Knit and Knot – Knotted Steek Tutorial

Yesterday I launched my new pattern: Tom of da Peathill; a fitted men’s cardigan in three sizes, inspired by the natural shades of Foula Wool it was designed for. As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, Foula Wool is a sturdy DK weight yarn, so I used the knotted steek method to avoid any bulky edges resulting from folding over, or the very elegant steek sandwich devised by Kate Davies, which usually gives a very handsome finish.

The following tutorial shows you how to create a knotted steek. You may want to use your gauge swatch to practise your knotted steek on so you become familiar with this technique.

Knotted Steek Tutorial

knitting and casting off the steek stitches

First of all, the pattern calls for six steek sts. In addition, you will also need some stitches to pick up from: these are called the edge stitches. So apart from the pattern stitches for the cardigan body, there are two edge stitches, and six steek stitches. The steek stitches are knitted with both colours held together as one. When it’s time to cast off, only cast off the edge stitches and the pattern stitches. The steek stitches will not be cast off.

tomofholland Knotted Steek Tutorial 1

pattern stitches, edge stitches, and steek stitches. Note that the steek stitches have not been cast off

unravelling the steek stitches and cutting

Now comes the fun part. The steek stitches are all dropped down to the cast-on edge, thus creating a whopping large ladder! As the Foula Wool is a bit sticky – the very reason it’s a good yarn for stranded colourwork – you might need to coax them a bit to unravel all the way down. You are now ready for the scary part: the strands forming the ladder are cut in half. Spread the cardigan out a bit so you can easily find the middle of each strand. Remember, knitted fabric doesn’t like unravelling sideways, so it will all be okay.

tomofholland Knotted Steek Tutorial 2

cutting the ladder strands to create the front opening or the armholes

knotting the strands

The name of this technique – knotted steek – will now become apparent. All the threads are knotted in pairs in an overhand knot. Make sure that you always use the two threads from one row of knitting. Also ensure you snuggle up the knot to the very edge of the fabric for a tidy finish.

KnottedSteekTutorial3

The strands are knotted into pairs using the overhand knot, shown above

tomofholland knotted steek tutorial 4

The knotted steek shown on the wrong side. Notice the tidy row of knots, all snuggled up to the edge of the fabric

picking up stitches

It’s now time to pick up your stitches. You pick up between the edge stitch and the first pattern stitch. Keep an eye out for the fringe, and try not to trap them with the yarn you are using for picking up. Now commence knitting the buttonbands or sleeves.

tomofholland knotted steek tutorial 5

Stitches are picked up between the edge stitch and the first pattern stitch

 darning in ends

This is the part that will take a bit of time. Perhaps because I love darning so much, I really enjoy it. Be prepared to set aside an afternoon, and make a cup of tea before beginning. You will soon find yourself getting into the rhythm and becoming absorbed by the task at hand. You will need a sharp wool needle with a large eye. Sometimes called yarn darners, they are basically a chunky version of a crewel needle. The ends are darned in on the wrong side by skimming the floats at the back. If you find the strands a bit on the short side, then employ a classic sewer’s hand-finishing technique: first darn in the needle, and only then thread the needle; I use the method explained in this blog post by Stitchers Needle. By threading the needle with the two yarn ends from one knot it will go quicker than you think. Once the fringe has been darned in, trim the loose ends close to the surface.

tomofholland knotted steek tutorial 6

darning in the ends. On the right the unfinished fringe. Then the needle skimmed into a float, ready to be threaded. In the middle darned in ends. At the left the loose ends have been trimmed close to the surface

tomofholland knotted steek tutorial 7

the finished knotted steek on the buttonband. Notice that the edge stitch has turned to the inside, and the neat row of knots

There you have it, a steek which is virtually without any bulk, and which doesn’t impact the stretch of knitted fabric. Over time, this finish will become neigh on invisible.

I hope this tutorial has been clear and instructive, and has demystified my favourite steek technique.

25 Replies to “Knit and Knot – Knotted Steek Tutorial”

  1. That was great. Thank you. I have done it like this and like it. I also have an old Scottish friend who just picks up the stitches to knit the band and he says the ends just felt themselves in. True but this is a little more secure. And I have stitched along the edge by hand and by machine. Haven’t done Kate’s sandwich yet…….all depends on the yarn. I repeat, great job explaining.

  2. Thank you Tom. It has been very instructive. I am very tempted to use it for a cardigan I have already started. Even if I have to undo what I have started, I am sure your steek technique is worth trying.
    And another thing: your pattern is brilliant. Well done.
    See you in Brighton

  3. Thank you for your tutorial, Tom. The cardigan is beautiful, and I am grateful to be made aware of Foula yarn. In the Picking Up Stitches step, do you pick up a button band stitch for each pattern stitch, or do you skip a few to make up for differences between row and stitch gauge?

  4. Oh my! Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful technique. I have earmarked it to try it on later. I didn’t know your work or your blog until I read about you on Kate Davies’ blog. I look forward to exploring your wooly world 🙂

  5. Dear Tom, I just used your knotted steek method to steek with machine washable yarns for a child’s cardigan. I don’t think other method would work with machine washable yarns because the fibres won’t stick to each other. Your knotted method meant I could secure the steek anyway. An experiment, I will watch how the steek holds after wearing and time. Thanks very much. Blogged here http://needleandspindle.com/?p=2410 if you want to take a peek at the steek.

    1. Pleased to hear you’ve tried out the knotted steek. I’d be interested to hear how it behaves over time. You mentioned in your blog that the stripes are slightly distorted. Of course I’ve only used the steek on Fair Isle knitting, in which case the loose ends are darned into the floats, leaving the actual knitted fabric well alone. I hope it will even out a bit more once you’ve washed it once or twice. Beautiful cardigan!

  6. Re: getting the knot close to the work – I have found putting a needle eye into the knot center and pulling it close to the work will aid the knot in that snuggling up to the edge – hard to explain but it works for any sort of sewing in which you want the knot near the work. Esp with you haven’t a lot of yarn/thread to work with. Give it a test run with any needle/thread.

  7. Thank you so much! I had always wanted to know how to do this and the explanations in books were hopeless. Now I can knit cardigans and waistcoats ‘in the round’!

  8. Excellent tutorial! But what do you do if you have single color rounds in the pattern? Is it ok to knot and darn 1 strand of yarn on those rounds, or do you knot them with the yarn from the row above or beyond?

    1. If you have one row of a single colour then you can tie knot it together as you suggest yourself. If you have two rows of a single colour (as in this pattern) then you can knot those together instead.

  9. Pingback: wellspring vest

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