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Knitting Tips and Tricks: An A-Ha Moment

Sep 21, 2009

Today I ended up at the intersection of "need a tip for this" and "here's a tip for this," and boy was it a beautiful view! I was in the process of binding off the shoulders of the back of my Central Park Hoodie, and I was left with that irritating loose loop at the end of the bind off. I usually just bury that loose stitch when I seam the shoulders, but it always bugs me.

Anyway, I happened to be using my trusty copy of The Knitter's Companion by Vicki Square, as I was editing another post, and I saw a sidebar titled "Loose Loop Alert." It was a terrific tip for taking care of that loose last stitch! Kismet. I had to share it with all of you so we could have a group a-ha moment!

Loose Loop Alert

When all of the stitches on the needle are bound off, the last stitch can be quite loose. To tighten and neaten this stitch, work it with the stitch in the row below it: insert the right needle from the back into the stitch below the last stitch, lift this stitch and place it onto the left needle (Figure 1).

Then knit the stitch below and the last stitch together. Bind off the last stitch on the right needle, cut the yarn, and pull the cut end through the last stitch to secure it (Figure 2).


I love it when I find a new tip like this; something that helps me fix a problem that's been bugging me for years. Vicki Square always has such great tips and tricks—check out her column, "The Thinking Knitter," in every issue of Interweave Knits. Her Fall 2009 column has some wonderful information about choosing colors. And I can't recommend The Knitter's Companion highly enough. It's truly been my knitting companion for years. Check it out at your local yarn shop or here at the Interweave Store, you won't be sorry. Even experienced knitters can benefit from the information contained in this little gem.

Another Bind-Off Tip

I always bind off using a needle two sizes larger than I've used on the knitted piece. I've had so many oops experiences when binding off, and I finally figured out that it was because I was pulling too tight as I was knitting that bind-off row and my bind off edge was curving in on itself instead of laying flat like it should. The worst problem I had was with a scarf that I knit lengthwise. I bound off all 300 stitches too tightly and the scarf ended up curving on the bind-off side, making the whole thing look like a half-circle. That's a lot of bound-off stitches to frog, believe me! 

The nature of the bind-off stitch is that it's non-elastic, so you need to really make an effort to knit that row loosely, or just use the bigger needle. You might need to use a needle just one size larger, but I usually need to use one that's two sizes larger.

Good luck with these tips—I hope they improve your binding-off experience!




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Bev@2 wrote
on Dec 19, 2009 4:04 PM

Just used your helpful tip for that last loose stitch.  Thanks!  Worked like a charm!

Kathrows wrote
on Sep 28, 2009 3:13 PM


on Sep 25, 2009 4:49 PM

Re Jayna Marrinan's comment:

This is the Annie Modesitt bind-off. I love it too!

Beth Krueger

Lea@15 wrote
on Sep 25, 2009 3:11 PM


In Knitting Daily, 9/21/09, you spoke of intersections and rarely do they cross in my universe so obviously …… say “Kismet” and I say “Voila”!

I am using yarn scraps to make 9 inch squares to create a very tactile “binky” for my miniature poodle; he loves to run his face over a scratchy surface (currently my Flokati bed throw).  My view is that even though it is a dog blanket it has to delight my visual senses as it does his tactile ones!

Going to add bits and bobs after I finish all those darn squares to give Micha’s “binky” more tactile stimulation…..but I digress……Yes, there is a point!

I have made quite a few of these little squares recently and have faced that “loop” on a very frequent basis….really irritating ……and then………..

and then ………..wait for it………. there you were with the answer!!  

Thanks so much………you never know what sentence,  tip, etc. will save the day or save the project!   Have fun!    Lea Swiers

Bev@2 wrote
on Sep 23, 2009 9:22 AM

Thanks for sharing this!  I've had this problem my entire knitting life, and while a couple of resources have purported to have solutions to the problem, this is the first one that sounds like it will actually work!

KayO@2 wrote
on Sep 22, 2009 7:02 PM

I actually have a question!  I understand the concept of using a size or two larger needle to cast off...makes a lot of sense!  Soooo, my question is this ... Do you knit the last row of your project onto the larger size needle and then cast off OR do you just do the cast off row with the larger size?   Thanks so much!

Kay O

JanetL wrote
on Sep 22, 2009 1:16 PM

The problem of the loose last stitch can also be fixed by knitting the last two stitches in the row together and then binding that stitch off.

mtrm100 wrote
on Sep 22, 2009 10:15 AM

Kathleen - thanks so much for the great tip about the loose stitch.  I'll be using it soon.


ohlordie wrote
on Sep 22, 2009 9:14 AM

Thank you sooooo much for the tip about "loose loop alert."  I too have been  frustrated about the loose last stitch and not knowing how to cure the problem.  I will certainly use this tip on my next project.

Thanks again for the tip -- Laurie

peggy@111 wrote
on Sep 22, 2009 6:19 AM

That's a great tip - one I will surely use.   Here's what I do on a bind off edge, especially one which will be visible - cast off in a Knit 1, Purl 1. It leaves a nice flat-lying edge which is stretchy. The bind-off edge is horizontal to the knitting, not lying on one side or the other of the fabric.  Good for toe-up socks, scarves etc.


AnnR wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 6:47 PM

I always wondered what I was doing wrong when I had the large loop at the end of my cast off row. GREAT TIPS!!!


I look forward to the Knitting Daily.

MarthaD@6 wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 6:47 PM

Another elastic bind of that I found in "The Knitter's Companion" is the sewn bind-off.  I used this on a pair of toe-up socks and it worked great.  The top band stayed nice and elastic.  

MarthaD@6 wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 6:33 PM

Sewn Bind-off is another way to bind off an keep the edge elastic and is also from  "the knitter's Companion."  I used this for the last pair of socks I made that were toe-up.  It worked great at keeping that top band from being too tight.

JaynaM wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 2:56 PM

Speaking of ways to bind off.  I'm knitting a pair of shorts (yeah, I know it's wierd) and had to bind off at the base of the thigh.  I saw a tip (can't remember where) to knit 2 tog, slip the resulting stitch back to the left needle, repeat to the end.  I like this better for the application better than the standard bind off.  It's more stretchy.

Jayna Marrinan

on Sep 21, 2009 1:16 PM

By " two needle sizes larger" for binding off, do you mean two whole needle sizes, ie., if you are using a 3mm needle, do I cast off using a 5 mm needle? or do you mean two 1/2 sizes up...? I am always confused by this....Thank you.

on Sep 21, 2009 1:10 PM

Hi everyone. Greetings from the UK.  Interesting details about casting off.  I know you are talking about knitting but using a larger crochet hook to work the cast on/chain "start" row when crocheting, also stops the "curl" when making a scarf. Going back to knitting, I crochet my pieces together, and the looser stitches on the cast off row especially on shoulders also saves a gathering effect.  I do very little back stitch seaming   Julia JSDesigns.

on Sep 21, 2009 1:10 PM

Hi everyone. Greetings from the UK.  Interesting details about casting off.  I know you are talking about knitting but using a larger crochet hook to work the cast on/chain "start" row when crocheting, also stops the "curl" when making a scarf. Going back to knitting, I crochet my pieces together, and the looser stitches on the cast off row especially on shoulders also saves a gathering effect.  I do very little back stitch seaming   Julia JSDesigns.

Knitto wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 12:57 PM

Re binding off ....I've always had that "loose" stitch problem until I came across EZimmermann's sewn casting-off. Can be found on page 23 of "Knitting Without Tears".  For those that don't have the book, method is as follows:

1.  Break yarn leaving goodly amount - I found at least 3xs the width of item being bound off.

2.  Thread through blunt needle.

3.  Hold work in left hand

4.  Put blunt needle through the lst two stitches as if to purl, from right to left.

5.  Pull yarn through.

6.  Put blunt needle back through lst stitch as if to knit, fromleft to right.

7.  Pull yarn through

8.  Slip lst stitch off Knitting needle.

Repeat last 8 steps until done.  I've never had my bind off too tight.

Just another a-ha moment!  Love those moments!

parcher wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 12:22 PM

I can't tell you how much I am enjoying your daily messages.  They are full of great information and tips.

MeganMills wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 12:12 PM

A related problem is the 'pig's ears' you get when you get to the end of a bind-off.  I read somewhere (was it one of Elizabeth Zimmermann's books?) that you can overcome this by working the last two stitches together before binding off what was the antepenultimate stitch.  Works a charm!

eightozs wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 12:04 PM

I find I have to bind off with smaller needles when knitting headbands in the round, but will keep this in mind when I get started on other projects

TondaS wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 11:58 AM

If you use a russian bind off for something needing elastiicity you will find this will do the  trick, I am designing doll clothing and this really makes a difference between fighting a sleeve over a formed hand or sliding over easy, when it comes to doll clothes the more elastic the bind off with out elastic itself the more enjoyment mother and daughter will have or us big girls will have that love their dollies...

I hope this saves someone else a lot of frogging of tiny knitting or any knitting for that matter.


bglaser wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 11:42 AM

Dear Kathleen,

Thanks for the very thoughtful bind-off tips.  I'll be using them!

djbseb wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 11:26 AM

loved the tip will use it the next time I bind off

Denise@43 wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 11:25 AM

GREAT tip, just went thru this with a barn jacket I made....THANKS. Next time, I'll remember this one!!!


Knitglitz wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 11:18 AM

Great tips but nothing beats Lucy Neatby's Modified traditional bind-off.    After knitting the first stitch place it back on the left needle leaving the right needle through that  stitch, place right tip into second loop kw and knit them together through the bottom of the X that is formed in front.  Try it!


Lizzz wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 11:16 AM

Super useful-- thanks!!

ElizabethD wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 11:10 AM

What an awesome tip! I hate those loose last loops. Thanks for sharing.

carol@16 wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 11:09 AM

Kathleen, I want to thank you for the two new post . They were so great for an older self taught  knitter. I've been knitting since the 60's use to do sweaters back

then but knot now. I just want to learn to use double pointed needles to do hats. Most great hat patterns I have to crochet because ive never used four or five needles. I'll keep trying. But thank's again.


on Sep 21, 2009 11:08 AM

THANK YOU!  I've read and tried many ways to tighten up the last bind off stitch, but none as simple and effective as this technique.  Thank you for Knitting Daily, which i read and enjoy every day.

Constance Ward

babybat wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 11:08 AM

Kathleen, is there a tip for dealing with that last stitch on the Kitchner stitch when you are finishing socks?  There is always this one last bigger loop, unless I'm doing something wrong.



karen@3 wrote
on Sep 21, 2009 10:55 AM

Dear Kathleen,

Thanks for the excellent tips.  Although I had heard about the loose loop fix for binding off, it never hurts to hear it again.  And, I just bound off the sleeve of a sweater using larger needles.  It's an easy fix for a perennial problem.

Thanks again,