If you know me, you'll know that I'm always on the hunt for the perfect stretchy bind-off.
In this blog post I'll discuss the relationship between the yarnover bind-off, Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off (JSSBO) and Sheena's Stretchy Sock Bind-off (SSSBO), and explain why these bind-off methods are so stretchy. I also present two modifications of the SSSBO: one intended for sock cuffs, the other for sweater hems or sleeve cuffs done in 2x2 ribbing.
Yarnover Bind-off: Why So Stretchy?
As the name suggests, in the yarnover bind-off extra yarnovers are added to the bind-off edge. Before working a stitch, do a yarnover first, knit 1, then pass both the yarnover and the previous stitch over the one you just knitted. In the yarnover bind-off, the stitch-to-yarnover ratio is 1:1. This means that one new stitch (yarnover) is added for every existing stitch, essentially doubling the stitch count for the bind-off row. This doubling up is what makes yarnover bind-off so very stretchy: it came first in my stretchy bind-off comparison with a whopping 126% of stretch.
But yarnover bind-off also comes with a lot of flare (22%). Because you're cramming all those extra stitches on one row, the bind-off edge can't help but start to ripple. That's why the yarnover bind-off is great for uses where the bind-off edge is going to be blocked vigorously, such as in lace shawls. If you want to avoid flare, though, there are better options.
What's Jeny's Got to Do with It?
Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off, a favorite among sock knitters, is a variation of the yarnover bind-off. Whereas in the yarnover bind-off all yarnovers are done in the usual direction (front to back or counter-clockwise), in JSSBO every yarnover preceding a knit stitch is a reverse yarnover done back to front (a.k.a. BYO, backwards yarnover).
Because of the path the working yarn travels, a reverse yarnover adds slightly less yarn to the bind-off edge. The stitch-to-yarnover ratio is still 1:1 and the stitch count is doubled but the bind-off edge is not quite as long as in the bind-off edge. This makes JSSBO still plenty stretchy (109% of stretch) but not as flare-y (13% of flare).
Sheena's Stretchy Sock Bind-off
Sheena's Stretchy Sock Bind-off is a great bind-off option for sock cuffs done in K2, P2 ribbing. In SSSBO, an extra yarnover is added only between two knit stitches or two purl stitches, never between a knit and a purl.
SSSBO is also a variation of the yarnover bind-off but the stitch-to-yarnover ratio is now halved to 2:1. Compared to the other two methods this one is slightly less stretchy (83% of stretch) but it also doesn't have nearly as much flare (only 4% of flare).
But there's one issue I don't care about the SSSBO: when a yarnover is added between two knit stitches, it creates a visible bar that interrupts the flow. And here's where my two modifications come in.
Modification #1: Stretchy Bind-off for 2x2 Ribbing in Sock Cuffs
Instead of doing one yarnover in the knit column and one in the purl column, in this modification both yarnovers are done before a purl stitch. This keeps the stitch-to-yarnover ratio still at 2:1 but hides the unsightly bars among the purl bumps. Here's how you do it.
If the next stitch is a knit stitch, bind it off normally using the standard bind-off: knit 1 and pass the previous stitch over the stitch you just knitted.
If the next stitch is a purl stitch, make a yarnover, purl 1, pass the yarnover (in the middle) over the stitch you just purled, then pass the previous stitch (right) over the same stitch.
The same can be done a bit more fluently by dropping an extra step: make a yarnover, purl 1, then grab the second and third stitches, and pass them both over the stitch you just purled in one fell swoop.
Because the stitch-to-yarnover ratio doesn't change, this modification is just as stretchy as SSSBO and the extra bars of yarn are moved to a place where you can't see them. Stretchy and pretty! Here's how it looks like in an unstretched sock cuff.
While this bind-off method is very stretchy, I prefer to use it in sock cuffs only. For applications where you need only a bit stretch — but not too much — I like to use this next one.
Modification #2: Stretchy (But Not Too Stretchy) Bind-off for 2x2 Ribbing in Sweater Cuffs and Hems
In this version the stitch-to-yarnover ratio is halved again to 4:1. This variation is essentially half-SSSBO: an extra yarnover is added only between two purl stitches, again hiding the bar of yarn among the purl bumps.
One extra yarnover per four stitches is enough to create slightly more give that's often needed for sweater hems to fit nicely over your bum or hips. It also creates a nice bind-off edge for sweater cuffs. But that extra yarnover per four stitches is not too much to cause unwanted flare in a place where it would be too visible.
Next time you're looking for that perfect bind-off for 2x2 ribbing, give these methods a try!
Pin this post!