How to bind off knitting

A step-by-step tutorial on the easiest way to bind off in knitting for beginners with essential tips and tricks

So, you started out knitting, learned a simple cast-on and the knit stitch and now you want to finish your first project. Maybe you even follow a little pattern and it tells you to bind off all stitches. How do you do that? How do you prevent your stitches from unraveling so you can wear/use your project? Fear not, this tutorial is all about it.

a knitted swatch with an unfinished standard bind off

I will show you a super simple way to bind off your first project and some essential tips and tricks a little bit further down. And don’t be afraid. With a little bit of practice, this will be super simple. You already mastered the most difficult part before.

Let’s dive right into it, eh?

ⓘ In knitting patterns, it usually says “bind off all stitches” or “cast off the remaining stitches”. Often, no technique is indicated and it’s up to you to decide how you will cast off. ‘Bind off’ and ‘cast off’ means exactly the same and both terms are interchangeable. Sometimes you find it abbreviated as CO or BO.

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Instructions: How to bind off knitting

someone showing how to bind off knitting

A bind-off prevents your work from unraveling. The basic technique basically adds one final row and then interlocks the many little loops/stitches one by one so they are locked and secure.

Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Instructions

  1. Knit one stitch.

    starting to bind off by knitting one stitch
  2. Knit another stitch. There should be two stitches on your right needle.

    knitting one more stitch so there are two on the right needle
  3. Insert your left needle into the second stitch on your right needle from left to right.

    inserting the left needle into the second stitch on the right needle
  4. Lift that stitch over the first one on your left needle.

    passing the second stitch over the first one
  5. Drop the lifted stitch off the right needle and keep the first stitch. Consider securing it with your index finger if it keeps slipping away.

    dropping the stitch off the left needle
  6. Knit one more stitch. There should be two stitches on your right needle again.

    knitting one more stitch
  7. Pass the (new) second stitch over the first one.

    passing the lifted loop over
  8. Drop the lifted stitch off the right needle.

    dropping the lifted stitch off the right needle
  9. Continue repeating steps 6-8 until there is only one stitch left.

    repeating steps 6-8 to bind-off all stitches
  10. Break the yarn leaving a tail long enough to weave in later on and use your knitting needle to pull the loop all the way through. This will create a little knot that secures that last stitch.

    breaking the yarn and pulling out the last stitch to secure the bind-off

Notes

If you want/need a stretchier edge, consider using a needle that is one or even two sizes larger. Also, stretching out the loops a little bit as you pass them over can add even more elasticity to your edge.



Advanced knitters might also use a special technique to achieve a neater last stitch. This will prevent a little ear from forming.

Does it matter on which side you bind off?

Typically, most knitters will bind off on the right side of their project. The standard bind-off adds one last row of knit stitches in the same breath. It will do that regardless of which side you use this technique. However, depending on your project, this might mean you break the pattern. For example, if you do this with stockinette stitch, you will add one last row of purl stitches when seen from the right side.

In garter stitch, on the other hand, it does not matter, as it’s just knit stitches on all sides. But fear not, later on, you can learn to bind off in-pattern so you can choose for yourself when and where to finish your project.

How to bind off purlwise

Does your project end with a row of purl stitches? Well, in this case, you might want to bind off purlwise. It’s almost as easy. Big promise! You can, more or less, follow the exact same steps I showed you above. But instead of knitting a stitch in between, you purl it. Easy as that.

Step 1: Purl two stitches.

purling two stitches

Step 2: Pass the second stitch on your right needle over the first one and drop it off the left needle.

passing the second purl stitch over the first one

Step 3: Purl one stitch.

purling one more stitch

Repeat steps 2-3 until you bound off the desired number of stitches.

How to neaten up the last stitch

the finished neater last bind off stitch that doesn't show an ear
A neater last stitch using a special technique

If you follow the standard schoolbook method, you will notice that the last stitch often looks a bit weird. That’s because there is little to anchor that stitch and you often stretch it out because the full weight of the whole project is hanging on it for a couple of seconds.

There is an easy way to fix that problem, though. You need to knit the last stitch together with the stitch one row below before you can bind it off. Sounds complicated? Not at all. It’s actually fairly easy to do – even for a beginner.

Here’s my full tutorial on how to bind off the last stitch in a neater way.

How to bind off knitting in the round?

Maybe you are a little bit more advanced and already know how to knit in the round. And you can use the exact same technique for these projects as well. However, you may notice that you end up with a visible little stair. That’s because you are actually knitting in an upward spiral.

To combat that, you need to graft one little stitch using the tail.

Step 1: Thread the tail on a tapestry needle and go underneath the two legs of the first stitch on the left side of the gap coming in from behind.

going into the stitch on the left from below

Step 2: Go underneath the two legs of the first stitch on the right side of the gap coming in from behind.

going into the gap from above

Step 3: Pull tight and bring the tail to the backside by going through the stitch one row below.

hiding the tail after you grafted the stitch

Step 4: Weave in the tail as normal. The result should be a near invisible join.

a closed bind-off gap by grafting a knit stitch

See? The result will be an almost seamless transition nobody will ever notice!

What to do with the end after you cast off all stitches?

Now, there is one thing that still remains to be done. The end doesn’t look all that pretty hanging down from your finished project – except maybe you want to add fringes. It’s reasonably secure and won’t unravel, but you probably want to hide it anyway. This process is called weaving in.

starting to weave in a cotton yarn by going through the purl bumps on the wrong side for 4-5 stitches

To do that, thread the tail on a tapestry needle and pull the yarn through the stitches on the backside of your work. Try to split the strands of the yarn with your needle as you work through 5-8 stitches diagonally in one direction and another 5-8 stitches in the other direction. Cut the yarn and you’ll finally hold your finished piece in your hand. Congratulations!

If your project is meant to be seen/used from both sides, then thread the tail through the stitches of the cast-off edge instead. If you know where to look, you will be able to see it, but most people probably won’t be able to notice.

As the most invisible ways will depend on quite a bit on your knitting stitch pattern, I kindly urge you to check out my full tutorial on weaving in ends in knitting.

The finished project with the cast off edge

important things you should know when binding off your work

Some patterns are stretchy others are rather rigid. For example, the typical garter stitch is moderately stretchy while a moss stitch is somewhat rigid and a brioche stitch or a 2×2 rib stitch is super elastic.

You can bind off all these patterns using this method, but you will have to adjust it a bit. If you don’t, you run the risk of binding off all that stretchiness with a very tight cast-off edge. In the worst case, this could mean your hat or socks won’t fit anymore.

You can easily avoid this by binding-off with a needle one or two sizes larger. If you don’t have one, you can add a little extra stretchiness to your bind-off edge like this:

  1. After you’ve slipped the right stitch over the left stitch (step 4), only one stitch remains on your right-hand needle. Loosen this stitch by pulling the right needle towards you creating a wider loop. Just make sure to keep hold of your needles & work as they will slide out very easily now.
  2. When you knit the next stitch from here, try to lower the tension and pull the stitch through a bit further than usual. This will also create a wider loop on your right needle. You will notice that slipping this stitch over is quite a bit easier now. Continue keeping the loops on your left needle as wide as necessary and cast off as described above – just with wider loops.
stretching a loop for a stretchier cast off edge

If for whatever reason, you still notice that your bind-off is too tight you can unravel it. Reverse knitting (‘tink’) a bind-off edge is quite a hassle. It’s easier to unravel the edge one stitch at a time and pick up the free loops with your left needle as you go on. You might have to untie the knot of your last stitch before you can do this, though.

Advanced knitters may, of course, learn a proper stretchy bind-off method. E.g. here’s a simple stretchy bind-off for the 2×2 rib stitch. The surprisingly stretchy bind-off is also very popular. Most of them create a different edge and some of them even flare out a bit. So, be careful when you do that.

Note: Here’s a post if you are wondering how much yarn you need for a bind -off.

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

how to bind off knitting - a step by step tutorial for beginners

1 thought on “How to bind off knitting”

  1. Thanks a lot for a great summary, although I though I know the basic bind off technique thanks to your attention to the details and great tips and tricks I do realize how far I was from the real understanding 🙂

    Reply

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