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The knitting life is full of epiphanies and coincidences. A case in point: Just as Ann was needing to cut the longest steek of her life, on her epic Stranded Stripe Throw from MDK Field Guide No. 13, a knitter wrote us with news of a fantastic way of securing a steek that we’d never heard of. We are thrilled to introduce our newest contributor, Gretchen Funk, and this very sharp (pun!) technique. 

—Ann and Kay

Alice Adams of Minnesota is a hand knitter, machine knitter, and scientist, who also is a lot of fun to knit with. I always look forward to time talking about techniques with her.

A few years ago, I made a project with a particularly long steek. Mentioning my trepidation about sewing with a machine, and how tedious I felt it would be to crochet a steek, I asked what her preference would be. Alice smiled and quietly said “I would needle felt it.”

I put down my knitting. My mind raced. Needle felt the steek? How would that work? Would that work? That would work! As soon as I could, I tried it, and now it is my preferred method.

My friend Alice has invented a new way to steek, and it works!

I have had the pleasure of presenting this method to my students at The Yarnery, a yarn store in St. Paul MN, at a workshop at Everwood Farmstead Foundation in Wisconsin, and to fellow attendees at Meg Swanson’s Schoolhouse Press Knitting Camp in 2018. At each event hands shot up with questions and thoughts of how the technique could be used; from steeking, to mending, to reinforcing, to securing floats, and on and on. How appropriate considering the scientific mind that thought of it!

Now, with Alice’s kind permission I am sharing it with you.

What is a Steek?

Let’s start with steeking. Why steek? So we can knit in the round. Because it’s easier to maintain tension in the round, and two-color or cabled knitting can be a major drag to knit flat, but we really like cardigans.

If you aren’t familiar, a steek is a small set (3, 5, or 7) of extra stitches placed within a circular pattern to form a vertical strip of fabric that will be cut later. The knitting is traditionally made of wool and usually in a colorwork pattern. Typically the steek is reinforced after knitting, but sometimes it is just boldly and coldly cut.

Reinforcing Steeks

Methods of reinforcing have ranged from hand or machine sewing, to crocheting the edges of the steek, to adding extra stitches that are unraveled and sewn in. Occasionally steeks are used in fabrics not made of wool, and those are often reinforced with a machine-sewn line. These methods are all good. Which one you use is a matter of personal preference, yours or the pattern writer’s.

Needle felting to reinforce a steek is quick, easy, and clean. It takes a few special tools that are easily acquired and little new skill.

But most of all, reinforcing with needle felting is secure. Who doesn’t need more security? Of all the methods, this is the one that most calms the nerves, and it’s fun to do.


Here are the tools I use to needle felt steeks:

Clover needle felting tool auto with 5 needles and small brush-style needle felting mat

—Sharp scissors

—A piece of cardboard to place inside the object while cutting

Already in possession of some needle felting equipment? Here are two items I leave off the list:

—Foam or sponge-style needle felting mats. Will it work? Sure. But the fabric needs to be pulled up every few punches so it will not melt into the sponge, which I found tedious. In addition, the squishy texture did not feel secure to me while punching.

—Single felting needles. Of course these can be used, but I am lazy and like to have many needles working for me, like a tiny army. The 5-needle punch with a retractable guard covers exactly the number of stitches I use for my steeking area, and works quickly.

The Technique

Now that you have the equipment, here are the basics.

Step 1

Make your knitted item with the 3-7 stitch steek section in the place where your cut will be. In patterns that include a steeked opening, just follow the pattern for placing and working the steek stitches.

Please note I’m not requiring the item be two-color knitting, or solid color knitting, or in the round, or patterned, or not. That is because you can use this method on anything made of wool. If you are unsure, just make sure it works on a swatch. It could even be used on woven or crochet fabric. (Weavers and crocheters, pick up that thought!)

Step 2

Place the brush pad under the area to be felted.

Be very careful not to pull or stretch the fabric over the brush.  If the fabric gets pulled, it will spread while felting.  and then ruffle when cut. That will be a major bummer, with nothing to be done about it.

Just place the fabric gently on the brush, and if you are unable to help yourself give it a tiny pat on top to secure it. That’s enough.

Step 3

Punch the needle through the fabric.

Try to hit all the spots along the steek line at least a few times.

I work 1-3 inch sections over 5 stitches punching about 20-30 times, then checking and maybe doing it 10 more times. Pick up the work to see how it looks on the back. It will be fuzzy and the stitches will get less and less visible. This is what we want, smooth on the front and very fuzzy on the back.

Be careful not to over-punch. If you are overzealous, the fabric can get chewed up, and there is no going back. It is hard to get to that point though, so don’t be scared—just aware. Everything is a balance. I stop when the stitches are no longer visible, usually over the same 3 stitches.

Step 4

Cut the fabric.

Important: place something (a piece of cardboard is perfect) between what you are going to cut and the back side of the work. It can end in tragedy if floats on the other side of the work are cut, ask me how I know.

That’s it! Now you are ready to finish the edges as you wish.


Please join me at Minnesota Knitters Guild Yarnover 2020 event in Minnesota for a Live Lesson. Special thanks to Alice Adams who trusted me to teach this method and broadened my mind while doing it. Thanks also to my fantastic sample knitter Hanna Stenerson, If you would like to see a tutorial or thoughts from those to whom I have taught this method, check out Meg Swansen’s video blog and my fellow teacher Susan Rainey’s blog post.

In the MDK Shop
Kaffe Fassett's Stranded Stripe Blanket is the perfect project for you to earn your Needle-Felted Merit Badge! Thanks for your purchases. They make everything happen here at MDK.
By Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne

About The Author

Gretchen Funk learned to hand knit from her dad when she was small, and has been teaching knitting for over 14 years. She knits lots of sweaters, and loves teaching and empowering knitters. Her classes at the Yarnery in St. Paul, Minnesota are a great place to solve problems and get inspired.

Gretchen is also an avid machine knitter, and loves combining hand and machine knitting to make hybrid knits. Every month you can find her at the Midwest Machine Knitters Collaborative meeting.

Gretchen’s designs are available on Ravelry, and in the books Wearwithall: Knits for Your Life, What Would Madam Defarge Knit?, and Knitting Sweaters from Around the World.


  • Love the idea, specially when the first of my New Year projects is a fully steeked vest (that is, armholes and v-neck, OMG!) I
    have used the needle felt technique to mend the heels of pure wool socks, the fabric becomes soft, fluffy and squishy. Welcome to my favourite morning read!

    • socks–yesss!!! i have an old hairbrush i could slide in there…thx for the tip!

      • Love it! Running to my LYS to get some new wool & felt a new scarf!

  • Genius! So glad you shared this.

    • This is perfect. In my excitement over bringing home our rescue dog, I forgot to add a hole for her harness in the handspun sweater I just finished for her. And because it’s a tiny sweater I can’t sew one down on my sewing machine, so now I will needle felt one. Thank you!

    • Brilliant, especially for a reluctant sewist/crocheter. Thanks!

  • Wow I love this!,

  • Mind blown

  • Wow! A definite must try on my next steeked project. I struggle so with the crochet reinforcement and don’t have a sewing machine.

  • This is so cool! My steek trepidations are far fewer!

    • This seems to be a really do-able method! I’ve never done a steek – but this has helped me commit to my one and only New Years resolution – do a steek! Thanks

  • The first A-Ha! Moment of the year, and what a brilliant one it is! And being a person who has to have all the toys, I’ve got those very tools already! Can’t wait to try it on a swatch!

  • Great timing! I am working on a Kaffe blanket of my own – wider than his, but narrower than Ann’s. I am thoroughly enjoying the process, but in the back of my mind I have been in a bit of a panic over the steek. No more!
    As always, I am grateful for the helpful advice from the MDK hive mind!
    Lynn (aka The Social Knitter)

  • Brilliant.

  • Well, wow! Thank you Gretchen and Annie! I am going to try it to repair the gap between the front and back in the colour work mittens I just knit. Felted mittens are not a bad thing. And sock repair? Thanks Laura, for that idea!

  • What a brilliant idea. How I wish I’d read this last week before my first sterling adventure! Many thanks to Alice and Gretchen and MDK for sharing.

    • Whoops, ‘steeking’ adventure.

      • Spell check REALLY doesn’t like the word steek!! There are always more steeking adventures!

  • OMG!!!! I have never steeked as I’m too much of a coward – but now!! 2020 WILL be the year of the steek! <3

    • Me too!

  • I am just about to do my first steek in a lonnnnngggg time and was kind of low-level dreading it. Now my mind is officially blown and I will absolutely be doing it this way. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

  • This is absolutely brilliant! I need to finish my sweater. This will be my 1st new technique for 2020. THANKS!!

  • Pioneered by? I don’t think so, I’ve used this technique loads without reading about it from anywhere, fun read though

    • I’ve used it too. I used it to secure the steek to the garment instead of basting.

    • Perhaps EZ’s term “unvented” would fit this situation?

  • Gah! Genius! I have a steek in my (near) future and this is fabulous info! When knitting with super bulky yarn, I will weave my ends and then do a little needle felting where I cut the yarn in an attempt to really secure the yarn. Learned this from one of the owners at my LYS.

    • Has anyone tried this on superwash wool?

      • Yes, Alice has!! She is compiling some notes on it I will include in the comments here this week. Bottom line, experiment with whatever you are going to use!! Let us know how it goes!

        • I am also interested, and hopeful!

        • I’m anxious to read about steeking superwash wool! I have a great pattern, beautiful superwash, and…
          A steek.

  • Supah Dupah brilliant! Thanks for sharing this method (the one we should have thought of ourselves but there are just so many brain cells not used by other things y’know!) <3

  • love it I know have a steek technique in my repertoire which has made me un-afraid to steek. Bless you both.

  • Love this,!

    • Hi Poppy! Judy

  • I recently got into felting, i have always been intimidated by steeks. 2020 will be the year I squash that fear! Well done, thank you!

  • I took Gretchen’s class at the Yarnery and it changed my relationship with steaks forever!

    • Steaks!! 🙂

      • Let’s start compiling spell-check’s alternatives to seek!

  • Seems brilliant but… A question and a comment – does it make it difficult to pick up stitches along the edge? You say wool but it won’t work on superwash wool which is treated so that it won’t felt.

    • Very good question! The felted part becomes the selvedge, which I fold back. so you should plan to pick up in the unfelted stitches just next to it. When I have 5 steek stitches, I choose to pick up in the middle of the very outside stitch, and felt just to the edge of that one.The felting is load bearing enough to hold the edge as long as it is not too narrow (I don’t trim close to the picked up band). Hope that helps!!
      Superwash has had mixed results, it has worked with certain brands. I don’t recommend it in this writing because of the variance of reaction of the fiber. The only way to find out is to experiment, and then make sure to let us all know how it goes!!

    • Yes, can we see the next step – picking up and knitting the buttonbands? And do these edges need any further treatment, such as a facing?

      • No spoilers but Ann is going to face this task on her blanket…

        • Could we see Ann’s progress as she steeks her big blanket?!

  • Well, THAT is mind-blowing!

  • I have repaired sweaters with “felting “for years but never thought of steeks!

  • Brilliant and awesome!

  • I’ve considered this in the past but I thought it would felt the outside as well. Why does it not?

    • The barbs on the felting needles felt in one direction (into the fabric) so the outside stays smooth!

  • Oh, the clever minds of the imaginative and intrepid explorer! Thanks so much for this brilliant idea!

  • This is GENIUS! My mind is blown and I need to get needle felting supplies ASAP

  • WOW!!!! Just WOW!!!! Thank you!

  • Wow!!! Genius.

  • Thanks! This will be the year of the steak. And I love the other ideas in the comments.

  • Wow Zowie Maui! I love steeking, have no fear at all, don’t usually reinforce them when it’s wool. But this is unbelievable and easy! I will now incorporate this into my technique tool box, go buy the tools, and teach this method in my classes too. I love that there’s always another way to do anything in knitting.

  • Thank you for sharing this technique!

  • I saw Meg’s video and used this technique on my husband’s fair isle vest. It worked beautifully! Spread the word!

  • This fall I finished my (obviously not banged out) Stopover sweater which I had cardiganized. The steek was not as wide as it should have been and I was leery of cutting it open. About that time I came across Meg Swansen’s felted steek video and -tada- it worked like a charm. I especially like how it adds a little firmness to the front bands, almost like adding a grosgrain ribbon.
    This technique is a real game changer!

    • That’s great, and what I like about the technique too! You should post a picture, I would LOVE to see your sweater!!

  • Interesting! I even have a needle felting attachment for my sewing machine!

    • Hi Deb, I am fascinated by this idea! Can you let us know how it goes? I wonder how the lack of a pad under it will work? Experiment and report back please!

  • Just another reason I wish I had a second home in Minneapolis! I have learned so much online from The Rainey Sisters and other knitters of The Yarnery and the Guild. And they sweep the Minnesota State Fair every year.

  • Thank you for the quick correction!

  • Love it!

  • MIND BLOWN. This is fantastic.

  • Can you please post a photo of the inside of the steek?
    How it should look?

    I think that could help us cowards even more!

    All the best,


    • Hi Connie, The last picture in the series is a picture of the inside of the steek (I’m holding it up and the fuzzy side is the inside). There should be more steeking pictures on the way too 😉 Hope that helps!

  • I need to steek a colorwork vest and have been putting it off because I need to set up the sewing machine. I’m going to try this instead. Huzzah! And thanks.

  • This is brilliant! I have the brush and the tool. Now I need to knit something steekable

  • What a wonderful idea! A good way to start using my needle felting supplies that have been languishing in my closet for so long! Thanks for sharing. That’s what I love about the knitting community. Also noted a comment about using for mending. Now I know how to deal with some moth holes in my Pendleton blanket!

    • It is so useful for repairs!

  • I’m about to attempt to cut my first steek and seeing this is a miracle of a coincidence. I’m going to experiment!

  • WONDERFUL! I am new to needle felting, so it is great to have yet another use for it. THANK YOU!

  • A 21 skein salute for Alice Adams and her brilliant brain! I’m kinda excited to make something that needs a steek now!
    And Gretchen, thank you for spreading the news and for giving credit to Alice! Sometimes it takes a knitter to set an example for muggles.
    Spreading the word on the AA felted steek!!
    Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

  • I’m intriqued by this technique. Will it work on “felt” sweaters I have knit and don’t like ? I could use the felted fabric to sew project bags or something useful.

  • May I ask the name of the pattern used in this brilliant tutorial? It’s absolutely gorgeous!

    • Hello Melanie! The pattern is a piece my co-worker and test knitter Hanna made. I will get ahold of her and see if she has a copy. Thanks so much!

  • I have needle felted a skunk, but not a steek! This is awesome and I will definitely give it a try. Going to have to order the supplies though – I only have the foam board & single needles at home. So jealous you get to live in beautiful Saint Paul. Love the Yarnery as well – a lovely store with a thoughtfully compiled selection.

  • Wow…mind blown! Wondering if this could also be used to repair small holes in knitting, as well, since the front of the fabric seems unchanged by the felting.

    • What an excellent idea! I’m definitely remembering your idea!

  • Wow! Perfect timing- I just rec’d a new book for my next project- a blanket knit in the round with steeking! I cringed a little, even though I’m an advanced seamstress. I love this idea- added insurance, in my mind. Definitely will be using this method!

  • Wonderful, thanks for all this helpful info. I have never steeked successfully, but may give this a try.

  • Thank you! I’ve felted the steek iiiion my Kaffe blanket, and I wondered what to do after I slice it. I’ve read the description above and will give it a go when my edging yarn arrives.

  • If I do this on a sweater will I be able to pick up stitches for the button bands?

  • I am looking in to using this method fora sweater I am knitting. However, the yarn I’m using is 50% merino and 25% acrylic, 25% nylon. Will this work with yarn that is not 100% wool?

  • I am looking in to using this method to sterk a sweater I am knitting. However the yarn I’m using is not 100% wool (50% merino, 25%acrylic, 25% nylon). Would this work on yarn that is not 100% wool?

    • I’m not sure! The way to find out would be to make a little swatch and needle felt a bit of it to see if it felts sufficiently to cut it without unraveling.

      You could also test the yarn itself by trying to spit-felt it. If the yarn won’t stick to itself after applying moisture and friction, I wouldn’t be confident that you could needle felt a steek.

  • I’m sold. Thanks for sharing such a time-saving technique. I LOVE IT!

  • Could not find Meg Swansen’s video.

  • Just after knitting my Stranded Striped Throw, but just prior to learning about needle-felting, I carefully wove about 10,000 ends into and around the steek. If I’d known beforehand that I could have cut the ends short and let the felting process secure them, I might have saved myself many hours of tedium. Now, however, I’m prepping to felt and cut the steek in a new project, and I’m nervous about those ends, of which there are many many many. Any advice or warnings about how short I should cut them before felting?

  • Alice Adams, thank you
    I was going to do the crochet method. Now I can do my Daytripper with my felting kit ❤️

  • Help! I have finished the daytripper last year with only 3 steekstiches on either side. I’ve used the sewingmachine to secure the steek – cut the steek and trimmed the loose ends…. Now I’m afraid to wash the piece because the steek looks so unsteady! Do you think I can still use the felting technique to make the edge more secure and I can finally wear my cardigan?

  • I forgot about this method because it’s been awhile since I read it here. I’ve needle-felted before and done plenty of knitting, now I’m ready to put them together and try a steek. Thanks!

  • Omg!! What a fantastic idea!! I have a loose knit jumper that I accidentally made way too big and had no idea how I was going to steek it because the stitches are too loose. I realise now that I could needle felt it maybe with a tiny bit of roving and it would work perfectly!!

  • I am truly impressed and can hardly wait to start needle felting! I’m running to my LKS!

  • I’ve used needle felting when joining new yarn! No more Russian knot. The yarn holds together perfectly. I haven’t yet steeked anything, but it’s on my bucket list of things to learn.

  • Sorry for the large review, however I’m genuinely loving the brand new Microsoft zune, and hope this particular, as well as the superb reviews some other men and women wrote, can help you decide if it is the appropriate choice for you.

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