Posted by: christinelaennec | December 4, 2016

The Oregon Cardigan and Other Steeks I Have Known

After eleven months of work (alongside a number of smaller projects), my Oregon cardigan is finished!  I am well pleased with it.

The Oregon cardigan by Alice Starmore.

The Oregon cardigan by Alice Starmore.  Photo taken by the Dafter at Aberfoyle Forestry Commission.

If you are interested in steeking and construction techniques, read on.  If not, I quite understand and I hope to be back soon with more tales of family life and of course Christmas preparations!

In my last post, I showed you the start of the process of trimming and tacking the steeks down on the wrong side of the garment.  Here is the Oregon cardigan, wrong side out, with steeks tacked down:

Steeks all finished wrong side

Steeks all finished (wrong side)

The most challenging aspect of this particular project has turned out (as I had somewhat suspected) to be the buttonbands.

Buttonband finished.

Buttonband finished.

Below I will show you how I have finished other buttonbands with a knitted facing.  But I wasn’t confident of making a facing for a curving Vneck.  So I am attempting to do as suggested in the pattern, and simply bind off.  As you can see, and despite my repeated efforts to bind off with a good tension, the buttonbands curl:

Buttons on

With buttons on, and a clear snap for good measure.

However, I think I have a solution.  A few years ago, I made Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Fair Isle Yoke Cardigan.  (You can see my Ravelry photos and notes here.)  It was pretty snug when I finished it, and the buttonband gapped horribly.  So I basted the buttonband together, and wore it for a few months as a pullover instead of a cardigan.  It was very interesting how much the cardigan relaxed in that time, and when I undid the basting, the cardigan wasn’t particularly snug, and the buttonbands lay very nicely.  As they still do to this day, six years later.

So I am going to see if a few months of behaviour-modification-via-basting works on the Oregon cardigan.  I carefully basted the buttonbands closed, with a contrasting piece of wool:

Buttonband basted together.

Buttonband basted together.

Basting closer up

Basting closer up.  The buttons are some old buttons that I have had for a long time.

Because it’s vital that I not clip the wrong strand of yarn when it comes to undoing this basting, I have left unmistakeable ends on the wrong side:

On the inside, long tails that will be helpful when the time comes to undo the basting.

On the inside, long tails that will be helpful when the time comes to undo the basting.

So what you are actually looking at is a sewn-together cardigan.  A bit like sewing babies into their Liberty bodices for the winter!  But I can easily take this off:

Worn as a pullover - finished for now!

Worn as a pullover – finished for now!

If the buttonbands revert to curling, or if the curling edges above the basted overlap get worse, I will add a facing.  It might be easier to do so once the cardigan has relaxed a bit.  More about facings in a moment.

Because so many of you have expressed an interest in the technique of steeking, I thought I would show you some of my other cardigans that were constructed with steeks.  Here we have the Rona cardigan by Alice Starmore, which I made back in 2001.  As you can see, I completely forgot to cross stitch down one of the sleeve steeks!

I think it was precisely because of a curling cast-off on the buttonband that I decided to knit a matching facing.  I did this by making a purl row as a fold line, and reduplicating the pattern to match.  This requires making matching buttonholes, and sewing the two layers together where the buttonholes are, but it provides a nice, sturdy buttonband.

Rona Cardigan by Alice Starmore, made in 2001. Showing steeks, including the one that I forgot to tack down!

Rona Cardigan by Alice Starmore, made in 2001. Showing steeks, including the one that I forgot to tack down!

However, I didn’t make facings for the neckband or indeed the cuffs.  A friend asked me once, “How can such a thick sweater ever wear out?”  Well, this is how:

Cuff worn very thin after 15 years, and much mending.

Cuff worn very thin after 15 years, and much mending.

I still wear this jacket – often over another, lighter, cardigan – and I will be very, very sad when the day finally comes that I have to retire it.  I think it will become a cushion…

After I’d made Rona, the next stranded jacket I made was the Rambling Rose cardigan, also by Alice Starmore.

Rambling Rose by Alice Starmore. I made this in about 2008.

Rambling Rose jacket by Alice Starmore. I made this in about 2008.

This time, I decided to face the neckband, buttonbands, and cuffs.  I did so using one of the background colours of wool, rather than reduplicated colourwork:

Rambling Rose jacket by Alice Starmore. Steeked and facings added to neckband and buttonband.

Rambling Rose jacket, made with facings added to neckband and buttonband.  With a double-layer buttonband, I find it best to use buttons with a shank, although you could make a shank with thread as well.

cuffs lined

Cuffs with added facing.

I wore this jacket to church today, and it is still going strong.  It gives me great pleasure.

Back to the topic of steeks, here is the steek of the Elizabeth Zimmermann Fair Isle cardigan (the one where I basted the buttonband shut until it settled down).  It isn’t the best feature of the cardigan!  Perhaps my next step as a knitter will be to use ribbon instead of cross stitch to fasten the steeks down?  I would be a bit worried in case the ribbon shrank.  If anyone has used ribbon facings, I would be interested to hear how it worked for you.

Elizabeth Zimmermann fairisle cardigan.

Elizabeth Zimmermann fairisle cardigan.

Regular readers may remember that I made a steeked jacket last year that was faced with fabric, a first for me.  You can see the New Leaf cardigan on Ravelry here.

So you can see that steeking is a technique that I find very useful and worth the trouble.  I love being able to do colourwork on the right side only, and on a large scale.  The only part of making the colourwork cardigans that I don’t enjoy so much is when I finally have to switch to double-pointed needles towards the ends of the sleeves.  Maybe it’s because I don’t do a lot of dpn knitting, but I find it far more difficult to keep the stranded knitting even.  I go over those sections after I’ve finished, on the right side, tugging and sometimes using a darning needle to straighten out the knitting.  I know from experience that it will settle into itself.  I don’t generally block my colourwork, unless I really think it needs it.

What is next for my “complicated knitting” project, you ask?  Another cardigan.  This time a kit that is partly a Christmas present from Michael.  It has arrived from Sweden!  Can you guess?

Kit to make "Yellow ..." cardigan from A....

Kit to make the Yellow Lace Collar cardigan from AngoraGarnet

The pattern doesn’t contain a photo of the finished garment, so I must direct you here so you can see.  I have long been interested in Bohus knits, and it’s exciting that this company has been authorized to continue the Bohus design tradition.  I also like their animal welfare policy.  This should keep me busy for a while!  Perhaps I will finish it by the summertime… hmm…  oh well, fortunately I live in a part of the world where I need to wear a sweater of some type nearly every day, so it doesn’t really matter when I finish it.

In the meantime I am enjoying breaking in the Oregon cardigan.  I’ll let you know what happens when I undo the basting in a few months’ time!

Take care, and all the best for the coming week.



  1. I’m so impressed, Christine. I am so out of your league all together. Wow! Absolutely beautiful sweaters … all of them. Be great to see your Yellow Lace Collar cardigan as it progresses.

  2. Gracefully beautiful. And it fits perfect, too! Congrats for completing this lovely sweater. I love the design and yarn for the new kit you received. It will be a fun project. Hopefully you’ll share your progress with us. Take care dear friend, Pat xx

  3. oh . . . so many comments . . . first off, your project is lovely and fits you beautifully. Congratulations to you! I have also sewn down plackets . . . I call that garmenit a cardipull! hahaha I never once thought to take out the sewing after the behavior modification, however so once, a cardipull, always a cardipull! A neat idea to try, however. The question I have about reinforcing a button band with ribbon are the buttonholes themselves. Are they machine made, then sewn to the knitted buttonholes? I’ve always wondered about that. ok, off to work on fair isle coat of mine which is made entirely of seams (you know me) and does not have a steek in sight. Again, congratulations on your 11 month project!

  4. My admiration for your skill and daring is akin to the sense of wonder I have when looking at the stars in heaven and marveling at their beauty, Christine! Thanks for showing/typing about how you created the Oregon cardigan, which I found very interesting and downright amazing! Mt. Hood is collecting lots of snow and we may even get some flakes down here in Boring tomorrow morning. Exciting 🙂 Love to you and yours xx

  5. I am so impressed with your skills, something that I will never do but I am in awe of anyone that can. I enjoyed learning the process, always nice to learn a new craft.

  6. Your knitting is amazing!! xx

  7. It’s just beautiful, Christine. It looks very warm too. ♡

  8. This is so amazing to even consider that someone could do this just blows me away. Great work!

    • Amen to that.

  9. Look at that! It is all so neat and meticulous – truly a work of art!

  10. Thankyou for this – it does interest me. All of these items are works of art!
    I’d guess, with using ribbon for facings, the risk would be that some wool relaxes a lot after the first washing, and the garment ends up a bit looser. And that might mean that the facing became too tight. I find that, unless I’ve used the same yarn before, it’s hard to predict exactly what the dimensions will be after the garment is washed.

  11. Dear all,
    Thank you very much for your extremely kind comments. I have been knitting for a long time and so these complex projects are stepping stones along the way. Plus I am often driven by a deep desire to obtain the finished article, and that gives me courage!

    Holly – I will be interested to see your seamed fair isle coat! You must be knitting fair isle on both sides, i.e. purling back, to make pieces to join. I’ve made a cotton fair isle cardigan that way, and didn’t enjoy the purling rows (but like the cardigan!). It wasn’t lining the buttonbands with ribbon that I was wondering about, but covering the steeks with ribbon (where I have used cross-stitch). I did once use ribbon to line a buttonband, on a cardigan I loved literally to pieces, the Wentworth cardigan by Kaffe Fassett. It’s made of Kidsilk Haze and the button-bearing side needed the stability of the ribbon. Also I know that a lot of fair-isle cardigans made in Shetland for sale and export had buttonbands that were lined, both sides, with ribbon.

    Flora – yes, I agree. With my New Leaf jacket, which has fabric facings, I washed and steam-blocked my swatch, and also washed and ironed the fabric for the facings. I haven’t yet washed the entire garment, but I think it will be okay. The other unpredictable factor is what time does to a garment after repeated wear…

  12. Such beauties – and Oregon is so becoming too! Oregon and Rona are on my wish list, by the way, so I think I’m beginning to see you as my Starmore sister 🙂

    Hope you’ll enjoy your Bohus project! Once I knitted a pair of cuffs (Blue Shimmer) which was a bit tricky but very rewarding: I recommend good light, because the subtle shades and hues were difficult to keep separate. It’s really impossible to name a favourite Bohus design, but I think mine is The Wild Apple by Kerstin Olsson. Have fun!

    • Ivar, I am very honoured to think I could be your Starmore sister! Thanks for the tip about the lighting – having wound the wool, I can see what you mean! Yes, The Wild Apple is beautiful.

  13. That is a work of art, Christine!
    And your Bohus project – Bohuslän is where we go in Sweden. Very tempted to buy a house there when we were there this year to escape Brexit and assorted stuff! Loads of photos on my Instagram.

  14. Awesome! (In the original meaning of the word) I’m a complete ignoramus when it comes to knitting but I can see that’s a whopper of an achievement.

  15. Well done. Perhaps in 2017 I will attempt steering. Thank you.

  16. So many beautiful sweaters, and all the steeks! You make them look so easy 🙂
    You certainly deserve to bask in your Oregon cardigan – well done, it’s lovely! And such a clever idea about basting to relax the buttonband.
    And oh, bohus stickning! I’m excited about this one already. In my dream world where I knit stranded colourwork effortlessly, I would make the white jumper with the ice blue yoke.

  17. Dear Linda, Lorna, Marjorie and Sakthi,
    Thanks very much! I will keep you all updated as to knitting projects, and fingers crossed I can manage the Bohus sweater okay. Sakthi, it was really difficult to choose just one…
    Linda, can I come visit you when you move to Sweden?!

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