By Popular Request: Stretchy Bind-Offs!

I'm too sick to knit; the knitter's equivalent of purgatory. Imagine it: The mere motions of the needles are making me ill.

I've been sick for FOUR DAYS. Four days of NO KNITTING.

I think we might have a situation here.

Thus, with your indulgence, I will cheat a wee bit and repeat one of my most-requested tutorials: Stretchy Bind-Offs. Many, many folks have asked for links to this one ever since I wrote it two years ago…so here you are.

Where can you use these stretchy bind-offs? At the top of socks cuffs, at the edges of lacy shawls, at necklines and hems and sleeve edgings, oh my. Use them anyplace where you need a bit more give, a little more room, than a regular bind-off provides. See? Trés useful.

By the way: Apparently too-sick-to-knit isn't too sick to cuddle yarn. A friend sent me some completely rockin' awesome baby alpaca and silk laceweight yarn that she had dyed…and in the end, I literally crawled into bed with it clutched in my hand. Pathetic, I know. But I had the stomach flu…and I couldn't knit. However: I could still cuddle yarn. Not too sick for that. Too sick for knitting. Never too sick for yarn.

Do you have something soothing and knitterly you do when you are sick? Let me know! I have a feeling that snuggling with my yarn isn't exactly the most grown-up thing to do, fever or no. But hey. It's how I roll…

I hope you are well, and that you find joy amidst your stitches this week.

– Sandi

P.S. As you read this, I'm much better and back at the needles. Whew! I feel human again.


Step-By-Step Instructions for Variations on the Stretchy Bind-off

Version A: Knitting through the back loops

This version gives a bind-off edge that looks just like a standard bind-off, but it is much stretchier.

Knitting Cast-On - Eastern Cast-On

Step 1: Knit together the first two stitches on the left needle THROUGH THE BACK LOOP. (Figure 1)

Knitting Cast-On - Eastern Cast-On

Step 2: Slip the new stitch on the right needle back to the left needle. (Figure 2)

Step 3: Repeat 1 and 2 until all stitches are bound off.

Knitting Cast-On - Eastern Cast-On

Notice how the bind-off edge is nearly indistiguishable from your normal bind-off, but give it a tug and you'll see how much more flexible it is. (Figure 3)


Version B: Knitting through the front loops

The finished edge of this version looks slightly different but is just as stretchy as the other version.
Which to use when? I'd say it's a matter of personal taste.

Knitting Cast-On - Eastern Cast-On

Step 1: Knit together the first two stitches on the left needle. (Figure 4)

Step 2: Slip the new stitch on the right needle back to the left needle.

Step 3: Repeat these two steps until all stitches are bound off.

Knitting Cast-On - Eastern Cast-On

Notice that I show two samples in (Figure 5); the stitches are worked exactly the same way in both, but in the sample on the right, I used bright green yarn for the bind-off row so that you could see the finished effect more clearly.

Note that you can also use a variation of this bind-off on the purl side of a garment: Either *P2tog, slip new stitch to left needle; repeat to end–OR *P2tog tbl, slip new stitch to left needle; repeat to end.

All right then: Go forth and bind off–or, if you use the British nomenclature: Cast off!


Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily every Thursday. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, follow her tweets: alpacasandi.



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17 thoughts on “By Popular Request: Stretchy Bind-Offs!

  1. Being sick is only for the couragous. Please don’t get sick any more. This makes twice as you well know.
    Yarn has been my teddy bear on several ocasions. I put a skein right against my cheek. I need some now.

  2. Lucy Neatby has a variation on this stretchier bind-off, that’s a little complicated for me to describe verbally here. It’s on one of her DVD’s, and it works like a charm.

  3. Ahh, right now I have an injury that’s inconveniently placed for holding knitting needles – I can theoretically knit if I use a kind of weird grip, but it’s so slow and awkward as to not be worthwhile. So I’m petting my yarn, tossing my stash a bit, and fantasizing about all the lovely sweaters in my magazine collection.

    More along the lines for “soothing”, the injury had to have stitches, and I was a little freaked out about this – until Hubby pointed out that the watercolor painting hanging right over the bed in the exam room was grazing sheep. I guess if I can’t have yarn, a picture of sheep is the next best thing.

  4. Sandi, too sick to knit? You must be really ill! In fact thats’ how I guage how sick I am. Many times I’m too sick to go to work, but rarely too sick to knit! How about a simple afghan pattern? Something mindless? Get well soon!

  5. Well, not when I’m sick. But I take a swatch (already made) to the DENTIST with me. I get the gas, and I fondle the swatch. And think hard about the texture, the pattern, if I want to change it, etc. It works for me, and they’re used to it now!

  6. Hi Sandy,
    Glad you’re feeling better. The stomach flu is a nasty one, for sure. At least with a cold, you can still knit with your tissue box nearby….
    With the nastiness of the flu, however, when it is quite impossible to wield needles and all you can do is writhe in pain and feel sorry for yourself, I actually find myself knitting in my mind. Yup…..I dream about knitting. I dream about all the yarns I would love to buy (but can’t) and imagine knitting with them. But I also actually knit in my mind…..I cast on, work increases and decreases, speed through the boring parts and all that. I think through techniques and have really learned a lot this way. I’d like to think I’m becoming a “thinking knitter” as E.Z. puts it. “Visualizing” a difficult concept gives you a head-start when you get hands on needles again.
    Knitters do not waste time! Even when ill.
    Dream on…

  7. Quit worrying about DOING things & just get better!! Relax, we can get along without you for a day or two more . . . . listen to Audio Books. Drink plenty of tea & eat oranges, you’ll be well in a jiffy! take this recovery time to just BE. We’ll be doing plenty of knitting in your name . . . .

  8. I always make lots of hot tea and snuggle with a fuzzy blankie and my dogs. They seem to know I need extra care so they snuggle really close and actually lie still as long as I want to with no wiggling. Hope you’re back to good health soon!

  9. I love reading your comments, and I know now that I’m not the only obsessed knitter.Unfortunately, I recently developed a ‘pinched nerve’ in my neck which leaves me doing ‘nothing’. I can hardly pick up a book. Since January I’ve knitted 3 pairs adults socks (on 4 needles, just love socks) 3 pairs of childrens socks from leftovers, two complete baby outfits, a sweater, hat, and scarf set etc. I have a grandson on the way due in August and I even have a hard time typing. Are there other knitthers that are experiencing this kind of pain? And are there any solutions, I am havig physio. My moher knitted from age 5 to 88 and never had any problems with knitting.
    Sincerely, Eleonora

  10. I realize this post is long past but I just got my laptop working again… yeesh.

    Everytime I see this method touted as the perfect cast off for toe-up socks I want to stamp my feet and cry; This is the cast of I use most often, and yes – it is much streatchier than others but when I try it on socks it doesn’t stretch enough and doesn’t spring back to fit snugly against the leg.


    I’ve tried larger needles, smaller needles, looser guage, tighter… etc. I just can’t find anything that works. And I love toe-up socks. :-( Very sad.

  11. When I am not well, I do love to read my knitting books. I never ever tire of the sock books and read and re-read them. I prop them up on my pillow in bed. I often will fall asleep looking at the pictures.
    Ellymae, I too get a headache at the base of my head where the neck vertebrae meets the skull. This leaves me unable to knit. Very frustrating.
    I have found that small items to knit are not as tiring for me so I stick to socks, hot pot mats, etc. Sometimes I will switch to crochet as that uses somewhat different muscles and then it is not so bad. Its still working with the yarn!