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!