The end of your knitting is just as important as the beginning and the middle, as it can be crucial to a project’s stability and the appearance of those final edges.
Most garments, scarves and shawls require some kind of bind-off, but not all projects need a bind-off: Hats worked from the brim up, mittens, gloves or shawls worked from the bottom up likely require simply sewing closed the remaining handful of stitches left at the top of the hat, tips of fingers and so forth.
Sometimes the standard bind-off is all you need, but for other cases you might need a special bind off. No matter your project, this guide can help you finish off that project and start showing it off!
Standard knitted bind-off
The standard knitting bind-off produces a neat, even edge appropriate for all kinds of projects. It’s not very flexible, however, which means it’s not a great choice for socks or sleeve cuffs.
Step 1: Knit the first stitch
Begin by inserting your needle through the first stitch on the work, with the right side facing you. Work this stitch as a regular knit stitch.
Step 2: Knit the second stitch
Next, knit the second stitch on the needle as normal.
Step 3: Pass the first stitch over the second stitch
Then, pull the first knitted stitch over the second one and drop the first stitch off the needle.
You have now bound off one stitch.
Step 4: Repeat as needed
Repeat Steps 2 and 3. That is, knit one stitch, then slip the previous stitch over the new stitch and off the needle. Repeat this until all stitches have been bound off.
Step 4: Fasten off your yarnWhen there is just the final stitch remaining on the right hand needle, cut the working yarn and pull it through the final stitch, completing the edge.
When the standard bind-off just won’t do the trick, try one of these options.
The three-needle bind-off is a popular one for edges that need some stability, since the alternative of grafting live stitches would prove too stretchy and saggy over time. It’s also useful for edges that involve both knit and purl stitches, since the bind-off work occurs on the inside of the work and does not show on finished garments.
You’ll commonly find three-needle bind-off in use on shoulder seams, the top of hoods on hooded sweaters or to fasten together two ends of a neckline that meet at the back of a collar.
Step 1: Arrange your stitches on two needles
First, arrange your stitches on two needles or at either end of the same circular needle, and then turn each one so that the wrong side is facing. This might take a bit of fiddling around or rearranging of stitches. Ideally, you will have the working yarn still attached to one of the pieces of work, but if not, you can start with a fresh length of yarn and weave in the end later.
Step 2: Knit two stitches, one from each needle, together
Next, insert your third needle knitwise through the first stitch on each needle. Wrap the yarn as if to knit and knit these two stitches together. Let the first stitch from each of the parallel needles to fall off.
You’ll have one stitch on your third needle.
Step 3: Knit two together, then pass the first stitch over
Repeat Step 2, knitting two stitches together. Then, with one of the left-hand needles, pull the first stitch over top of the second stitch and let it fall off the needle, just like in a regular knitwise bind-off.
You have now bound off one stitch.
Step 4: Repeat as needed
Continue these last two steps until all stitches have been bound off. As you can see, this method works when there’s an equal number of stitches on each piece of fabric involved. The finished result is very neat from the outside.
There are lots of types of stretchy bind-offs. One of the most common is the Knit 2 Together Through the Back Loop bind-off.
A stretchy bind-off is a good choice for any knitting that needs to fit around a part of a body — a neckline, top-down hems and hats, toe-up socks and so forth.
Step 1: Knit the first two stitches from the left needle
Step 2: Slip the left needle into the front of both stitches you just knit onto the right needle.
Step 3: Knit the two stitches together
Notice that the position of the needles is the same as when you k2tog through the back loop on the left needle. You now have one stitch on the needle and have completed one bind-off.
Step 4: Knit the next stitch
You now have two stitches on the needle.
Step 5: Repeat Steps 2 and 3
Slip the left needle into the front of the two stitches and k2tog tbl.
Repeat Steps 4 and 5 until you have one loop left on the right needle. Then knot the loop as you would in a standard knitted bind-off.
The I-cord bind-off is perfect for that special finish to visible edges of your work. Also known as applied I-cord, this bind-off creates a flat tube of stitches similar to the standalone I-cord but attached to your work.
Step 1: Cast on 3 stitches to the left needle
Either the knitted cast-on or cable cast-on work well. If you are knitting in the round, you could use a provisional cast-on.
Step 2: Knit the first two stitches
Step 3: Knit the next two stitches through the back loop
Knit the third stitch you cast on together with the next stitch. Pull the working yarn to tighten up the stitch, but leave a little ease so you can slip the stitch.
Step 4: Slip all 3 stitches from the right needle back to the left needle
Step 5: Repeat Steps 2 – 4
At first you won’t see much, but after several repetitions, you will start to see the I-cord forming perpendicular to your work.
When you have 3 stitches left on the left needle, knit those 3 stitches together through the back loop and knot the last loop as you would with the standard bind-off.
If you’re looking for a pretty way to finish an edge, the picot bind-off may be your answer. This beautiful stitch adds decorative loops to the edge of projects as you bind-off.
You can use this bind-off to add a pretty feature to any visible edge. Add it to baby and children’s clothes, fingerless mitts, cowls, shawls, sweater hems, sock tops and blanket edges.
This bind-off is similar to the standard bind-off, but with additional stitches cast on as you go to create the picots.
Step 1: Cast on 2 new stitches to the left needle
The knitted cast-on works well here.
Step 2: Bind off 5 stitches using the standard bind-off
Start by knitting the two new stitches and passing the first stitch over the second stitch. Then knit the third stitch and bind off again. Repeat the knit and bind off for the next three stitches.
You have now bound off five stitches. (Note that you knit six stitches to bind off five stitches.)
Step 3: Slip the stitch on your right needle back to the left needle
Step 4: Repeat Steps 1 – 3.
Cast on two stitches, binding off five stitches with the standard bind-off, and slip the remaining stitch back to the left needle. Continue until there is only one stitch left. Knot the final stitch as you would with the standard bind-off.
Customizing your picot bind-off
- You can increase the size of the picot by casting on a larger number of stitches. You can also reduce the size by casting on just one stitch. Always bind off at least double the number of stitches you cast on. So if you want a larger picot, you might cast on four stitches and then you would bind off at least eight stitches.
- If you want more space between the picots, just bind off more stitches than the double number you need for the picot before you cast on again. If you wanted to space out the picots in the tutorial example, you could bind off eight stitches before slipping the stitch from the right needle to the left needle and casting on the next two stitches.
- The tighter you work this bind-off, the neater the picot points.
Binding off in pattern
Have you ever encountered the phrase “bind off in pattern” in knitting instructions? When we bind off in pattern, we’re keeping the same stitch pattern that we’ve used throughout the project, ensuring that last row keeps the stitch pattern going.
Why bind off in patterns?
Here’s a secret: If you use a standard bind off instead of binding off in pattern, we bet no one will notice. But there are some situations when binding off in pattern actually makes for a better edge.
Let’s take a look at some examples of binding off in pattern vs. standard bind off to see the tiny little differences.
Binding off in K2, P2 ribbing
Many top-down sweaters end with a nice ribbed hem. Let’s assume your hem is a K2, P2 ribbing. If the pattern asks you to bind off in pattern, your bind off row will also be a K2, P2 row. Here’s a closer look:
In the swatch below, we just stitched knit stitches all the way across like in a normal bind off, and here’s what it looked like:
Some knitters might prefer how this looks as opposed to binding off in pattern. In fact, it doesn’t actually look that different. However, by using all knit stitches to bind off ribbing, you lose a little bit of stretch on the edge. But if you’re concerned about stretch and you like the way the standard knit bind-off looks, go for it!
Binding off cables
Most patterns that include cables ask you to end on a specific row so that you don’t have to bind off at a cable crossing. When it comes to cables, a good general rule is: Knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches.
In the swatch below, for example, the center cable uses 4 knit stitches with 6 purl stitches on each side. When binding off, we purled all the purl stitches on the sides and knitted the cable stitches.
You could just do a standard bind off across the edge, but the knit stitches on the bind off row don’t blend well with the purl stitches. Here’s what it looks like:
Not that different than binding off in pattern, is it? If you look very very closely and roll back the edge a bit, you’ll see the knit stitches right above the purl stitches on the bind-off row. If you want your stitches to blend, though, it might be best to bind off in pattern.
Binding off lace patterns
Lace patterns can’t follow that knit-the-knit-stitches rule because lace is often made up of yarn overs, k2togs, and other special stitches. It can get confusing!
For lace patterns, you probably won’t even encounter “bind off in pattern” in the instructions. Instead, you’ll find instructions for a specific bind off, like a stretchy bind-off or a picot bind-off. The Waterspout Shawl above, featured in Anna Dalvi’s My First Lace Shawl class, uses a bind off that combines knit stitches with k2togs.
The rule of thumb here: Follow the pattern’s recommendation.
The bottom line on binding off in pattern
Binding off in pattern isn’t totally necessary, but sometimes it looks nicer or reinforces a specific quality in your knitting.