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 first knitting project and now you want an edge that won’t unravel? Then you will need the easy 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. In fact, I teach this technique as part of my tutorial on how to knit for beginners.

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

ⓘ 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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How to cast off knitting - step by step

someone casting off stitches with a green yarn

Typically you cast off stitches on the right side (so after you finished the last return row). But you can use this technique on the wrong side as well or even in the middle of a project. E.g. to shape the armpits or the neckline of a sweater.

Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Instructions

  1. Start by knitting two stitches as you normally do.
    knit the first two stitches as you would knit normally
  2. Keep the working yarn in the back of your work. Now, insert the left needle from left to right into the second stitch (i.e. the stitch on the right) on your right needle.

    insert the left needle into the first stitch
  3. Lift this stitch OVER the first 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.

    lift the first stitch across the second cast off
  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
  5. Knit one more stitch. You should have two stitches on your right needle once again.
    knitting another stitch after you you cast off the first so you got two stitches on the right needle again
  6. Lift the right stitch over the left stitch again and slip it off your right needle.
    lifting the second stitch on the right needle over the first one to cast on that stitch
  7. Repeat steps 5+6 until you only have one single stitch left on your right needle.

    The last cast off stitch on the needle
  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 finished your cast-off

    Cut off the yarn after you pulled the yarn through the last cast off stitch

Notes

If your pattern ends in a purl row, then you should cast off in purl stitches. Meaning, instead of knitting all stitches you purl them. If the last row has both purl and knit stitches, then cast them off as they appear.

Also, consider planning ahead: 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 leaving you with one tail less to weave in later on.

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.

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 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 ppl 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 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 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 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.

You can, of course, also pick a different method. E.g. here’s a simple stretchy cast off for the 2×2 rib stitch. And there are many more. 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 cast-off.

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

how to bind of knitting for beginners

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