How to cast off knitting for beginners step by step

A step-by-step tutorial with the easiest cast off knitting method for beginners

You finished your fist knitting project and now you want an edge that won’t unravel? Then you will need the cast off methods I’m going to show you in this tutorial!

There is a sheer endless amount of different cast-off techniques, which create different edges (like the beautiful i-cord bind off). Stretchy, rigid, and even saw tooth patterns are possible. But to finish your first work, you’ll only need one. The standard way of casting off your stitches is very versatile and perfectly suitable for almost all works, stitches, and yarns. It also creates quite a neat finished edge.

Cast off stitches for beginners - two samples in stockinette and garter stitch
Two sample patches with the right and wrong side of a cast off edge

What you need:

  • Finished work with enough working yarn left to bind off
  • The same needles you have been using so far
  • Scissors and a tapestry needle

ⓘ 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.

Here’s how to cast off your knitting step by step

Step 1: Start by knitting two stitches as you would normally do.

knit the first two stitches as you would knit normally

Step 2: Keep the working yarn in the back of your work. Now, insert the left needle from left to right into the first stitch (i.e. the stitch furthest to the right) on your right needle.

insert the left needle into the first stitch

Step 3: Lift this stitch OVER the second stitch. This works best if both stitches are already very close to the tip. Be careful and secure the second stitch so it won’t slip off.

Lifting the first stitch over the second stitch to create the cast off edge

Step 4: Slip the stitch you just lifted across the second stitch off the needle. That’s it! You just cast off your first stitch.

The first cast off stitch on the right needle

Step 5: Knit one more stitch with your working yarn. Now you have two stitches on your right needle again.

knitting another stitch after you you cast off the first so you got two stitches on the right needle again

Step 6: Lift the right stitch over the left stitch again and slip it off your right needle.

Step 7: Repeat steps 5+6 until you only have one single stitch left on your right needle. Put the left needle to the side. You won’t need it anymore.

Important note: If your pattern ends in a purl row, then you should cast off in purl stitches. If the last row has both purl and knit stitches, then cast them off as they appear.

The last cast off stitch on the needle

Step 8: Use the right needle to widen the final loop. Pull out the needle, put it to the side, and cut off the working yarn. Now pull the loop until the tail of your working yarn pops through. Tighten the knot a bit and you are almost done.

Cut off the yarn after you pulled the yarn through the last cast off stitch
Cutting the yarn tail with a scissor

Note: If you plan to join another knitted piece to this cast-off edge (like the arms of a pullover, etc), you will have to leave a much longer tail. You can use the tail to sew the two pieces together.

Step 9: Pick up the tail with your tapestry needle. Tidy up by threading 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 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!

Using a tapestry needle to sew the tail of a knitting edge

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 ppl probably won’t be able to notice.

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 is super elastic.

You can cast 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.

But it’s easy to add a little extra stretchiness to your cast-off edge. Here’s how:

  1. After you slipped the right stitch over the left stitch (step 3), only one stitch remains on your 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 yarn 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 cast-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.

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

So, that’s how to cast off knitting for beginners. I hope you were able to finish your work, but feel free to comment with your questions. I’ll gladly help you.

how to bind of knitting for beginners

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