Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ordinary chain bind off, part 3: binding off circular knits

Includes 13 illustrations Click any illustration to enlarge

When using an ordinary chain bind off to cast off a circularly knitted garment, there are several methods of dealing with the last stitches:
  • the gappy default
  • Method 1--an OK method
  • Method 2--a pretty good method
  • Method 3--an excellent method
The gappy default:
The gappy default is to simply chain bind off all the way around, and then to end the bind-off by pulling the tail yarn (yellow) through the last stitch (blue). In this default method, the knitter simply accepts the gap between the first stitch bound off (green) and the last stitch bound off (blue) as shown on the illustration below.

The OK method (method 1)
To close the unsatisfactory gap left by the default method, a refinement has been added by many knitters, as follows:

1a: After binding off the last stitch (blue) thread the tail (yellow) onto a blunt tipped, large-eyed sewing needle ("tapesty needle"). Insert the tapestry needle up into the blue stitch from underneath, as if you were pulling the final tail through the last stitch in ordinary chain bind off per the default method. Next, insert the needle from the back to the front, under BOTH arms of the first stitch bound off (green). Illustration 1a shows the tail (yellow) worked through the last stitch bound off (blue), and the needle inserted under the two arms of the first stitch bound off (green).

1b: Th needle, which has been drawn through the green stitch to the front, is then re-inserted into the top of the blue stitch, inserting from the top, downwards, as shown.

1c: This method creates a bridging stitch (yellow) between the last stitch bound off (the blue) and the first stitch bound off (green). As you can see, the bridging stitch actually acts as an additional chain bind-off stitch inserted into the top of the bind off. Truthfully, in thin yarn, this extra stitch (yellow) is unlikely to ever be noticed, but in bulky yarn, that extra (yellow) stitch may cause an awkward bump.

The GOOD method (method 2)
In order to maintain the pattern of bound-off stitches around the top without inserting an extra stitch, method 2 has you stop the chain bind off one stitch before the end. Thus, the last stitch bound off (blue) stops when there remains one fabric stitch "live" (not bound off) and that is the orange stitch. Specifically:

2a: To work method 2, the first step is to thread the tail (yellow) onto a tapestry needle. The needle is then inserted purlwise into the last remaining live fabric stitch (orange) as shown in illustration 2a, and next inserted up into the last stitch bound off (blue) from underneath.

2b: The needle is drawn through the top of the last stitch bound off (blue) and next inserted from the back to the front, under BOTH arms of the first stitch bound off (green).

2c: The needle, which has been drawn through the green stitch to the front, is then re-inserted into the top of the blue stitch, working from the top downwards, and then inserted knitwise into the top of the orange stitch, as shown below.

2d: As you can see, the result of method 2 is really pretty good. The (yellow) bridging stitch which you have created with the tail yarn is not an extra stitch as it was in method 1: although the yellow stitch was worked with a sewing needle, it is actually a knitted chain bind-off stitch worked into the top of the final live fabric stitch (orange). In fact, this little trick of making knit stitches with a sewing needle is the same idea as the Kitchener stitch (also called grafting). In other words, method 2 grafts the top of the last stitch bound off (blue) to the top of the first stitch bound off (green), while also binding off the last live fabric stitch (orange) all this while following the same path which the other knitted bind-off chains have followed.

The EXCELLENT method (method 3)
Now circular knitting, as you know, is not actually done in circles. Rather, circular knitting is done in an endless spiral, where each round has no true beginning or end. This means that any method which simply binds the last stitch to the first will create a jog where the level changes. Specifically, the last stitch bound off (blue) is actually one row higher than the first stitch bound off (green) and so there is a little jog where the levels are drawn together: the green stitch is humped up slightly, while the blue stitch is drawn down. For sheer perfection, it is possible to modify method 2 by adding one more refinement to the top of a circular bind off, and this last refinement (method 3) does away with this level change--it eliminates that jog.

Normally, the jog of the level change in spiral knitting is smoothed over by simply sliding the first stitch of the round from one needle to the next, thus forcing it to span two rows. (This is the trick behind eliminating the jog in jogless stripes). However, simply slipping a stitch at the top of the work would result in the bar behind the slipped stitch perhaps showing on a rolled edging (as you know, a rolled edging exposes the purled side of a stockinette fabric, so that the bar behind the stitch slipped across would show).

Therefore, we've got to find another trick to reduce the height level between the first stitch bound off and the last stitch bound off (blue) and the trick we'll use in this case is to knit into the stitch below. Here's how:

3a: Begin this method by knitting a stitch into the stitch below. (Click here for further information on knitting into the stitch below.) In this case, the orange stitch above has been knit into the purple stitch below. Both of these stitches are then caught onto the same holder (in this case, the coil-less safety-pin illustrated). The chain bind-off now proceeds in the ordinary manner beginning with the following (green) stitch. (Note that as you start the chain bind off, it's important not to draw up the running yarn too tightly. If you skip ahead to step 3e, you'll see that it is necessary to leave a moderate amount of slack in the orange stitch. How much slack? In this, as in so many things in knitting, use makes master.)

3b: The bind-off proceeds around the garment, and comes back to where it began, stopping when the stitches on the holder are reached. The tail (yellow) is threaded onto a tapestry needle, and inserted purlwise into BOTH stitches on the holder, the orange and the purple. This step ends when the needle is inserted up into the last stitch bound off (blue) working from underneath, upwards, as shown.

3c: The needle is drawn out through the top of the blue stitch, and next inserted from the back to the front under BOTH arms of first stitch bound off (green).

3d: The needle, which has been drawn through the green stitch to the front, is re-inserted into the last blue stitch, working from the top, downwards, as shown. The needle is then inserted knitwise into the orange and purple stitches, as shown.

3e: As you can see, knitting the orange stitch into the purple stitch helps eliminate the jog. Leaving a moderate amount of slack in the orange stitch back in step 3a means that this orange stitch has enough play to stetch across the change of level. Also, because this orange stitch was knitted into the purple stitch below it rather than bing slipped, there is no slipped yarn acorss its back to show on the purl side of a rolled edging. As in method 2, the green and blue stitches are connected by the yellow bridging stitch, which also binds off the remaining live stitches (orange and purple).

As to which method to use, the choice is obviously yours.

My own usage is as follows: On a toe-up sock top, method 1 (the OK method) is fine--the yarn of a sock is so thin that the extra chain stitch squeezed in will never show. Plus, trying to work method 2 or method 3 means working a sewing needle in the correct sequence through very small stitches indeed--a job which would certainly require me to get up out of my chair and hunt out a pair of magnifying glasses. On a bulky hat brim, method 2 is the method I would use: The slight jog would look better to my eyes than the doubled bulk of method 3. However, on the bound off edge of a garment knit circularly in the range of 5 st/in to about 6.5 st/inch, I would certainly choose Method 3, the excellent method, especially if the garment has a rolled edge. Done correctly, method 3 simply will not show--it is even hard to find if you go hunting for it with your glasses on.

Of course, there is always a rascal in paradise, and so it is here. With all three of these methods, the tail remains loose and has to be worked in. For this, I personally would pull off the tapestry needle, re-thread the tail yarn onto a nice sharp needle, and skim in the end. For a rolled edge, I'd skim on the stockinette (front) face of the fabric, just in the first row down, where the skimming would be hidden by the roll of the fabric.

* * *
This post is part of a series. The others in this series are:
Ordinary chain bind off, part 1: binding off along a straight edge
Part 2a: binding off in the middle of a fabric--starting the bind off
Part 2b: binding off in the middle of a fabric--ending the bind off

* * *

You have been reading TECHknitting on: Casting off circular knits.


Courses and Wales said...

Have you considered writing a book? I love your blog and think the material and the clear,concise pictures would be great in a knitting technical manual.

jillian said...

A great and simple method that I use to close a circular bind off that leaves no jog is instead of ending the bind off with the last stitch of the row, pick up one stitch under the first bound off stitch, and then bind off that stitch. Weave in the end as normal, no fancy shenanigans when weaving in necessary.

Alan said...

I use method 2 but I work it differently. I bind off as usual. When the last stitch is on the right needle, I pull the needle to pull the end through. Then I thread it on a sewing needle and work it in as you do. Same results but you don't have to fiddle with the orange stitch in 2a.

yoel said...

Wow, thank you! No more big awful gaps!

C said...

Thank you for another great tutorial!!

Anonymous said...

Wow. Thank you so much. I am a ok method-er but have always wanted to upgrade.

Pamelamama said...

Another great use for knit in the stitch below -- fantastic!!

I've been using this method: http://www.woolywonder.com/freebies/cufftutorial/ but your suggestions take it to another exciting level that I can't wait to try!

livnletlrn said...

Excellent to know and new technique to me. Thanks, as always!

Theresa said...

Just in case no one has mentioned it lately, I think you are a marvel! Please don't ever stop wondering how to do things better; we need you.

MtnViewJohn said...

In method 3 why not slip the first stitch with the yarn in front? Then when your stockinette edge curls the bar will be hidden. Also, wouldn't a normal slip work if your pattern was non-curling (ribbing say)?

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Alan: Actually, I do the same as what you are writing--it is certainly a logical shortcut. The reason, however, it is illustrated as it appears is twofold: First, I could not figure out how to illustrate it very well. Second, it seemed more consistent to illustrate it as I did, because that shows how method 2 and method 3 are pretty much the same.

Hi Mtn View John: Sure, you could slip with the bar in front on a curling edge, and that would be the logical thing to do if you knew for sure that you were never going to see the face of the fabric--as on a curled stockinette edging. The knit into the stitch below method works, however, on any kind of fabric and in any situation--whether it is the very edge in stockinette (and therefore going to curl) or whether you are later going to pick up and put a band on (which I often do through a chain bind off). However, your comment certainly shows that there are many ways to do things in knitting, and many ways to get the same (or nearly the same) result.

Thanks to you both for writing. --TK

Dixie Ipsit said...

Great, great, great! I think I had actually asked about this as a comment to one of your other posts on binding off. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

Margaret S said...

Hi, I am sort of new at knitting.I came across this pattern that stopped me in my tracks.I was knitting just fine, then I came row 8,and it stated to bind off 3 sts,k2. How do I do that.Thanks

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Margaret--were the stitches to be bound off in the middle of a fabric, or at the very edge? This will make a difference in what you are to do. --TK

Anisa said...

I just wanted to say that since you made this series of posts about binding off, I think I have used every single suggestion at least once, and I think they're absolutely fabulous. Seriously, these are the answers to some of the knitting problems that have troubled me the most over the years. Terrific!

The best one ever was yesterday, when I finally got around to finishing up a sweater. It's Gytha from the winter Twist Collective, and the edging is as follows: Using one needle size smaller than normal and CC1, pick up n stitches. Using one needle size larger than normal and CC1 and CC3 held together, and continuing to work in the round, bind off all stitches. So you see, the bind off itself constitutes the decorative edging. I was absolutely dreading that gap between the first bound-off stitch and the last one, and thanks to you and your method 3, it looks absolutely flawless. Thank you!!

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Anisa--it's good to hear that you are using the tips to a good result. Thanks for writing!


Tanyarn said...

Thank you!
I have used your method 3 today on a pouch edge, and my DH could not tell where the joint was...

Tricia said...

Hi, I'm trying to use your "Good Method (method 2)" and it's not looking quite right. Do you do anything differently when binding off in purl?

julie said...

Hi there - please could you clarify something - on method 3, you say to knit into the stitch below, but then on the diagram it looks as if there isn't a knit stitch, it's as if the stitch below and above were slipped and put onto the holder, rather than being knit together - I tried it out myself and ended up with 3 stitches on the holder (because I knit the stitch below, with the one above, plus the newly created stitch - I'm sure this was wrong but if you could clarify that would be great! Many thanks, Jules

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Jules--I'm not quite sure what happened to get three stitches on the holder, but the steps are these:
first, knit the orange stitch into the same base stitch as that into which the purple stitch was knit (this is the "knit into the stitch below " part). The orange and purple stitch will now be together--two loops in the same base stitch--and these two loops are to be put onto a holder, as shown in illustration 3a. Next, the work is bound off all the way around the top. Finally, when the last stitch has been bound off (blue) the tail is cut and threaded onto a needle, and then the tail is worked in according to the instructions in illustrations 3b-e

Thanks for writing--TK

Michelle said...

I'm a noob knitter who decided to knit specifically to make socks... and on my first toe-up... I encountered this problem and some nice folks over at Ravelry directed me here.

Thanks so much !

julie said...

Thanks TK - I'm still a bit confused though, as it looks on the diagram as if the 2 stitches on the holder aren't being held by a 'live' stitch on the needle any more. Are the 2 stitches knit together in the usual way one would knit into the stitch below? Sorry it's taking a while for me to 'get' this!

Thanks again, Jules

Roy and Lynn Dodds said...

Thank you for this beautiful instruction! It is just what I needed.

Marissa said...

In the 3rd method, you say to knit into the stitch below (which I know how to do but it doesn't look the same, like Julies comment) and then in 3b go around casting off. In the picture for 3a the left hand side of the illustration looks like it is already 'bound off'. Or am I just losing it????

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Marissa, you're right--the green stitch is already bound off, and so are all the stitches you can see on the left. The illustration 3 b means to keep going around binding off the portion of the stitches you can't see in the picture, until you come all the way around to the stitches on the right which you can see, and the last stitch you'll bind off in the regular chain manner is the blue one. The fun really starts after the blue one is bound off.

As to the purple and orange stitch, a stitch knit into the stitch below doesn't look like that in real life because the stitch knit down into the one below gets all scrunched up with the stitch under it. But they WOULD look like that if you could make them both lay out flat.

Hope this helps! Best, TK

mdynamic said...

Alas, the orange/purple/holder step has me stumped as well.

In your article about knitting into the stitch below I see how the stitch is done and how it results in the pink stitch on the right needle. What confuses me about the above illustration is that I cannot discern whether the orange & purple stitches above are equivalent to the blue and green stitches or to the pink yarn/resultant stitch.

Is that clear? Put another way:
Is it the two stitches that were drawn together by K1B that are in the holder or is the new stitch itself in the holder?

thank you!

TECHknitter said...

Hi Mdynamic--sorry for the delay in answering--your comment got lost in some odd way.

I take it you are asking about illustration 3a? The orange stitch is the stitch in this round, and the purple stitch is the stitch in the round below. So, you begin this particular bind off by knitting a stitch, then immediately catching that stitch (the orange stitch) as well as the stitch below that one (the purple stitch) onto a holder. Then you go on knitting, so that the very next stitch you create will be the neighbor of the orange stitch (in its same row) and will be worked into the neighbor of the purple stitch (stitch below, ordinary knitting).

Thanks for writing, and if still confused, consider e-mailing me directly at TECHknitting@hotmail.com.


Ape said...

I may be stupid, but how does this work if some of the previous stitches were purled? Are the processed just as if they were knitted? This is especially confusing because I often end on a purled stitch, and then trying to use the third method to thread through the stitch below. Do I go backwards?

Brooke said...

I do not know if this will help anyone, but I have found that when using method 3, a crochet hook the same diameter as the knitting needles used is a p-e-r-f-e-c-t stitch holder. It's made things very easy for me.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Ape--sorry for the big delay in answering--5 comments were mysteriously delayed in delivery, and yours was one of them.

If you are still interested in the answer: The purl is the opposite of the knit. If it were me, I would simply turn the hat over and work the trick on the inside, where it will be a knit. If this still doesn't help you, write to me again (by e-mail, this time, to techknitting@hotmail.com) and I will try to explain further.

Thanks for writing, and next time, if you find a question in a comment isn't being answered, srite an e-mail, I believe these are more reliable.

Bet, TK

ChapalaCheryl said...

Thank you so much for this tutorial. The explanations and illustrations are so clear. I have very little vision and so really appreciate your work.

Cheryl in Mexico

summerjc said...

I just wanted to thank you for posting this. It was so, so helpful! I really appreciate the effort you put into your posts. I recently knit two Cambrian Cowls from the book Coastal Knits. For the first one, I just bound off the last stitch and pulled the yarn through - it did not look as neat as I would have liked. So then I found this post, and my second Cambrian Cowl looks so much better! You can barely tell where the last stitch was bound off. So, thank you again for all your tips and tricks!

HPNY KNITS said...

brilliant! thanks!

Lucio Oldani said...

Congratulations and thanks are not enough.
I went through the comments and I couldn't find a full answer to my question.
I am doing a cowl, with a bulky yarn (size 7 mm)and I am finishing with a 2x ribs. For this reason, I find difficult to make the orange stitch, as the last stitch of the last round, right before starting with binding-off (green stitch), is a PURLED stitch. Now, is there any way to skip this obstacle?
I am sorry if this sounds a silly question, but I would really like to use the method 3, as I am doing a cowl for my partner and I want the best in this project!
Many thanks for the attention and any further help :0

kushami said...

Dear Techknitter,
I just wanted to know that this is one of my most treasured knitting tips. I keep it in the bookmarks bar of my browser for easy access! I love method two because you don't need to do anything special until you get to the end of the bind off (I'm absent minded).
Thank you for your thoughtful blog posts.

TECHknitter said...

Dear Sarah--I am so glad you like the post, and appreciate your writing. Best, TK

Mae said...

All I want to say is, you are an an absolute treasure for so generously sharing your experience, knowledge and insights - and for taking the time and trouble to write and illustrate them so exquisitely. I agree with a previous post: if you were to put this all into a book/an encyclopaedia, it would be perpetually sold out. Would you consider doing so? Step aside, EZ and Barbara Walker - you are no less of a knitting genius, TK! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

TECHknitter said...

That is some mighty company. I'd be happy to aspire to sit at the feet of the greats! I'm trying pretty hard to write a book or booklet about color knitting, but wow is it a pain in the rear--the illustrations alone are SO time consuming, who who knows if it will ever happen? Best, TK

, said...

Wow - what an exciting project! It must involve a hair-raising amount of work though... I wish you all the strength, courage and patience in the world - and I will be keeping my eyes glued to your website for news of the forthcoming master opus!

Mae said...

Sorry about that last comment slipping away without my name! Best, Mae

Kate Spencer said...

I wanted to say thank you for this tutorial and binding off/ending the bind off in the middle, and your end weaving options - so far I've used all but the last to help make my first knit top a success! I will probably end up trying skimming too, since it's a cotton/linen blend and thus the ends aren't just going to felt themselves in with wear.

Your tutorials are so clear, and so invaluable - thank you!!