A ranked list of stretchy bind-off techniques for your next knitting project
Most knitters probably have been there: You finished your project, you bind off the cuff or the hem – only to notice it’s too tight. So this massive list here is all about ways to prevent that from happening and to help you find the perfect stretchy bind-off method for every project.
And mark my words: There are more than just a handful of techniques to create an elastic bind-off in knitting. However, there is not one technique for all circumstances. The problem: The stretchier your bind-off edge, the more likely your fabric will flare out or (worse) wear out and lose its grip.
So, let’s jump right into my list. I’ll start with the least stretchy methods and end with the most stretchy bind-off.
#10 Bind-off with a needle size bigger (~5% stretchier)
It might sound a bit too trivial but always remember, you can use a needle one or two sizes bigger for just the edge. It will create somewhat loose stitches but once you’ve blocked things, it will definitely not be noticeable.
I wouldn’t go up 3 or 4 sizes under normal circumstances. In these cases, I recommend picking a proper stretchy bind-off method for a neater finish. But for all projects where you only need a little extra give, it can be just what you need.
Pro: Minimal flare, easy to do
Con: Can look a bit sloppy unstretched
#9 Alternating Bind-off/Bind-off in pattern (~5% stretchier)
Another easy and super smart way to create a slightly stretchier edge for your hem or cuff is simply binding off in pattern. Sounds complicated? Not at all.
For a normal cast-off, you always knit one and pass over. If you want to knit in pattern, you have to read your knitting and – depending on what the next stitch is – either knit or purl it before you pass it over.
Pro: Edge that continuous your pattern
Con: Edge doesn’t form one continuous line anymore; only slightly more elastic
#8 Suspended BInd-off (~5-10%)
The so-called suspended bind-off is the third way to modify the standard technique for added stretchiness. The basic idea: Instead of passing the stitch over right away, you suspend it on the left needle while to add a little bit more slack.
This interrupts the natural flow of your tension and prevents you from, as you knit the next stitch, pulling tight the previous stitch. But the result will be the same clean edge with a lovely horizontal line of knit “v”s.
Pro: Nice and clean edge, no flare
Con: A bit awkward to knit – especially for purl stitches; only slightly stretchier
#7 Twisty bind-off (10-15% stretchier)
On top of that, it’s super simple to adapt to a whole range of other knitting stitch patterns once you understood the basic idea.
PRO: Easy to do, very versatile
Con: A little bit more on the ornamental side
#6 Icelandic bind-off (15-20% stretchier)
Are you looking for a beautiful bind-off technique that goes well together with garter stitch? Well, then definitely don’t miss the Icelandic bind-off. This medium-stretchy method creates a well-rounded, almost braided edge that almost looks a bit like an I-cord.
What I personally like the most is that it doesn’t require 5 additional steps to knit. This makes it especially attractive for larger projects where some other methods will hold you up for “hours”.
PRO: Easy, smooth, and fast to knit
CON: Doesn’t look all that good for some knitting stitch patterns
#5 Sewn Bind-off (20-25% stretchier)
There are few persons on this planet that changed the knitting world more than Elizabeth Zimmerman. She also left behind a very popular and simple way to create a stretchy edge: The sewn bind-off.
As the name suggests, it requires a tapestry needle. However, it’s also just a simple 2-step repeat, so you absolutely don’t have to worry about mixing things up or forgetting the correct order (like for the Kitchener stitch or so).
PRO: Very simple repeat, super stretchy
CON: Rather ornamental edge; requires a tapestry needle and a long enough tail
#4 The surprisingly stretchy bind-off (20-25% stretchier)
Knitters have been hunting for stretchier ways to bind off their projects for generations. One of them has been Jeny Staiman. She popularized a technique she called the “surprisingly stretchy bind-off” in 2009 and it became instantly famous.
The beauty of this method is that it creates a sort of yarn reservoir below the actually bind-off stitch that will feed out more slack to the stitch above as required. It’s perfect for toe-up sock cuffs and all edges where you want some extra stretchiness without being too loose and lacking grip.
PRO: Extremely versatile and bouncy
CON: Flares out a bit; visible transition
#3 Lace bind-off/backward loop bind-off (25-30% stretchier)
Are you looking for a method that adds that little bit of extra stretchiness to your 2×2 rib? A method you can knit in-pattern that doesn’t constrict your fabric? Then the so-called lace bind-off could be your next fan.
It runs under quite a couple of different names but the basic idea is that you knit into each bind-off stitch twice. Once through the front leg and once through the back leg. This will form a little bit of extra fabric in between each stitch.
PRO: Super stretchy in-pattern edge
CON: Flares out quite a bit
#2 Latvian bind-off (30-35% stretchier)
Are you wondering what’s the most stretchy bind-off method? The Latvian bind-off certainly deserves to be at the top of any list. It’s a very unique method done with a tapestry needle that can stretch out up to 30 to 40% more compared to a standard bind-off.
To be sure, it can be quite a nuisance to finish and the edge is a little bit more on the ornamental side. On the plus side, it’s one of these rare techniques that combine stretchiness without flaring out. So, the sewing/grafting definitely pays off.
PRO: Super stretchy, barely any flare
CON: Difficult to unravel, requires you to calculate your tail, can look wonky
#1 Yarn over bind-off (30-40% stretchier)
Lace shawls and other projects with a very loose gauge often require a super stretchy edge. The yarn-over bind-off can be perfect in all such cases where you want a clean edge but need that extra bit of give.
Basically, you insert an extra stitch (the yarnover) in between each bind-off stitch. This adds more fabric but also pushes the stitches farther apart. This can look lovely for a circular project (like a pi-shawl or so) but can also distort the edge.
PRO: Super stretchy and quite neat edge
CON: Flares out in a half-circle and needs a lot of room
- Knit two stitches as normal.
- Re-insert the left needle into those two stitches on your right needle.
- Wrap the working yarn around the right needle counter-clockwise.
- Pull the yarn through. Note: Essentially you are knitting these two stitches together through the back loop.
- Drop both stitches off the left needle. First stitch bound-off.
- Knit one stitch.
- Re-insert the left needle into these two stitches.
- And knit them together through back loop
- Repeat steps 6-8 until you've bound off all stitches in that manner.
You can also knit an in-pattern edge in this manner. If your next stitch is a purl stitch, you purl it, re-insert the left needle into the back of the two stitches on your right needle and then you purl them together.