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A Stretchier Bind-Off

Jul 30, 2008

I showed you a really great cast-on for toe-up socks on Monday...but what do you do when you get to the cuff and need to bind off? Lots of folks, myself included, get a little tight-fisted when it comes to binding off, and it's a bit demoralizing to knit a beautiful sock that fits you perfectly... that is, it would fit you perfectly if you could get the cuff edge on over your heel!

There are a couple of bind-offs you can use to loosen things up a bit. One of them, the sewn bind-off, is described in Gila Shoshany's Beyond the Basics in the new Fall Knits. (You can sign up to become a subscriber here.)

Today, I thought I'd show you another one of my favorite flexible bind-offs, one that I've used for neck edges, sleeve edges, and even sock cuffs. This bind-off is so flexible that many people use it when binding off lace projects, as regular bind-offs, being a tighter than the lacy stuff surrounding them, can distort the edges of the lace. This bind-off is thus often referred to as the lace bind-off, but many people also call it the decrease bind-off.

Step-By-Step Instructions for the Decrease (or Lace) 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!

Editor's Picks

A reprint of Ann Budd's classic technical article on bind-offs is included in the book The Best of Interweave Knits (buy the book here), along with ten other must-have techniques from our Beyond the Basics series in Interweave Knits. Subscribe to Interweave Knits to receive dozens of great patterns in addition to technique articles by some of the top names in the business.

One of my favorite all-time knitting "helpers" is The Knitter's Companion, a book filled with step-by-step illustrated instructions on everything from cast-ons to bind-offs and everything knitting inbetween! Need a reminder on how to graft a sock toe, or how to sew a shoulder seam without it looking all lumpy-bumpy? Then The Knitter's Companion is going to be your new best friend. Add the Knitter's Companion to your library today!

Of course you can buy these books online, but don't forget to give your local yarn shop some love--and your business!


Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. She is now the author of the popular Knitting Daily blog: What's on Sandi's Needles.

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Pennymoose wrote
on Jun 8, 2014 6:35 PM

How do I do this when I am binding off in purl?

on Dec 25, 2010 11:48 AM

Thank you so much!! This is exactly what I needed. :)

AuntB wrote
on May 1, 2009 12:53 PM
Thank you for this stretchier bind off. I usually avoid top down sweaters because I don't like the bind off on the cuffs and bottom. This is terrific !!! :o)
HelenM@2 wrote
on Apr 19, 2009 9:11 PM
I am so glad to see this, just heard about it and can't figure how I missed it when it was first sent. I knit tiightly and this will make casting off soooooo much easier and give me a more finished look I think.. You all are so much help, every issue has something I need to learn or improve on. Thanks,
Claudia wrote
on Mar 3, 2009 9:33 AM
Where are the pics? Someone already asked this 6 MONTHS AGO and it appears no one has bothered to remedy the problem for us who are new subscribers. According to the HTML code, the path to the pics is a bad URL. I can't seem to find a way to contact anyone either. Can ANYONE shed some light on this? I'd really like to see these pics. Thanks in advance!
kubbo wrote
on Jan 17, 2009 5:16 AM
Thanks for the help, I am working on a fichu and I don't like the pointed lace bind off that is used in the pattern
JennieL wrote
on Sep 17, 2008 9:20 PM

It works it realy works I am not left with a trapazoid shaped baby blanket again!!! yeah Thanks for this info.

Vis Major wrote
on Aug 5, 2008 5:34 AM

Thanks, Sandi.  This tutorial came at just the right time for me: I'd finished my first toe-up sock & couldn't find a bind off that was both stretchy and attractive... until you came along, that is.  :)

SusanW@4 wrote
on Aug 1, 2008 11:20 AM

Thank you for this tutorial.  I have always wondered how to make bindoffs that have a little more give than the traditional one that learned so many years ago.  I will put these ideas to good use!  Susan W

BetseyR wrote
on Jul 31, 2008 6:56 PM


I love your very clever and useful tricks and tips.  I save them all and they really are my favorite part of Knitting Daily.  



SusanN wrote
on Jul 31, 2008 3:05 PM

When I first knitted toe-up socks I ran into this problem, and sat down to figure out a way to loosen the tops. Thinking as Eliz. Zimmerman taught us, I "unvented" a loose bind-off I like because it creates a slightly frilly edge to the sock top. I proceed as with a normal bind-off (knit 2, lift the first knitted stitch over the second, etc.) except that I then "make one" every third stitch. Knit or purl your stitches to cast off in pattern with your ribbing if this is a ribbed cuff. This increases the number of stitches in the bind-off row by one-third, and does NOT look like a regular bind-off. I use it by preference on socks. It could be used anywhere you want a more open look to the last row of work.


AnnR wrote
on Jul 31, 2008 2:54 PM

Sandi, thank you for the new article on "A stretchier Bind-Off"

I had never seen this before. I have learned sooo much from KD. Thank you.

KariZ wrote
on Jul 31, 2008 1:17 PM

I've been knitting for well over 60 years and am still trying new things.  That's what makes knitting so rewarding, I guess--to say nothing of the finished product.  I finished a pair of socks last night, toe-up, Turkish cast-on, both at once on a circular needle, and left only the binding off to do this evening.  I'll be using the through-the-back-loop method; it looks good to me.  Kari Zipf

CayK wrote
on Jul 31, 2008 11:50 AM

I can't see the pictures. Not in my email or online. Any suggestions?


JoanS wrote
on Jul 31, 2008 7:21 AM

Thanks - nice to know after 40 odd years of knitting that I can still learn new tricks!!

Angie, I still cast on and bind off :)

jteal wrote
on Jul 31, 2008 5:38 AM

I am really appreciating this hints and tutorials!  Thanks!

Raynebair wrote
on Jul 30, 2008 8:32 PM

Excellent. I will have to remember the K2TOG-BL method.

on Jul 30, 2008 6:59 PM

I have one for you Sandi!

This must be done with  a circ or double pointed needle.  Knit the first stitch, one stitch #2 and all even stitches, do a double wrap before pulling the stitch through and dropping the old one.  Once you get to the end of the knitting on a circ, or the needle of a double point, use a crochet hook to chain off the stitches, dropping one wrap on the double wrapped stitches.  This gi\ves the cast of a bit more yarn, which gives more "give", without making the cast off look loose or lumpy.  I un-vented this myself about 15 years ago.

Knittin' Kiti, NW Philly, PA

AngieW wrote
on Jul 30, 2008 5:57 PM

I wish I had known of this CAST OFF* before I finished my lace shawl - have to admit, even though I used a larger needle, it is still a little tight!

*Cast on - Cast off!  Do you Americans bind on - bind off? LOL!

BarbaraS@6 wrote
on Jul 30, 2008 4:45 PM

I also just did a "stretchy bind-off" for a neckline.  The pattern called for doing the normal bind off of the first stitch, then put the remaining stitch back on the left needle, knit again two stitches, bind off the first stitch put the remaining stitch back on the needle, knit it again, repeat this until all bound off.  It did create a sort of ripple effect, which was okay for the garment I was working on.  

ZassZ wrote
on Jul 30, 2008 4:24 PM

Very nice Sandi.  I just tried all 3 to compare.  I like to try all sorts of cast on & bind off.  Thank you.