How to knit the tubular bind-off

A step-by-step tutorial with everything you need to know about the super invisible tubular bind-off method

So, you’ve finished a project in ribbing and now you are looking for a stretchy and perfectly invisible way to bind-off? Then look no further because the tubular bind-off might be your new best friend. This sewn bind-off method creates a well-rounded in-pattern edge that has a lot of give.

a swatch finished with a tubular bind-off close-up with a tapestry needle stitch attached

The basic version of this technique works for a 1×1 rib stitch only. It’s essentially a variation of the famous Kitchener Stitch on one needle. You will find further options down below. It requires a bit of patience, some practise, and a deft touch but can look utterly stunning for the right kind of project.

someone stretching out a tubular bind-off to the max to show how very stretchy it is

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Instructions: How to knit the tubular bind-off for 1x1 ribbing

someone showing how to do the tubular bind off with a tapestry needle

This tubular bind-off falls into the category of sewn finishing techniques. As such, it's important to leave a tail that is long enough. It will also take some practice to get the tension right.

Active Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Instructions

  1. Leave a generous tail that is around 4 times as long as your edge is wide and thread it on a blunt tapestry needle.
    Important: Your row should start with a knit stitch.

    leaving a generous tail 4 times as long as the edge
  2. Preparation stitch 1: Pull the tapestry needle through the first stitch on your needle purlwise (coming in from right to left).

    going into the first stitch purlwise
  3. Preparation stitch 2: Go through the second stitch knitwise coming in from behind through the gap between first and second stitch. Avoid piercing the yarn or going through any loops. It helps to keep close contact to the knitting needle. I kind of "scrape" the tapestry needle across the bottom of the needle before I enter the stitch.

    going into the second stitch knitwise from behind
  4. From here, you start with the actual tubular bind-off repeat:
    Pull the yarn through the first stitch knitwise (so entering from left to right) and drop the stitch off the needle.

    going into the first stitch knitwise and dropping it at the same time
  5. Go through the new second stitch (this should also be a knit stitch) purlwise. Pull tight lightly.

    going into the second stitch purlwise
  6. Pull the tapestry needle through the first stitch (it should be a purl stitch) purlwise and drop it off the needles.

    dropping the new first stitch purlwise
  7. Go through the new second stitch (it should be a purl stitch) knitwise coming through the gap between first and second stitch from behind. Then pull tight lightly.

    going into the new second stitch knitwise from behind
  8. Repeat steps 4-7 over and over again for the tubular bind-off.
    Note: When knitting flat, there will be no adjacent stitches for the last two stitches on your needle. So just skip steps 6+7.

    repeating the steps over and over again for the tubular bind-off


Notes

You can manage the stretchiness of this bind-off by the way you pull tight after every stitch. For the most invisible finish, I recommend knitting a short swatch (just 14 stitches and 3 rows of ribbing). Test out your tension first before you commit to finishing an important project.

There is one issue I need to address here: Strictly speaking, this bind-off technique should be called “Italian bind-off” because – technically speaking – it mirrors the edge created by the Italian cast-on.

If you started with a tubular cast-on and truly want symmetrical edges, you would have to knit across two rows in double stockinette stitch (*k1, sl1p wyif*) before you start sewing.

a swatch finished with a tubular bind-off on a wooden board

But, I guess, I am not here to revolutionize the knitting world. The name stuck and we have to live with it, right?

Tubular bind-off for a 2×2 rib stitch

a swatch finished with a tubular bind-off for 2x2 rib stitch in yellow yarn

You can also do a tubular bind-off for a 2×2 rib stitch. However, you will have to adjust the repeat. Or rather, you do have to knit one preparation row where you twist stitches. As a result, the edge will not be as invisible, seamless, and stretchy.

Step 1: Knit across until you come to the first second knit stitch of a knit column in your row.

knitting up until you come to the first second knit stitch

Step 2: Insert your knitting needle into the back loop of the second stitch (should be a purl stitch) coming in from behind.

inserting the knitting needle into the back loop of the second stitch

Step 3: Use your thumb to press the first two stitches against the right needle.

pressing the thumb against the first two stitches

Step 4: Pull out the left needle. This should drop the knit stitch loop. However, with your thumb firmly in place, it should not unravel or move.

pulling out the left needle while securing the dropped stitch with the thumb

Step 5: Immediately pick up the dropped stitch with your left needle.

picking up the dropped stitch with the left needle right away

Step 6: Slip the purl stitch on your right needle back to the left needle. So essentially you are doing a 1×1 cable without a cable needle.

slipping back the purl stitch to the left needle

Step 7: Continue knitting across in pattern until you come to the next second knit stitch in a knit column. Typically you should: [p1, k1, p1, k1]. Then, start with step 2 again.

purling a stitch and then continuing until the next knit stitch before repeating

Step 8: Once you’ve finished this preparation row, you can follow the repeat for the normal tubular bind-off as detailed above.

doing the normal bind-off across the newly arranged row

Again, please keep in mind that the way you pull tight after every pass will define the overall neatness and stretchiness of the resulting edge. I absolutely recommend practicing on a swatch before you commit. It’s very easy to mess up the edge.

Anyway, that was my tubular bind-off tutorial. Comment below with your questions!

how to knit the tubular bind-off a step by step tutorial for beginners

1 thought on “How to knit the tubular bind-off”

  1. Hi! I keep getting stuck in the same place and unable to redo it and get back on track. Anyway you’d be willing to offer me some help????

    Reply

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