What is Steelcase 3D knit? Is it better?

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What is Steelcase 3D knit?

Steelcase 3D knit refers to the upholstery fabric used to cover the chair backrest. 3D knit fabric differs from standard chair fabrics in that it is knitted (almost like a sweater), rather than woven like many chair fabrics. 

Knit fabrics are made up of a single yarn, looped together to create a braided look. They tend to be stretchier and softer to the touch.

A woven fabric is made up of multiple yarns crossed together at right angles, and tends to be firmer in feel. 

The Steelcase Cogent:Connect fabric line is a good example of a knitted material^. By contrast, the Steelcase Era fabric line is a good example of a woven fabric alternative.

Check out this great video that illustrates the difference between each fabric type, with some example chairs included:

^ Note: Cogent:Connect is not the same thing as the 3D knit material, but it has some similar properties as a knitted fabric. The 3D knit fabric is actually the same mesh fabric used in the Steelcase Think chair, but is often implemented as an insulation layer over a supporting fabric.

Difference between Steelcase 3D knit and standard mesh

Standard mesh fabrics are often woven rather than knitted, and can feel firmer and less breathable than the 3D knit option.

The 3D knit material provides transparency like other mesh materials^, but also offers an additional thickness or “three-dimensional” feeling that some find more comfortable. 

According to this Steelcase product FAQ, the 3D knit fabric also acts as an insulation layer between the flexors in the chair and your body. 

^ Note: the 3D knit is often used in conjunction with a backing fabric, meaning overall the chair is not transparent. So transparency will depend on the particular model you’re considering.

Benefits of Steelcase 3D knit fabric

  • Stretchy fit
  • “Three-dimensional” feel
  • More breathable
  • Softer feel
  • Extra insulation 

Drawbacks of Steelcase 3D knit fabric

  • Not as suitable for those who prefer a firmer fit 
  • Some users complain about dirt or dust getting more easily trapped in this type of fabric 

Is Steelcase 3D knit fabric better than standard mesh?

Many users prefer the softer feel of the 3D knit material over standard mesh, as well as the greater breathability and insulation. 

If you’re looking for something softer and stretchier, the 3D knit option may be a good choice. 

If you’ve used chairs with traditional mesh fabrics before and felt comfortable, perhaps the standard mesh option would work just fine.

Ultimately, which material you prefer is a matter of personal preference. 

What Steelcase chairs use the 3D knit material?

Iconic Steelcase chairs utilising the 3D knit material include the Steelcase Think, the Steelcase Amia, and Steelcase Leap chairs.

Most of the other chairs support the 3D knit too, although in some cases you may need to purchase through the “build your own” option rather than the “ready to deliver” model.

Double-check the fabric options on the product listing page when uncertain.

See the table below for a summary of some of the main chairs and their fabric options.

Steelcase Chair Fabric Comparison

Here’s a quick summary of the fabric options for a selection of popular Steelcase chairs [2]: 

ChairFabric options
Steelcase Series 13D Knit (backrest)
Using the “Build Yours” option: 
3D Microknit (backrest), Era (seat), Cogent:Connect (seat), Leather (seat)
Steelcase Series 23D Knit (backrest), 
Using the “Build Yours” option: 
Era (seat), Cogent:Connect (seat), Leather (seat)
Steelcase Think3D Knit (backrest) or fabric to match seat, Era (seat), Cogent:Connect (seat), Leather (seat), Retrieve (seat)
Steelcase LeapStandard fabric
Using the “Build Yours” option:
3D Knit (via separate product page), Era (seat), Cogent:Connect (seat)
Steelcase GestureEra (backrest and seat)
Using the “Build Yours” option: 
Era (backrest and seat), Cogent:Connect  (backrest and seat), or Leather  (backrest and seat)

Check the official Steelcase website for a comprehensive and updated list of chair options.

Alternatives to Steelcase 3D knit 

Instead of the 3D knit material, you can typically also opt for a woven fabric like the “Era” line or a leather upholstery.

For some models, you have the option of combining the 3D knit material with woven fabrics or other mesh materials. For example, you may have an “Era” seat with a 3D knit layer on the backrest. 

Check out this official listing on the Steelcase store for an example of how you can mix and match options. Notice the “3D knit option” adjusts the material on the backrest, whereas the “Era” and  “Cogent:Connect” options adjust the seat material .

Again, you’ll need to confirm available options via the product page for a particular Steelcase model.

Final thoughts 

As mentioned, the Steelcase 3D knit fabric is a special knitted material that differs from the other standard mesh fabrics. 

In some models, it is an additional insulation layer on top of the chair backrest, and is supported by a backing material.

In other cases, like this Steelcase Think model, the 3D knit material constitutes the primary backrest layer. 

If you enjoy an additional level of breathability and a soft fit, it may be a good option for you.


[1] https://www.dutchlabelshop.com/en_au/blog/difference-knit-woven-fabric/#:~:text=The%20basic%20difference%20between%20woven,angles%20to%20form%20the%20grain.

[2] https://store.steelcase.com/seating/office-chairs?cclcl=en_US