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.
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!
Note: I earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this article.
- Knit one stitch as normal.
- Slip the stitch back to the left needle purlwise (so point-to-point).
- Don't pull out the right knitting needle. Instead, keep it in the slipped stitch.
- 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.
- Wrap the yarn around the needle counter-clockwise.
- Pull the yarn through the second stitch. Again, you ignore the loop that you've slipped.
- Drop both loops off the left needle to finish your first Icelandic bind-off stitch.
- From here, slip the resulting stitch back to the left needle purlwise and keep the right needle inside.
- Knit into the second stitch, bypassing the slipped stitch, and wrap the working yarn around the needle counter-clockwise.
- Pull the yarn through and drop both loops off the left needle.
- Continue repeating steps 8-10 until the end of the row and you've bound off all stitches.
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).
Step 2: Remove the right knitting needle and then re-enter it 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).
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.
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. This list here compares the 10 best stretchy bind-offs as well.