In most cases, the regular way to bind off stitches works just fine. But if you want to add a special touch to the open edges of your project, you need to use a special way of closing the stitches. I-cord bind off is one of those ways.
It turns plain edges of a blanket, cowl, top-down hat and toe-up socks into a sophisticated decoration, and adds an elegant detail to cuffs and bottom of a top-down sweater. A big bonus of this bind off is that it is fully reversible and looks great with any stitch pattern.
Even though the i-cord bind off looks quite fancy, it is not hard to do. In fact, I found two ways to make this bind off, one easier than the other. Let's take a look at both of them.
This is probably the classic way to make the i-cord bind off because it is the way explained in many books, blog posts and video tutorials. I learned it a while ago from "The Knitting Answer Book" by Margaret Radcliffe.
At that time I planned to make a turtleneck sweater and was looking for a nice finishing for the neckline. The sweater never moved past the swatching stage, but I really liked how i-cord bind off makes the neckline look more stylish.
Here's how this way works. As usual, I made a video tutorial that shows every step of the process. Click here to watch the video.
1. At the beginning of the row, cast on 3 stitches using knit on cast on (watch how to do it).
2. Knit 2 stitches.
3. Make a decrease - slip the next stitch knitwise, then knit one stitch and pass the slipped stitch over the knit one. Click here to watch it in the video tutorial. We've just bound off one stitch.
4. Insert the left needle from left to right into the three stitches we've just knit and slip those stitches from the right needle to the left needle. Do not turn your work! It is an i-cord, so we always stay on the right side of the work.
Repeat steps 2 - 4 until you only have three stitches of the i-cord left. Cut the yarn leaving a small tail and thread it into a wool needle. Run the wool needle through the stitches. Pull tight to secure and weave in the tail as you have it in the wool needle already. This part is shown at 02:55 of the video.
I found this way when I was doing research for this article, and I'm quite happy I did because this way is faster and easier than the way #1. It is called "Meg Swansen's speedy i-cord bind off".
Here's how to do it:
1. This step is the same as the first step in the way #1 we've just discussed - cast on 3 stitches at the beginning of the bind off row.
Meg Swansen suggests to use backwards loop cast on, but I used the knit on cast on because I don't like how flimsy the backwards loop cast on is. It doesn't really make much difference as long as you get 3 additional stitches at the beginning of the row.
2. Knit 2 stitches separately through the back loop.
3. Knit 2 next stitches together through the back loop. In this step, we knit the last stitch of the i-cord together with one stitch of the work, bind off one stitch.
4. Slip the 3 stitches we've just knit back to the left needle. As we are knitting stitches through the back loop, don't pull the right needle all the way out of the stitches. Keep it inserted in the first stitch. It will save you a fraction of a second when you start working on the second step again. Click here to watch it in the video.
Repeat steps 2 - 4 until you bind off all stitches. Then finish off the cord the same way we did in the way #1.
Because every stitch is knit through the back loop, the i-cord created this way looks a bit different than the i-cord we made using way #1. The difference is so small that only a knitter will see it after examining the edges of your knitted creation. That's not likely to happen, so I wouldn't worry about a slightly different look of the i-cord at all.
Now we know two ways how to make the i-cord bind off but it's not the limit of the possibilities this bind off has to offer.
Like any i-cord, it can be knit over a different number of stitches. Depending on the project, we can make this bind off from very thin to quite bulky.
Here's a photo of three swatches with stitches bound off using the classic way #1.
On the first swatch I cast on 2 stitches in the first step and knit 1 stitch in the second step, so the i-cord turned out thin and delicate.
The second swatch is finished with the i-cord knit on 3 stitches, same way as we did when we discussed way #1 and way #2 above.
To bind off stitches of the third swatch I cast on 4 stitches in the first step and knit 3 stitches in the second step. That's why the edge looks so bulky.