Every knitter knows that feeling — the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment you get when you are binding off. You’ve reached the end of the project (or at least a piece of the project) and the bind-off is that final closure.
But hold on! Your bind-off isn’t just the last row of the project — it’s an important part of it. The way you bind off (or cast off) can add a fabulous finishing touch to your knitting that will give you another reason to look forward to that last row.
Learn how to bind off four different ways!
1. Standard bind-off
This is the bind-off most knitters are taught first, and with good reason. It is easy to learn and provides a neat, stable edge.
When to use the standard bind-off
This stable bind-off is great for ending pieces that need a neat finish, or pieces that will be seamed and elasticity is not necessary or desired. Afghan squares, scarves and stoles might be good projects for a standard bind-off.
How to do the standard bind-off
We’ve written out the step-by-step directions below, but if you want to keep your eyes on your needles, you can listen to this audio tutorial:
Step 1: Knit the first 2 stitches from the left needle.
Step 2: Pass the first stitch over the second stitch and drop it off the end of the needle.
Insert your left-hand needle into the first stitch to help lift it over the second stitch. You have now bound off one stitch.
Step 3: Knit the next stitch on your right needle.
Step 4: Repeat Step 2.
Pass the first stitch on the right-hand needle over the second stitch and drop it off the needle. You have now bound off two stitches.
Repeat Steps 3 and 4 until you have one stitch left on your needle.
Cut your yarn, leaving about a 4-inch tail. Thread the end through the remaining loop and pull to tighten. This will keep the edge from unraveling.
Your completed standard bind-off edge will be a neat row of stitches that look like knitted stitches running perpendicular to your work.
2. Stretchy bind-off
As you knit more, you will discover that the standard bind-off does not work well with all projects. The first time I figured this out was when I used it for a tight neckline and couldn’t get my head through the sweater! That’s where you need a stretchy bind-off.
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.
When to use the stretchy 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.
How to do the stretchy bind-off
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 bind-off.
Tips for knitting the stretchy bind-off
If you have trouble slipping the left needle in front of the stitches because of a lack of dexterity in your left hand, try this variation: Slip the two stitches you knit from the right needle back on to the left needle and do a standard k2tog tbl.
3. I-cord 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.
When to use the I-cord bind-off
This bind-off adds the perfect finishing touch to any project with a visible edge — sweater necklines and hems, cowl edges, shawls and more.
How to do the I-cord bind-off
Step 1: Cast on three stitches to the left needle.
I recommended either the knit or cable cast-on. 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 together 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 three stitches from the right needle back on to the left needle.
Step 5: Repeat Steps 2 through 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 three 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.
Tips for knitting the I-cord bind-off:
1. Knit the I-cord bind-off in a contrasting color to add extra style, like in this tutorial.
2. You might want to use a smaller size needle for the bind-off to get a neater edge, though it will reduce the elasticity.
3. This bind-off does take additional yarn and more time, so factor that into your project.
Give the I-cord bind-off a try!
Melanie Berg’s ever-popular Drachenfels Shawl knitting kit uses an I-cord bind-off as a finishing touch.
4. Picot 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.
When to use the picot 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 additional stitches as you go to create the picots.
How to do the picot bind-off
Step 1: Cast on two new stitches on to the left needle.
I recommended using the knitted cast-on.
Step 2: Bind off the five 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 the right needle back on to the left needle.
Repeat Steps 1 through 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.
Tips for knitting the picot bind-off
1. 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.
2. If you wanted 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.
3. The tighter you work this bind-off, the neater the picot points.
Try the picot bind-off!
Give this decorative bind-off a try on Jennifer Weissman’s Pisac Shawl knitting kit.