How to knit the Icelandic bind-off

A step-by-step tutorial on knitting the stretchy Icelandic bind-off and everything you need to know about it

Are you looking for a stretchy bind-off that is easy and fast to knit and works very well for garter stitch? Well, then you should definitely consider the so-called Icelandic bind-off. It employs one little trick for stunning results.

a swatch with the icelandic bind-off laying on a wooden table

This bind-off creates a slightly rounded edge, almost like an i-cord, and is about 10-15% stretchier than a regular bind-off. Perfect, for all projects where you need a little bit of extra give but you don’t want your edges to flare.

Let’s dive right into it!

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Instructions: How to knit the Icelandic bind-off

close-up of the edge the icelandic bind off creates

The Icelandic bind-off creates a stretchy edge that is more on the ornamental side. So consider testing it out on a swatch to see if it works well with your pattern first.

Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Instructions

  1. Knit one stitch as normal.

    starting the icelandic bind-off by knitting one stitch
  2. Slip the stitch back to the left needle purlwise (so point-to-point).

    slipping back the knitted stitch to the left needle point-to-point
  3. Don't pull out the right knitting needle. Instead, keep it in the slipped stitch.

    inserting the needle purlwise into the slipped stitch
  4. Enter the second stitch on the left needle knitwise. Bypass the stitch that you've slipped. So basically you pass the slipped stitch over on the needles, and then you enter the second stitch as normal.

    inserting the needle into the second stitch only from left to right
  5. Wrap the yarn around the needle counter-clockwise.

    wrapping the working yarn around the needle counter-clockwise
  6. Pull the yarn through the second stitch. Again, you ignore the loop that you've slipped.

    pulling the yarn through the second stitch
  7. Drop both loops off the left needle to finish your first Icelandic bind-off stitch.

    dropping both loops off the needle
  8. From here, slip the resulting stitch back to the left needle purlwise and keep the right needle inside.

    slipping back purlwise and keeping the needle in the stitch
  9. Knit into the second stitch, bypassing the slipped stitch, and wrap the working yarn around the needle counter-clockwise.

    inserting knitwise and wrapping around counter-clockwise
  10. Pull the yarn through and drop both loops off the left needle.

    pulling the yarn through the second stitch
  11. Continue repeating steps 8-10 until the end of the row and you've bound off all stitches.

    repeating these steps for the Icelandic bind off

Notes

For an even stretchier edge, you may consider binding off with a needle one or even two sizes larger.

Icelandic bind-off twisted

Some people use a slightly different technique. Instead of slipping purlwise, they slip the stitch twisted. The result will be a very similar edge but I feel it’s less smooth to knit.

Step 1: Knit one stitch, and then slip it back to the left needle twisted (so you enter from right to left).

slipping one stitch twisted

Step 2: Remove the right knitting needle and then re-enter it purlwise.

re-enter the stitch purlwise

Step 3: Knit into the second stitch as detailed above. The only difference is the way you slip the stitch.

The edge you create will be a mirror image of the standard version. So it will behave in the almost exact same way. The only difference is the way the yarn travels. If you slip purlwise, the yarn will exit the loops at the base of the bind-off stitches at the back. If you slip knitwise, it will exit the loops in front (note: the arrows in the picture below are not meant to show that).

comparing the two versions of the icelandic bind-off side by side

Since I personally have not found any meaningful difference, I stick to slipping purlwise as it’s a lot faster and smoother to knit. But try out both to see which version you prefer and looks neater for you. I do feel that slipping twisted is a bit more prone to curling but that could be just me.

How stretchy is the Icelandic bind-off?

Last, but certainly not least, you might wonder how stretchy this technique is compared to the standard method. And I personally would rank it among the medium stretchy bind-offs.

comparing stretchiness of icelandic bind off with the standard bind-off
Yellow: Standard bind-off | Blue: Icelandic bind-off

Both swatches in the picture above were knit in garter stitch, using the same needle size. Both are 12 rows high and 16 stitches wide. And as you can see, the Icelandic bind-off can be stretched around half a square further. So, that translates to roughly 10 percent.

Depending on your individual gauge and knitting style it may be a bit more or less but typically not dramatically so. Thus, it will be a lovely alternative for a sweater or a scarf but maybe not stretchy enough for the cuff of a pair of socks.

If you need even more give, then you have to pick a technique that adds a stitch (or slack) in between the stitches. The yarn-over bind-off comes to mind or the stretchy bind off for the 2×2 rib.

Anyway, that’s how to knit the Icelandic bind-off. Comment below if you still have any questions or feedback.

how to knit the icelandic bind-off for beginners

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