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.
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.
Let’s show you how to bind off in pattern with a 2×2 rib stitch example.
Note: I earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this article.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Knit this stitch, too, as it appears. In my case, I purl it.
- Pass the second stitch over the first.
- 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.
- Knit that stitch in pattern as well. I purl it since it is a purl stitch.
- Identify the next stitch one more time. In this case, the pattern changes to a knit stitch.
- Knit the stitch as it appears.
- Pass the second stitch over the first.
- 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.
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
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
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
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:
- Ribbing is stretchier than stockinette stitch and that final row of knit stitches might inhibit the fabric slightly.
- 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.