Incredible I-Cord Edging

I-cord edging
The Loop Pullover by AnnaLena Mattison

Some things in knitting are complicated, and some things are easy. And some things are easy and look complicated. I-cord edging is one of those things. It’s simple to work, but it adds so much to a knitted object. It’s a knitting technique that all knitters should master.

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite finishing techniques is the applied I-cord. It adds such a lovely, rounded edge to collars, sleeves, and pockets. But that’s just one way to use I-cord.

Designer AnnaLena Mattison wrote an article for Knitscene last spring, showing seven ways to use I-cord and it’s a wonderful resource! Here’s AnnaLena!

Seven Ways to Use I-Cord

I-cord is a narrow knitted tube, usually consisting of three to five stitches. This cord can be used for bag handles, hat ties, embellishments, or edgings. Famous knitter and author Elizabeth Zimmermann discovered the technique and named it idiot cord because it was so simple. Now, we just call it I-cord.

Figure 1

Making I-cord is very easy. You will need yarn and two double-pointed needles in a size that works with the thickness of the yarn.

Basic I-Cord
Step 1:
Cast on 3 stitches.

Step 2: Knit the stitches, then slide them to the other end of the needle; do not turn the work but bring the working yarn behind the stitches to the first stitch on the needle (Figure 1), pulling the yarn snug against the back of the work.

Repeat Step 2 until the I-cord is as long as needed.

Attached or Applied I-Cord
This form of I-cord can be used as an edging on knitted items. In this case, you’ll be picking up stitches along the selvedge of a knitted item and incorporating them into the I-cord.

Step 1: Cast on 3 stitches.

Step 2: Knit the stitches, then slide them to the other end of the needle; do not turn the work but bring the working yarn behind the stitches to the first stitch on the needle.

Figure 2

Step 3: Knit 2 stitches, slip 1 stitch as if to knit, use left needle to pick up 1 stitch along edge of work (do not knit; Figure 2), slip this stitch kwise to right needle, work last 2 stitches together as for ssk (the slipped I-cord stitch and the picked up stitch). Slide the 3 stitches to the other end of the needle; do not turn the work but bring the working yarn behind the stitches to the first stitch on the needle. Repeat Step 3 until the edging is complete.

I-cord edging
Figure 3

Other Uses for I-Cord
As a variation on I-cord edging, stitches can be picked up along the work that needs to be edged (Figure 3) using an additional needle. A circular needle would work best if there are many stitches to pick up. With picked up stitches on your left needle, cast on desired number of I-cord stitches onto the left needle.

Work as for applied I-cord, but work the decrease with the last I-cord stitch and one stitch from the live, picked-up stitches. If using a circular needle, slip I-cord stitches back to the left needle and repeat until all picked up stitches have been worked.

Figure 4

I-cord edging can also be added to I-cord edging to create a double edging (Figure 4).

Figure 5

Appliqued I-Cord
Used as embellishment, I-cord edging can be attached to any knitted surface by pinning a length of I-cord to the item and arranging it into any motif you like. Using a yarn needle and yarn, sew the I-cord to the item through the back, making sure the stitches do not show on the front of the work (Figure 5).

—AnnaLena Mattinson, from Knitscene Spring 2014

I-cord knit embellishment
The Slouch Hat

The appliqued I-cord is amazing! It really adds a wonderful finish and you can add any motif you want to; it’s up to you. Check out how effectively this technique is used in the Slouch Hat, at right. The I-cord swirl takes this hat from cute to sophisticated.

Every time I look through an older issue of Knitscene, I’m impressed with the in-depth how-to articles, innovative knitting patterns, and so much more. Get yourself the Spring 2013 issue of Knitscene while it’s on sale! You can download it, too.


P.S. What’s your favorite thing about I-cord? Share it with us in the comments!

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Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

15 thoughts on “Incredible I-Cord Edging

  1. I’ve rescued a couple of projects with icord where the neckline turned out too big for one reason or another. Just thread an icord through the neckline , pull it in and tie. It ended up looking like part of the design rather than an alternative to frogging the whole sweater.

  2. I am doing an I-cord edge to my wingspan.

    For some odd reason, I like being able to knit in the back of my I-cord stitches, so I reverse the wrap going over the needle instead of under. The direction of the wrap effects the way stitches are mounted on the following row. I knit both eastern combined, and continental. I tend to do eastern combined in flat knitting, which is probably the reason for preferring to knit in the back. I was hugely confused when I came across ktb (knit in the back) , I couldn’t figure out what back they meant since I was already in the back.

  3. Thanks for passing on the clear instructions for I-cord knitting. Can you also explain how to add a fine gauge wire to/in the cord to bolster the rim of a wide brimmed hat I’m knitting? Can’t find any You tube to help me.
    Mary Lee

  4. I use I-cord as a welting for needlepoint pillows. I use one of the needlepoint yarns to knit i-cord long enough to go around the pillow, and then I use the same yarn to simply whip it to cover the seam that joins the needlepoint to the pillow backing.

  5. I love using icords for purse or backpack handles. They also make pretty awesome statement jewelry when you hand crochet an icord into a thick chain…

  6. I made a tiny short one–3/4″ maybe–and attached to the hats I knitted for my twin preemie grandsons. They are nine now and health, noisy, rambunctious boys. God is good.

  7. Have some happy memories of this being one of the first things I learned to knit using a wooden spool that my Dad put nails in the top. Later taught my boys how to knit this on double pointed needles as wooden spools are pretty much a thing of the past 🙁 but a long car ride and some scrap yarn made for some funny “Monkey Tails” !!

  8. Attached I-cord instructions are tough to find! I have only found a couple before and they were kind of vague to me. I love the article you posted on this. I’ve had a little coin purse that I made from one of your e-books and the attached I-cord is the only part that kept me from the final finish. Thanks a million!

  9. Making fingers for gloves. Easiest way to knit for the slimmest of fingers, or unordinary sizes. Just use a crochet hook to zip up the ladder…and done! Make three in largest size, one pinkie-sized, then thumb. I-gloves…with or without fingertips, but best with conductive yarn to work phone or touch screen.

  10. There’s a pattern I found that uses I-cord — knit with all purl stitches — to make a beaded necklace. The purl stitches give the cord a natural twist. Adding a bead at each “row” turns it into jewelry.