At Knit's End… May 16, 2013 – Posted in: How to, Thursday This and That

…comes binding off.
How often have you anticipated finishing a project? Sitting there knitting on the last couple of rows, starting to bind off – only to realize that when you were done and tried to put it on or pull it over your head that you…cannot do it. Or, are barely able to get it over your head. Or, oh my, this rib is really much shorter than the sweater. Do not assume that has never happened to me. Oh no. It has happened plenty of times.
Have you been frustrated and tossed it into a corner? Or hid it in a closet? My my, I think I yet have to teach you another lesson! And it goes: When at first you don’t succeed, try try again. The whole quote actually continues with: Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it. (W.C. Fields) – However, since I am going to tell you how to try again, there is no need to quit!
It is a fact that most of us bind off with what is called the Chain bind-off. Just because it is so common, and it is the first kind of bind-off we are taught. You knit two stitches and then pull the first over the second. You knit another one and do it again. And again. There. Easy. And usually quite tight. Unless you are a really loose knitter or have learned to let go, this bind-off is rigid and quite tight. Even when done loosely, it only stretches (if you could only call it that) so far. That’s why you cannot get your head through the neck opening, or why the rib scrunches up instead of lying flat.
There are moments in knitting when you want your bind-off to stabilize your project by being a tad rigid. Then there are moments when it is absolute contrary to what we want to achieve. Do not fret, there are ways to bind off loosely, some of them more labor intensive, others not so much.
First of all, if you bind off too tightly and do not want to change the method, use a larger needle. Not only one size larger, rather two or three. That helps to make it less tight. Secondly, you might want to try one of the following methods:

Double knitted Bind-off

This bind-off is a bit more stretchy than the Chain bind-off because you knit the stitches twice. Rule of thumb is: the more yarn you add to your bind-off, the stretchier it will be.

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Knit 2 stitches as you would for the Chain Bind-off. (Or purl, if you bind off  rib!)


Then knit these stitches together through the back loop.

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Rinse and repeat as needed.

Jeny’s suprisingly stretchy Bind-0ff

This bind-off is named after its inventor, Jeny Staiman, and it has gotten lots of love all over the internet. Just check out how many videos you can find of it on youtube. By adding yarn overs – thus more yarn – during bind off, it is indeed surprisingly stretchy. It also has a very distinct look.  If you find my photo tutorial is not sufficient to your needs, watch one or two of the offered videos – I’m sure that will help.


Before even knitting a stitch, you add a reverse yarn over, meaning from back to front. (The way you are not supposed to do it when knitting lace!)


Knit the first stitch.

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Pull yarn over over said knitted stitch.

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Make another reverse yarn over and knit the next stitch.


Pull yarn over over last knitted stitch.

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Then pull the remaining stitch over the same stitch.


Rinse and repeat as needed.

Stem-Stitch Bind-off

The Stem-Stitch bind-off falls under the category ‘sewn bind-off’. It involves more work and a tapestry needle. I won’t deny that it takes much longer than any knitted bind-off and you are going to have to deal with a long tail of yarn. Three times as long as the distance of stitches you have to bind off. However, it is the stretchiest and prettiest bind-0ff I can recommend and I do think well worth the effort. I won’t deny it takes a bit of practice to perfect it.  A similar, yet slightly easier technique is Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Sewn Bind-off which will leave you with purl bumps instead of the neat stem stitch on the right side of your knitting. As always, your preference decides what to use!


Insert your tapestry needle into the second stitch knitwise, from front to back.


Pull yarn all the way through.


Then insert your needle purlwise into the first stitch.


And under the strand that was left from before.


Drop the first stitch off the needle and tighten slightly – always pull towards the right side, it works much better!


Insert your needle knitwise into the second stitch on the needle and pull yarn through.


Then again purlwise into the first (you can already drop it off if you wish) and under the strand. Pull through.


Continue with these two steps until all stitches are bound off.

One more advice: Before you start binding off, think a little about what is required of the knitted piece. Is there a chance you need to stretch it? Slightly or more? Does it have to stretch to go over a head? Once you have figured out the requirements, choose your bind-off accordingly.

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona