Learn cast off knitting (also known as bind off knitting)! Imagine that your lovely, creative knitting project is complete, but how do you bind off those stitches so that all your hard work doesn’t unravel? Continue reading to learn how to cast off. Firstly, the terminology - bind off knitting and cast off knitting are simply two different terms for the same thing. I will be using the terms interchangeably throughout this article while teaching you how to cast off. Next, there are a number of ways to achieve this. Let’s explore the options.
How to Cast Off Knitting Tutorial
Cast Off Materials:
- Knitting Needles
If you are practicing casting off, you will need a small swatch of knitted fabric to work with.
Cast Off Abbreviations:
- k = knit stitch
- p = purl stitch
- LH = left hand
- RH = right hand
- sl = slip
- st = stitch
- tog = together
Before You Start Cast Off Knitting
Before you start learning how to cast off you should know how to do:
Method 1: Standard Cast Off Knitting
This basic bind off is the most commonly used and the easiest method for beginner knitters. It is also called the ‘French Method’.
- Knit the first 2 stitches.
- Insert the LH needle into the first stitch.
- Pass that stitch over the second stitch. (There will be 1 stitch left on the needle and 1 stitch cast off.)
When working on the right side of your work, cast off knit-wise. If casting off on the wrong side of your work, purl the first 2 stitches, and cast off purl-wise.
- Knit the next stitch from the LH needle.
- Repeat the movement of lifting the new stitch over the old stitch.
- Keep repeating this process until there is only 1 stitch left.
- Cut the yarn, leaving a 6” (15cm) tail for weaving in later.
- Pull the tail through the last remaining st so that it holds the loop in place.
Method 2: English Cast Off Knitting
Also called the ‘English Method’. This gives a more textured cast-off edge.
- Knit 2 together into the back of the loops.
- Put remaining stitch back onto LH needle.
- Pass next stitch over from left to right.
- Repeat the operation until you only have 1 stitch left.
- Cut the yarn and pull it through the last st as explained in method 1.
Method 3: Elastic Or Stretchy Cast Off
This is good for when you need a stretchy edge like necklines, where you need to be able to pull the garment over your head!
- Knit 2 together to back of loops. You now have 1 stitch on RH needle.
- Return this st to LH needle, by slipping it purlwise.
- Repeat these 2 steps across the row until all stitches are bound off.
- As described in methods 1 and 2, cut yarn and pull the tail through the last loop.
Method 4: I-Cord Bind Off Knitting
This is useful when you want a very neatly bound edge that is going to be visible, for example, on the top of a pocket or the edge of a collar.
What is an I-cord?
When I first read about i-cord, I thought it was some type of nylon twine which was knitted into your garment right at the end, when you are about to cast off! I was very wrong!
It is a very narrow tube of knitting, which can be used as ties for a garment or as handles for a bag. When using it for bind off, the i-cord is created as you cast off. Both are worked at the same time.
- Start by casting on 3 stitches, onto the end of your final row.
- * knit first 2 stitches.
- Slip next st onto RH needle, knitwise.
- Slip following st onto RH needle, again knitwise.
- Pass those 2 stitches back onto LH needle. This causes the stitches to twist slightly.
- Insert RH needle into the back of those 2 stitches, and knit them together.
- You will have 3 sts on the right needle.
- Slip them back onto the left hand needle purlwise.
- Repeat from *.
With each sequence, you will be knitting 2 together, and picking up 1 new stitch from the main piece. This eventually works through all your stitches, until the last one, which you finish off by cutting the yarn and passing it through that last stitch. This creates a lovely-looking cable going horizontally across your cast-off edge.
Warning: This method uses a lot of yarn! Don’t use it if you are at the end of your yarn for the project!
Method 5: Picot Binding Off
This one sounds rather complicated, but is not, and it is easy to learn. It gives an attractive decorative edge with little spikes or bumps called picots. It is a very elastic cast off method. It is suitable for items like shawls or wraps or anything with the cast off at the bottom of the garment. It is lovely for garments which are knitted ‘top down’. Picot bind off is made with a combination of standard cast off and knitted cast on.
- *Cast off 2 stitches using the standard cast off method.
- Slip remaining st back onto LH needle.
- Cast on 2 stitches with a knitted cast on.
- Cast off 4 sts.
- Repeat steps from * until all stitches are bound off.
- Finish off the last stitch as described above.
- The above instructions give small picots. You can make larger spikes by casting on more stitches. The rule of thumb here is that you must cast off twice the number of stitches that you cast on.
Troubleshooting With Cast Off Knitting
Casting off is actually really simple, and not much can go wrong!
Do keep in mind that if you are working a combination of knit and purl stitches as part of your pattern, you must bind off the knit stitches knitwise, and the purl stitches purlwise. So if you were working with a k2, p2 rib knit stitch you must continue to k2, p2 as you bind off. It will look far neater this way than if you just knit across the whole row as you bind off.
The most common problem is that the cast off row is too tight. This is especially a problem for tight items such as the tops of socks and sweaters. It helps to consciously knit more loosely when casting off. If you find it is still too tight, try using needles a size or two larger just for casting off.
One more thing that can look wrong is that your final stitch, where you cut the yarn and pull it through, can end up a bit loose and sloppy. To avoid this:
- Slip your last stitch onto the RH needle.
- Use the left needle to pick up a strand of yarn from the stitch below this final stitch.
- Slip this extra loop as well as the last stitch back onto the LH needle.
- Knit together the loop and the last stitch.
- Then cut the yarn and pull it through the final stitch.
How To Cast Off In The Round
If you are working on circular needles, the cast off method will be just the same as if you are working on straight needles. You may find, however, that there is a small ‘step’ between your first cast off stitch and your last. The step will be the height of one stitch. This is because when working on circular needles, you are actually knitting in a spiral! If you are working with fine yarn and small needles, this ‘step’ is hardly noticeable. If you are working with bulky yarn and large needles, however, the step will be a large one!
To remedy this, cut your yarn with about a 10”(25cm) tail, pull your yarn through the final stitch as normal, and pull it tight to secure it. Then thread it into your yarn needle and thread the needle through the first v shape of your cast off row. Then bring the needle back, and thread it back into the last v, essentially creating a new v shape stitch. Pull it firmly to close the gap, then weave the rest of the tail into your knitting to secure it, ending with a backstitch.
When you have reached the end of your cast off row, you will need to secure that final stitch so that it doesn’t unravel. To do this, cut your yarn leaving a tail of at least 6” (15 cm.) Wrap this tail around your needle and pull the final stitch over the tail- just as though you were completing a standard cast off stitch. Pull the tail of yarn all the way through the loop and pull on it firmly to tighten it. It can no longer unravel.
How To Weave In Your Ends
Once you have secured that tail, thread it into your yarn or tapestry needle.
You can choose to weave the yarn vertically or horizontally. If you like to work it vertically, turn your work so the wrong side is facing you, then thread the yarn down through the ‘bumps’ of your purl stitches for about an inch. (2.5 cm) then work back up again through the adjacent row of bumps. Keep weaving it up and down until your tail of yarn is all used up.
If you prefer to weave it horizontally, again, turn your work so the wrong side is facing you. Then use your needle to follow the path of the knitted yarn through a few stitches. So you will weave it in a serpentine fashion, horizontally through the stitches. Then turn around and come back along the next row of stitches. This method gives the most invisible weave in of ends.
How to Cast Off Knitting - In Conclusion
As you can see, there are a number of methods for binding off. It is tempting to just use the easiest method for you, but each method has its own specific purpose, so when applying your new knowledge of how to cast off, you will need to decide which one will be right for the particular project you are working on.
Whatever you are casting on, knitting, or learning how to cast off, enjoy the process! Don’t rush to finish it, or you will end up making mistakes. The whole purpose of knitting is to enjoy the craft. Enjoy the process of knitting and watching your knitted item come to life! If you have enjoyed every step of the knitting, you will also enjoy the satisfaction of casting off each piece that you have made, one step closer to completing that beautiful garment you have created!
Cast Off Knitting
- Knitting Needles
- Knit the first 2 stitches of the row.
- Insert the left needle into the first stitch on the right needle.
- Pass that stitch over the second stitch (there will now be one stitch on the right needle).
- Knit one more stitch.
- Pass that stitch over the second stitch and keep repeating until you have one stitch left on the needle.
- Cut the yarn leaving a 6 inch (15cm) tail. Pass the end of the tail through the loop of the last stitch and pull tight.
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