How to bind off in pattern

A step-by-step tutorial on the alternating bind-off and ways to achieve an in-pattern edge for ribbings, etc.

Most knitting is not done in plain stockinette stitch. Ribbings, moss stitch, seed stitch, and a whole host of other knitting stitch patterns adorn the projects of most knitters. But the standard bind-off DOES create a row of knit stitches in the same breath. You can fix that by binding off in pattern.

comparing a standard edge with the in pattern bind off. the standard version shows a knit v above the last purl row
Swatch in the back: Bound off in pattern | Swatch in the front: Standard bind-off. See the little knit Vs right at the top disrupting the purl columns?

Basically, it boils down to reading your knitting and knitting every stitch the way it appears before you bind it off. So, all purl stitches get purled before you pass things over, and all knit stitches get knit before you pass over. In that manner, you can avoid creating an edge that disrupts your edge if you look very closely.

a swatch in 2x2 rib stitch with an in pattern bind-off

Let’s show you how to bind off in pattern with a 2×2 rib stitch example.

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Instructions: How to bind off in pattern

a swatch in 2x2 rib stitch with an in pattern bind-off

This simple method works for every knit/purl knitting stitch pattern. By popular demand, I'll show it using a 2x2 rib stitch. Once you understand the general concept, it will be very easy to adapt to any other pattern as well.

Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Instructions

  1. Identify the first two stitches. In this case, I have two knit stitches. You can clearly see the two "V"s right below the needle.

    checking out the first two stitches. They are knit stitches as little Vs are visible below the current active stitches
  2. Knit these first stitches as they appear. In this case, I've knitted them. But if you have two purl stitches or one knit and a purl stitch, then knit them accordingly.

    having knit two stitches
  3. Pass the second stitch on the right needle over the first stitch. This step is always the same - no matter what you did in the previous step.

    passing over the second stitch as normal
  4. Identify the next stitch on your left needle. In my case, it's a purl stitch. There is a little bump right below the needle.

    someone trying to identify the next stitch. the left needle is pointing towards a visible purl bump below
  5. Knit this stitch, too, as it appears. In my case, I purl it.

    purling the next stitch
  6. Pass the second stitch over the first.

    passing over the second stitch
  7. Next, you need to identify the following stitch again. In this example, it's another purl stitch with a purl bump right below the needle.

    identifiying the next stitch. the purl bump is marked with a horizontal bracket
  8. Knit that stitch in pattern as well. I purl it since it is a purl stitch.

    purling one stitch
  9. Identify the next stitch one more time. In this case, the pattern changes to a knit stitch.

    identifying the next stitch (its a knit stitch with a v)
  10. Knit the stitch as it appears.

    knitting one stitch
  11. Pass the second stitch over the first.

    pass over the stitch
  12. Continue repeating these three steps until you've bound off all stitches in pattern. Always read the next stitch, knit it as it appears, and pass over the second stitch.

    repeat these steps to bind off in pattern

Should you always bind off in pattern?

Definitely not! Ultimately it boils down to your preferences and your project. There are, however, three tangible differences I want to mention: An in-pattern edge is less prone to curling, can look a little bit more balanced, and may be a little bit stretchier. Let’s take a look:

A) Edge doesn’t curl

comparing the two edges. the in pattern bind off doesn't curl in
Front: Standard bind-off | Back: in pattern bind-off.

As I said in the beginning, a normal bind-off creates a row of knit stitches in the same breath. As a result, the edge is much more prone to curling. If you look at the two swatches in the picture above, you can see how the edge of the swatch in front kind of leans towards the camera, while the in-pattern edge stays level.

This is, of course, just a tiny little difference and you may feel that the standard method is still prettier. Do, however, consider, that things will look different when stretched out or when viewed from a different angle (see other pictures below).

B) Edge follows the course of the ribbing

top view of an in-pattern bind off and the standard method. the latter is straight while the other follows the zig zag course of the ribbing

The picture above clearly illustrates another small difference between the two edges. Whenever you bind off a rib stitch in pattern, the edge will trace the general topography of the rest of the fabric in a zig-zag kind of manner. The standard edge remains straight with a slight inward curve.

C) Slightly stretchier

comparing the stretchiness of the in pattern bind-off with strand bind off on a blocking matt
Top: Standard bind-off | Bottom: In-pattern bind-off

For most Continental knitters and English throwers, an in-pattern bind-off edge will often be slightly stretchier. We are talking about 5 percent maximum here. I can’t quite pin-point why that is the case but I have two possible explanations for that:

  1. Ribbing is stretchier than stockinette stitch and that final row of knit stitches might inhibit the fabric slightly.
  2. Whenever you switch from a knit to a purl stitch, most knitters will create a little bit of extra slack.

Now, I have to stress that, depending on your individual tension and technique, it might not be stretchier at all. That’s definitely something you would have to test on a swatch. In most cases, the differences will be very small and I recommend picking a proper stretchy bind-off (like the surprisingly stretchy bind-off or the sewn bind-off) if you need a more elastic hem/cuff/etc.

That being said, a lot of the more advanced bind-off techniques can be adapted to create an in-pattern edge as well. Simple stick to the mantra from above: knit all knits and purl all purls.

Anyway, that’s how to bind off in pattern. Comment below if you have any questions.

how to bind off in pattern. a step by step tutorial for beginners

1 thought on “How to bind off in pattern”

  1. Hmmm…..I don’t THINK I saw the answer to my question…I’m looking for instructions for
    K2P2 Italian bind off.
    Thank you in advance for taking the time to answer. You have a wonderful site with the answers and clear pictures for problem solving.

    Lauri

    Reply

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