Step by step instructions showing you the best way to weave in ends in knitting- no matter your stitch pattern or material
Before you can wear your finished project there is almost always one last step you need to do. In all the places you joined in a new ball, changed colors, cast-on, or cast-off, there is a little tail dangling down that isn’t exactly pretty. So, in this tutorial, I’ll show you 10 different methods to weave in ends.
Why so many techniques? Well, in knitting, weaving in ends serves two purposes. Of course, you want to keep your stitches from unraveling. But there’s also a cosmetic reason. You want your knitting to be as seamless and smooth as possible. And that’s why there is a difference if you need to sew in the ends of a project in stockinette stitch, ribbing or lace.
You should also be aware, that different materials behave differently. Some yarns have a lot of friction (your standard worsted wool, mohair yarns, camel hair, etc) and others are super slick – like cotton or some alpaca yarns. Some yarns are feltable, others aren’t.
And depending on all these characteristics, and the individual properties of your knitting pattern (is it seamed, are their stripes/colorwork, lace, etc) there is arguable a best way to weave in tails and some methods that are maybe no all that ideal in these cases (click here to check out a post where I compared different methods to weave in tails).
So, let’s dive right into it.
Materials you need:
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To weave in ends you will need a tapestry needle. For most methods, a sharp tapestry needle is recommended, while for a very few techniques, a blunt tapestry needle is better:
- Sharp tapestry needles
- Blunt tapestry needle
#1 Stockinette Stitch
Let’s start with the most common knitting pattern: stockinette stitch. There are four very easy rules you need to observe when weaving in the tails for this knitting stitch pattern:
- Always weave in the ends on the wrong side
- Use a sharp tapestry needle
- Always go diagonally
- Never pull too tight on your tail
Step 1: Thread your tail on your tapestry needle and then weave it in diagonally by going right through the purl bumps. Don’t go around them, spear right through them! Go through at least 5-6 stitches in that manner.
Step 2: Pull the tail through and go for another 5-6 stitches in a different direction. You can go back in the same direction you came from or you turn at a right angle.
Step 3: Pull the end through again but don’t pull it all the way through. You need a bit of slack right there where you changed directions.
Step 4: Stretch out your fabric and let your end settle in. You don’t want to constrict your fabric in any way – especially the stitches around the bend.
Step 5: Once you are satisfied and ensured you didn’t pucker the fabric in any way, you can cut the end right at the base.
If you did everything right, it should be barely visible on the wrong side and there should be no trace of your end on the right side. Over time, your tail will felt in place (after you wash your project once or twice) and the bond will become even securer.
The end of the tail might come loose a bit but that’s nothing to worry about (at least if it’s only one or two stitches). I would keep it there and not cut it.
One important note: This method only works very well for organic fibers. If you are knitting with cotton or any other very slippery yarn, then you need a special method (see below).
Now, if you are knitting ribbing (maybe a 2×2 rib stitch), you can’t use the first method I showed you. First of all, there are not enough purl bumps in a diagonal direction. And on top of that, those are typically very stretchy kinds of patterns where you don’t want to weave in ends in the same direction you end up stretching your finished project (makes it very easy for the tail to come loose).
Instead, you have to sew in the tails like this.
Step 1: Thread the tail on a tapestry needle and follow one rib horizontally. Go right through the left (or right) leg of the knit stitches. If your project is not reversible (like the typical cuff of a sock), then consider doing this on the wrong side.
Step 2: Pull the tail through and weave in the rest of the tail in the opposite direction following the same rib. But this time, go right through the other legs of the same knit stitches.
Step 3: Pull the tail all the way through. But again, don’t pull too tightly. Instead, massage the tail into place and stretch out your ribbing quite a bit to let the end settle in. Only then, cut off any excess.
If done the right way, this method is barely visible from either side and very secure. It works for any kind of ribbing and all other reversible knitting stitches with a stacked column (wale) of knit stitches.
#3 Garter Stitch
Now, let’s talk about the easiest knitting stitch of them all: Garter stitch. Interestingly enough, it is not the easiest pattern to weave in tails. There are a lot of methods floating around the internet. Some of them involve duplicate stitches or ask you to go diagonally on the wrong side.
If you ask me, they are all not exactly ideal. Duplicate stitch is very visible and going diagonally through the purl bumps (like you would in stockinette stitch) is not a good idea either as these purl stitches are much farther apart. So it’s both more visible, less secure, and not reversible on top of that. Instead, weave in the ends in garter stitch like this:
Step 1: Thread your tail on your tapestry needle, push apart one of the ribs, and go right through the legs of the knit stitches for about 6-8 stitches.
Step 2 (optional): Depending on the materials you are working with, you can go one more time in the other direction.
This method pushes the ribs a bit apart, so it will be slightly visible. However, I still found it to be the least conspicuous and most secure method for garter stitch.
If you don’t like the way it looks, you can of course also go through the edges. That, however, often risks a little tail sticking out of your knitting after the first washing and will make the edge much thicker on top of that – especially as the edges are typically the part of your knitting that sees the most wear & tear.
#4 Knit in the cast on tail
The methods I showed you so far all are great. But there’s one important thing you should know. There are ways to avoid weaving in ends if you plan your project the right way. One way is knitting in the cast-on tail.
Step 1: If you use a standard long-tail cast-on, then your tail will always hang down right where you knit your first stitch and you start your first row or round. So instead of weaving in, you can pick up the tail and knit the first row (or just the first 6-8 stitches) with two strands held together.
Step 2: And once you covered 6-8 stitches, you can simply cut off the ends. As this will create stitches that are a bit thicker, you may consider knitting the whole first row in that manner so it’s less visible.
There’s one thing you should know, however. I think it’s a great method and you will need a magnification lens to really see it but it will take away a bit of stretchiness from your edge. So, it’s not ideal for hems and cuffs and any other kind of project where you want a stretchy edge.
Also, knit very carefully in the second row so you don’t end up with increases. You need to knit the two strands as if they were one stitch.
#5 Weave in ends as you knit
Another great way to avoid picking up a tapestry needle is weaving in ends as you knit. The technique is so simple and works in so many instances that it might become your favorite method ever – especially if you love knitting stripes.
Step 1: When you join in a new color or yarn, knit one stitch. And then, wrap the tail around your working yarn one time. If you are familiar with Fair Isle or stranded knitting, you are essentially creating a reverse float on the backside.
Step 2: Repeat this process with every stitch for about 6-8 stitches. So, always knit one stitch, and then bring the end around and thereby locking the end into place.
And once you feel your end is reasonably secure, you can simply cut of the rest and continue knitting.
You can, of course, use the same technique and weave in two tails as well (like when you join in a new ball). In this case, you always have to wrap both ends around the working yarn before you knit the next stitch.
There are two notes:
- First of all, this method is somewhat visible on the wrong side. So, it’s not exactly the best technique for reversible projects.
- And it also only works for slightly fuzzy yarns (wool, mohair, etc) and yarns with a lot of friction. If you are knitting with cotton or some super slippery yarn, then weaving in tails as you knit is not enough.
#6 Using the felted join
Another way to avoid weaving in tails is learning an invisible way to join two tails together. My favorite one is the felted join (sometimes called spit join, etc). Most natural fibers (especially sheep wool) are feltable. This means if you apply some heat, friction, and water, you will create felt.
Usually, that’s the last thing you want to happen to your knitting but when joining in a new ball of yarn, you can use this to your advantage. Here’s the simple 4-step process:
- Pick the two ends apart so they look like a fan, and you can see individual fibers.
- Use some spit to wet them (you can also use water but spit actually works better).
- Stack the two ends upon each other and put them in the palm of your hands.
- Place your other hand on top of the join and rub it with a lot of pressure
As I said, this method only works for natural fibers. It doesn’t work for acrylic yarn or fibers that have been treated in a way to create a superwash yarn. In these cases, you could look into the “Russian Join”.
#7 Hide tails in the seams
A lot of knitting projects are seamed. Sweaters are one such example or my easy fingerless gloves for beginners. And, whenever there is a seam, there is a sweet little ridge on the wrong side where you can easily hide the tails.
Step 1: First of all, you need to ensure that all your ends are positioned on the edges. So, if you notice your balls is almost done, join in the next skein at the beginning of a row (instead of somewhere mid-row).
Step 2: And once you finished your seam, you can simply use your tapestry needle and hide all the little ends by through it a couple of times. You could even squeeze in a knot here and there.
Two important notes:
- If your cast-on or bind-off tail is long enough, you can even use the end to do the actual seaming (e.g. with mattress stitch).
- Going through the seam will reinforce it. Be careful so you don’t constrict your finished project (e.g. the shoulder seams of a sweater, etc). In these cases, other weaving-in methods are recommended.
#8 Weaving in stripes and colorwork
So what about colorwork? How do you weave in ends when knitting stripes, Fair Isle, etc? Well, always consider weaving in as you go if your yarn quality allows it. If it doesn’t, you can employ the very basic method I showed for stockinette stitch (or any other method here in this article). With two important additions:
A) Always weave in the ends in the same color block. Don’t try to hide a red tail in a section of white. Every time you stretch out your knitting, the woven in end will peek through, and you don’t want that.
B) You need a proper method to join in a new yarn – especially when knitting intarsia. The problem with colorwork is not the actual weaving in technique. If you read this article so far, then you should have a fair understanding of what works and what doesn’t works.
The problem lies in the fact that you end up with a lot of tails and a lot of spots where you joined in a new yarn. And as you weave in the ends, you run the risk of creating lopsided stitches or even eyelets.
I. For intarsia, you create clean joins & tail like this
Step 1: One stitch before you have to start a new color block, trap the new color between the working yarn and your needle. Then knit the stitch as normal. Essentially you are creating a little float here on the backside.
Step 2: Before you start the new color block, twist the two threads around one or two times. This will anchor your first stitch and create a very secure join. As a result, knitting that first stitches is much easier in the next row or round AND you don’t distort it as you weave in the tails.
Obviously, you can use the same method whenever you join a new yarn or color – no matter the project and pattern. But it will only work when you are joining in a new yarn midrow or you are knitting in the round.
II. How to handle the tails when knitting stripes or fair Isle flat
When knitting stripes (flat), you usually join in the new color at the very beginning of a row. So, there is no first stitch you could use to anchor your yarn. In these cases, I don’t use a special joining method.
Instead, I knit one row (or a couple of stitches), and while the stitches are still on the needle, I use the two tails and tie a knot around the needle using the two ends.
I will unravel the knot before I weave in the ends later on (unless the project is seamed, see below). But for the moment, it will secure the first/last stitch in the new/old color. As a result, you never end up with those too loose stitches wherever you joined in a new color. And that helps you achieving a much neater finished project.
Note: Obviously, this method also works when you want to join in a new ball in the same color, though there are often better ways to handle such situations (see above).
#9 Weaving in ends on lace
Once you are no longer a beginner, you will eventually end up with a lace project one way or another. So, what’s the big deal? Why have a separate section for lace? Well, there are two problems when weaving in ends when knitting lace.
- You are knitting lace with big needles (compared to the yarn weight) and your gauge often ends up being much looser. As a result, stitches will be much farther apart and the fabric is often too flimsy for any serious sewing.
- There are usually a lot of big eyelets, and you cannot bridge these without leaving visible strands behind.
You have two options:
A) Position your ends the right way
Some lace patterns are not overly “lacy” and you have bigger sections of stockinette stitch or garter stitch in between. In these cases, you can weave in the tails as I showed you above – at least if you are smart about where you join in a new ball.
Absolutely make sure that you split the yarn as you go. This will add an extra layer of security that is very vital when weaving in ends on knitted lace.
Be aware that this will only work if you use fuzzy yarn (thankfully a lot of lace patterns do). If you are knitting a doily with slick cotton yarn, then this method won’t get you far. In these cases, check out #10 where I talk about that.
B) Use duplicate stitch
When, for whatever, reason, the first method doesn’t work. You can try to use a duplicate stitch and trace the natural path of your stitches.
The exact method will depend on your individual pattern and the exact position of your tail. As an example, I’ll show you how to do this with a column of knit stitches. For duplicate stitch, blunt tapestry needles are much easier.
Step 1: Go underneath the rib between a knit stitch.
Step 2: Go underneath the two legs of the knit stitch directly above.
Step 3: Go underneath the next rib between the knit stitch one row below.
Repeat these steps 6-8 times until you grafted/duplicated enough stitches, then cut the tail.
Again, this method only works with fuzzy yarns. By definition, the individual stitches in lace will be much looser than in my example pictures (where I used a sturdy dk cotton yarn so you can see the actual technique much better).
Every time you stretch your lace, you risk unraveling the duplicate stitch a bit. Do this often enough, and your tail will come one. So, this is a “last resort” kind of method when everything else is not possible. And again, consider combining this technique with method #10.
Note: Consider finishing weaving in the tails after you washed and blocked your lace. Tails can often come undone in the process. So, keep the tails for the moment and only cut off the excess after blocking.
#10 Weaving in cotton ends
One of the most difficult things to weave in is cotton yarn. The fiber is very slick, it does not felt, and on top of that, it often stretches out quite a bit after washing. So, if you were to weave in the ends the normal way, there is a high chance they could come undone after the first laundry or wear.
So, when you are facing such a slippery/slick yarn, then you have to tie knots. Knots by and in themselves are never the best idea because they can come undone. And once they do, there is only a tiny bit of yarn that keeps them from unraveling. So, you have to combine them with another knitting technique like this.
Step 1: Thread the end on a tapestry needle and weave it in for 3-4 stitches by piercing through the purl bumps as you go (just the way I showed you above).
Step 2: Split the tail in two parts.
Step 3: Pick up one of the two parts and pull it underneath the next stitch.
Step 4: Tie a knot around that stitch. Be careful that you stretch out the knitting a bit before you do it so you don’t pucker the fabric.
Step 5: Pick up one of the two ends, and weave in for 3-4 more stitches.
Step 6: Take up the other end and weave it in going in a different direction.
Step 7 (optional): Split the yarn one more time in two parts, go underneath the next stitch, and tie another knot.
Step 8 (optional): And then, do the same with the second part, and weave in the remaining (four) ends for another couple of stitches, and cut off the rest.
Steps 7+8 are optional and recommended if you are knitting with a very loose gauge or the yarn is extremely slippery.
Important: You can, of course, use the same general method and combine it with any other technique I showed you in this tutorial (ribbing, garter stitch, lace, etc). It always boils down to weaving in the end for a couple of stitches, splitting it, tying a knot, etc.
Further tips for weaving in tails
I always say that weaving in ends is more a form of art than a simple technique. And the worst part: A lot of knitting patterns don’t even mention it properly. If at all, you will find a half-sentence like “Finishing by weaving in the ends” without indicating a special method.
While I try to supply my reads with very clear instructions in all my knitting patterns (at least those clearly geared towards beginners), here are some important tips.
Read your pattern before you start
Before you even knit the first stitch, quickly scan your pattern, and figure out how many tails you will end up, and if there are ways to weave them in as you knit, or avoid them altogether, etc. Can you change yarns/colors, in a way that it’s easier to handle? Is it a fuzzy yarn or is it really slippery?
Ultimately, this can also mean that you pick a different yarn. Knitting a huge blanket or sweater with 1 oz balls might not be a good idea as it guarantees you will end up with a gazillion ends. And likewise, a big intarsia sweater with cotton yarn is maybe not the best idea either.
Go through a checklist with every end you end up
With every tail you end up, you mentally should go through a little checklist. Is there a seam or other not visible part of the design where you can hide the end? If there isn’t, well then maybe there is a wrong side. And if there isn’t, are there sections where the woven in end will be less visible? And so on…
All the techniques I showed you are visible in one way or another. Weaving in always reinforces your fabric, so ideally speaking, the tails should be hidden in places you cannot see.
What if the end is too short to weave in? (or comes loose)
As a rule of thumb, I always recommend you leaving a big tail (here’s how to calculate how much yarn you need for a long tail cast on). Wasting 5 inches of yarn won’t kill you in 99% of all cases, but ending up with a tail that is only 2 inches long will be a problem.
However, there are those cases where your ends are just too short to properly thread them on a tapestry needle. And sometimes the end comes undone after you wove it in, and there is this little tail sticking out of your fabric. So what can you do in these cases? Very easy in fact.
Step 1: Pick up your tapestry needle and weave it through the fabric without the tail!
Step 2: Pull the short end through the eyelet, and now you can pull the yarn through.
Obviously, this method only works if the entire tail is longer than say 1 inch. If it’s shorter, your only reliable option is sewing over that section with a thin thread in a matching color or reinforcing that part using a duplicate stitch.