So far in the tutorial series we've looked at ways to start your knitting, that is, how to cast on a project using the long-tail method, how to cast on stitches in the middle of a row, how to do a provisional cast-on, and how to cast on toe-up socks.
Today, we're going to the opposite end of the knitting journey: how to finish your knitting project so that the live stitches on the needle don't unravel, also known as binding off or casting off. Here are five different methods.
#1. Standard Bind-off a.k.a Traditional Bind-off
This was probably the first bind-off you were taught, right? Knit two stitches, pass the first one over the second, knit another stitch, pass the first one over the second and so on and so forth... I've sometimes seen this method referred to as lifted bind-off because that's what you do: lift the stitches over one another.
The standard bind-off is the one I use the most often if the bind-off row doesn't have to be particularly stretchy. It creates a very neat-looking, sturdy edge that looks great on most projects. If your knitting pattern doesn't specify a particular bind-off method, it's probably safe to do the standard bind-off.
#2. Binding off in Pattern
When you see knitting pattern instructions that tell you to "bind off in pattern", it means you should use the standard bind-off but knit the knits and purl the purls on the bind-off row. This makes the bind-off edge mimic the way the stitch pattern looks in, say, ribbing or seed stitch.
To tell you the truth, though: I really like the way that smooth chain of stitches created by a bind-off row looks and I usually do all my bind-offs by just knitting all stitches.
#3. Yarnless Bind-off
This is the bind-off to do in a pinch! The yarnless bind-off literally does what it says on the tin: you don't need any yarn to do it.
This is a great little trick to have in your bind-off toolbox if you ever need to bind off knitting but you've run out of yarn. All you have to do is — just like in the standard bind-off — pass the first stitch over the second, only this time you don't have to knit the stitches first.
There's a big caveat to this bind-off, though. It has virtually no give at all so use it only when your knitted object doesn't have to stretch. It's therefore not the ideal bind-off to use in most cases but can be handy when you need the extra stability the bind-off edge creates. That's why I love to use the yarnless bind-off when doing knitted buttonholes so my buttonholes don't stretch out over time.
#4. Three-needle Bind-off
The three-needle bind-off is like the lovechild of binding off and seaming. Use it when you need to bind off a knitted piece and, at the same time, join it to another piece.
To do the three-needle bind-off you need two sets of stitches arranged on two needles held parallel to each other. With a third needle — and this is where the name comes from — you work stitches together from both needles and then bind them off like you would with the standard bind-off.
The three-needle bind-off technique is great to use when you need to join live stitches together with a sturdy, non-stretching seam such as joining garment pieces at the shoulder. It can also be used to close an opening, such as at the tip of a mitten or the toe of a sock but it creates a noticeable seam on the inside which might not be comfortable to wear. (This is where Kitchener stitch comes in.)
#5. Picot Bind-off
My favorite way for binding off shawls! The picot bind-off is both stretchy and decorative which makes it ideal for shawls. Picot is a French word meaning 'a small point' and that's what you see on the bind-off edge: small nubbly bits made by casting on, then binding off a few stitches.
To work the picot bind-off you also need to know how to work the knitted cast-on (or similar). Most picot bind-off instructions I've come across have you cast on two stitches, then bind off four — but you can of course experiment with the numbers. The larger the number of stitches you cast on, then longer and more pronounced the picot will be. You could even create a fringe-like effect with extra long picots, like on Joji Locatelli's Inner Peace shawl.
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