty good-sized steek, that’s for sure! Thank you for the advice.
August 8, 2020 @ 9:54 am
After much reading, I have successfully steeked a v-neck vest.
My delema is that the shoulders, as written in the pattern, are too wide.
My thought is to apply the same principal to form a new edge to pickup sts for the armhole.
Being, this is my first use of steeks, I’m not sure where I would place the stabalizing crochet st. Does the crochet st need to be worked over 2 sts, i.e., one leg of each of the side by side sts?
Any suggestions are most appreciated.
August 10, 2020 @ 12:15 pm
Hi Margaret – I don’t have any specific experience in the area, but you do need the crochet seam to be worked over 2 sts, and I recommend picking up your sts before you cut, to make sure everything is as it should be.
February 8, 2021 @ 2:08 pm
Thank you SO much for the steeking instructions! I’m now following you on IG. When I saw the baby’s cardigan was called Clayoquot, I thought, Ah, must be BC. Then I saw another sweater called North Shore, and I thought, Ah, must be Vancouver. I’m brilliant, I am!
February 27, 2020 @ 12:37 pm
Hi ! I was curious if a pattern does not necessarily have “Steek stitches” written in (thinking of modifying a chart using strange brew) how do you add one in? Just find the center/front and add a 5 stitch repeat? Thanks so much!
February 28, 2020 @ 10:32 am
Hi Megan – it just so happens that we have a tutorial on that here: https://blog.tincanknits.com/2018/12/20/how-to-plan-a-steek-in-a-strange-brew-colourwork-sweater/
January 20, 2020 @ 3:44 pm
A good video tutorial for steeking is to be found by Purl Soho on YouTube. The method is slightly varied from the above but for visual learners it may bridge the “gap” that stops them from trying a steek.
I recommend what I have done: grab your 16” circulars, knit an tube and steek away. I always feel bad “wasting” wool but my $4 skein is a cheap “class” material. I have finished it with a knit interfacing and now feel confident enough to conquer this sweater in real life.
Before I gained all the basic skills to knit a sweater, I kept hearing Tin Can Knits everywhere…all the time. Now I know why. You provide clearly written patterns for all the sizes and great tutorials for skill building to make these garments approachable. For all of that…THANK YOU!
December 8, 2019 @ 4:10 am
I have always wanted try steeling but fear held me back from trying. Not anymore! I can’t wait to try this. Your step by step photos took my fear away! Thank you!
October 8, 2019 @ 7:01 am
After visiting many sites for a clear picture of the process, yours spoke to me the most. Thank you.
January 7, 2019 @ 8:57 pm
I’m wondering *how* exactly you sew down the steek edges after finishing the bands. Sew to the back of the wrong side stitches? Using which stitch? Or do you use a machine? Or do you doing a running stitch that goes through the front as well?
January 8, 2019 @ 12:23 pm
Hi – I sewed the crochet chain to the sweater using a whip stitch. It only shows on the WS.
October 30, 2018 @ 12:07 am
Thank you! All of your tutorials and patterns are so clear. I can’t wait to try this.
September 9, 2018 @ 5:05 pm
Best explanation, great pics of the steek and of picking up for the button band.
July 13, 2018 @ 9:00 am
Thank you for the explanation with pictures! I’m trying my first steek, and eek!
February 22, 2018 @ 9:44 pm
Ive had this steeking stuff recommended to me as a way of narrowing the sleeves of a cardigan I finished. So I am wanting to cut out about an inch/ 2 cm from the width of the sleeves, at their mid to top points. But I’m not sure how this will work. I’m not trying to create a divide. Any hints?
March 13, 2018 @ 11:04 am
Hi Robyn – hmm, brave! I would assume it works like any other steek? You want to reinforce , then cut, then you can sew the 2 edges back together. An inch seems like it might be too few sts for the steek, but it depends on your gauge etc.
December 9, 2017 @ 11:50 pm
Thank you very much. I forgot to decrease for armhole and now i can see how to avoid unpicking The last 6″ which includes cabling.
February 10, 2017 @ 10:13 pm
Beautiful tutorial. Can I ask what wool you were using for the cardigan? I want to steek some superwash merino but aren’t sure that won’t unravel as it won’t be sticky.
February 10, 2017 @ 10:54 pm
Hi Bekka – We used Sweet Fiber Merino Twist DK, which is a superwash. I would recommend giving it a run with the sewing machine, just to be EXTRA sure
December 26, 2016 @ 3:46 pm
Very clear instructions thank you! I’m new to steeking, and I’m wondering how to apply crochet steek to a 1×1 rib.
December 28, 2016 @ 2:22 pm
Hi Sarah – hmmm, I’m not really sure. Usually a steeked pattern would have a few stitches of stockinette for the purposes of steeking. I would probably run the crochet reinforcement up the stockinette part of the rib.
July 22, 2016 @ 6:29 pm
Great tutorial! Thank you. I am preparing for my first FairIsle sweater needing a steek!
July 10, 2016 @ 5:39 pm
Hi, I’m preparing to knit this cardigan for my son. I am hoping to use 85%Merino and 15% cashmere yarn…would this be suitable for steeking?
July 12, 2016 @ 11:45 am
I don’t see why not! Both of those fibers should be ‘sticky’ enough to steek.
March 21, 2016 @ 7:48 am
Thanks for the quite explicit tutorial !
I was wondering what the beautiful blue-gray yarn was?
Thanks a lot
March 22, 2016 @ 9:56 am
Hi Francois – it is Sweet Fiber Merino DK in Sea Glass
January 22, 2016 @ 3:42 pm
thank you for sharing your tutorial,I’m going to buy that beautiful sweater very soon,but I have one question.What if a pattern calls for a purl knit 5 purl as a steek.Would you crochet the purl stitch?
Brooks Ann Miller
November 12, 2015 @ 6:29 am
In your response to Julie, you stated “just make sure sweater is wool.” What happens if isn’t wool? Will steeking not work? I don’t use wool very often for several reasons and am very curious. Thanks for a great tutorial!
November 17, 2015 @ 10:30 am
Hi Brooks – steeking relies on the fibers meshing together to hold strong. An acrylic yarn won’t mesh (it is the nature of the yarn, it’s also the reason it doesn’t pill etc.), so it isn’t really suitable for steeking.
Julie La Salle
September 12, 2015 @ 7:13 am
Thank you for this tutorial on steeking.
Do you know if you can steek a sweater that has not been designed to be steeked? I made this sweater. It’s very nice but too warm to wear inside. It would be grat if I could transform it into a cardigan.
September 12, 2015 @ 6:27 pm
Yes and no, you absolutely can, but it depends on the design. You would lose an inch or so in the middle (for the steek and the button band pick up) but you would gain the width of the button band. Just make sure your sweater is wool!
September 17, 2019 @ 11:41 am
Hello! So If I knit an acrylic/super wash blend I can’t afterthought steek it?
September 18, 2019 @ 11:05 am
Hi Shelby – I haven’t steeked anything with acrylic, but I’ve steeked superwash with the crochet reinforcement and it’s gone just fine
September 28, 2015 @ 10:08 am
Your tutorial on steeking is great! I have read several instructions on steeking now and I’m still now sure what happens to all the strands of yarn that are carried across when completing the design in the pattern. I can see all the strands on the reverse side of the sweater that you steeked in your tutorial. The strands are directly behind the steeking stitches. When asked to cut the stitches between the two rows of crochet, what happens to the strands behind them? Thanks! I’m at the point of steeking and cutting and want to be sure that I know what I’m doing!
September 29, 2015 @ 10:07 am
Hi Sandy – those strands get cut, just like the stitches you are steeking.
April 28, 2015 @ 12:43 pm
This was such a beautifully photographed tutorial. I referred to it repeatedly when I was talking myself into steeking my most recent sweater. I linked your tutorial in my most recent blog post on steeking here, (http://www.owningayarnshop.com/?p=29), if I need to do anything more to credit you, please let me know! :)
September 27, 2018 @ 12:19 am
Just to let you know that this link doesn’t go anywhere.
September 27, 2018 @ 9:32 am
Sorry, which link is that?
October 19, 2014 @ 9:43 pm
This is excellent!!! You’ve inspired me to steek and I’m so excited about it! I started to crochet the chain, but I think there might be a misprint. It says, “1. Put your crochet hook through the right half (or leg) of stitch 4 and the left half (or leg) of stitch 3.” I think it should be the LEFT half of stitch 4 and the RIGHT half of stitch 3. I hope that’s what you meant because I’m making the cut tomorrow :-)
Thank you for all your wonderful tutorials! I love learning new knitting techniques!
March 6, 2015 @ 6:42 pm
I just read this tutorial, and was thinking the same thing!
October 6, 2014 @ 9:09 am
I’ve never steeked, but your tutorial helped take a lot of the fear factor out of the process for me. You’ve made it into something I could actually see myself doing! Thank you so much!
October 17, 2014 @ 2:42 pm
Thanks! So glad you enjoyed it!
Isla of Axholme
September 22, 2014 @ 3:20 pm
A brilliant tutorial will be saving this one for future reference. Thank you
September 19, 2014 @ 8:20 pm
great tutorial!! thanks – definitely gonna share this!
September 18, 2014 @ 1:55 pm
Thank you for this really clear tutorial, it almost takes away the fear!
September 18, 2014 @ 1:52 pm
Great tutorial on steeking! The pictures are excellent and so helpful. I LOVE to steek because I HATE to purl but I always need a refresher before I pick up the scissors. This will be my new go to. Thanks!
September 18, 2014 @ 1:09 pm
Thanks for the tutorial! When I first heard about steeking I was positive I didn’t had the guts for it. Not sure I’ve got them now but you made it sound doable!!