Steeking Tutorial for Fair Isle Knits


In this post I provide a steeking tutorial.  Specifically, I show you a detailed progression of photos and instructions when steeking a Fair Isle Knit wristlet.  I will try to reduce the fear that you may have when cutting through your knit piece when it is time for steeking!
The Knitting and Crochet Guild show was in Manchester, New Hampshire this past weekend.   Along with the show came a slew of great instructors and exciting classes.  I had the pleasure of taking an all day class entitled “Beginning Fair Isle Knitting with Steeks” with Suzanne Bryan.  Until this class my experience in color knit was limited to a single doll dress, and this dress only contained color blocks.  My inexperience was eclipsed by Suzanne’s skill and I happily completed a beautiful wristlet during the class.  Unfortunately, the pattern is only available to class participants.  However, you can find more about it on Ravelry through Suzanne’s own post, Wrist Warmer, regarding this pattern.

Now for a helpful tutorial that I can share with you: I will provide some very useful information on steeking.  Steeking is a very traumatic subject for some knitters.  Cutting a project in half after you have spent hours completing your piece definitely defies natural judgement.  However, this class has eliminated my fears.  I will try to reduce yours.  Steeking is great for any project knit in the round that you change to a flat swatch.  A few great uses for a small swatch like we knit in the class include:

  • A wristlet
  • A small purse/bag
  • A cell phone case
  • A drink cosy
  • A booklet cover for keeping needles

To inspire your designs I suggest Alice Starmore’s “Charts for Color Knitting”.  I just bought this book and plan to use it for my own project inspirations!


Wool Yarn – Yarn should be woolen spun.  This type of spinning is characterized by the looseness.  We used a 2 ply finger weight by Jaimiesons.

Double pointed size US2 knitting needles.


1. Reverse knitting (flip your round knitting piece inside out so that the inside is facing outward).  Gently tighten all loose ends.

2. Trim ends within ~0.25″ of the knitting back.  After this step is complete your piece should look like the lower right image below.

3. Cut along the transition line of the circular knitting.  This is where the first stitch meets the last stitch of each previous row.  A few columns (3-4) should be used on each side of this transition before the pattern starts and after the pattern ends.  The section is called the steek and should lock both colors in place.  A checker board design works really well.  In the image below, on both the left and right sides of the knit piece, you see a checkerboard pattern that brackets the floral knit pattern in the center of the piece.  These bracketing checkerboard sections are indeed the steek.

4. Identify were your pattern ends and the steek begins.  Pick up stitches between these two areas.  A bit less than 1 stitch per round is necessary.  4 stitches for every 5 rounds works well.   Knit one row with the back of the project facing you.  This becomes the button band and can be designed in many differnet ways.

5. Once the button band is completed and bound off, use a tapestry needle and some yarn to secure the steek down to the knitting.  You may want to trim the steek area.  A blanket stitch is a nice accent here.  Before starting secure the end well.  Be sure that your stitches split the yarn and do not show on the front of the project.

6. Pick up stitches on the second steek boundary (this is where the knit checkerboard pattern begins in the rows above) in the same manner as the first.  Knit one row with the back of the project facing you.

7.  The button hole band can be completed in many ways.  One option is to knit button holes into a button band by binding off a stitch or two followed by a row where the same number of stitches are added.  Another option is to choose a few places for loops.  Each loop end requires 3 stitches and should be separated by bound off stitches slightly less than the diameter of your button.

8. Now your piece is ready for blocking and any final assembly (depending on your design).  I sewed on my buttons and admired my wristlets.  I find myself eagerly awaiting the book I ordered to start working on my own design!

Stay tuned for my progress on future projects!

As always I would love to read any comments that you have regarding this post!  Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment box below!



Online Knitting Class

4 Responses to Steeking Tutorial for Fair Isle Knits

  1. Judith November 29, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    i really like the way you chose to put all these colors together! That is my dilemma, how to choose the colors that will look beautiful together!

    • Kirsten November 30, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

      Hi Judith,
      Thanks. I will share a trick with you. A great way to check your colors is to use a black and white photo. Line all your background colors up dark to light. Next to them line your pattern colors up light to dark. This should be the way you knit your colors, the light background with the dark pattern color. Now take a photo in black and white. Make sure that each pair has a difference in shade. If they look the same in the photo, change one of the colors out and try again. Happy knitting!

  2. anna December 22, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

    hi kirsten,

    such a great steeking tutorial; i am having a little trouble figuring out how to make the loops for buttons.
    can you provide more details? (if the loops are part of a pattern that you can’t reveal, i understand.)
    no rush, especially this time of year 😉 and happy holidays.
    vty, anna

    • Kirsten December 31, 2014 at 10:45 am #

      Hi Anna,
      The loops can be made by making a short I-cord. This means you knit the three stitches, then bring the yarn to the back of the work and knit the same three stitches in the same order. By doing this you are knitting them in the round so it makes a small cord. Repeat this for the length you need. When you get to proper length, bind them off with the three live stitches on the band using a 3-needle cast off.
      I hope this helps.

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