When we bind off stitches of neckbands, cuffs, toe-up socks and shawls, it is a good idea to form an edge that is elastic but holds its shape well. In cases like this, I always use a variation of a sewn bind off that I’ve learned from an old Russian knitting book ages ago.
Up until now, I thought it is the same sewn bind off as the one popularized by Elizabeth Zimmermann in her book “Knitting Without Tears”. As I was doing research for this tutorial, I discovered that these are two different ways to make a sewn bind off.
I’m more than happy to share with you an Eastern variation of this helpful knitting technique. If you prefer to learn from a video tutorial, click here. Or, simply scroll to the bottom of this page to watch the embedded version of the video.
This type of bind off is called a “sewn bind off” because we are going to close the stitches by sewing them with a wool needle. If you are not a big fan of sewing, don’t worry – this technique is super simple and I’ll demonstrate it in detailed step-by-step instructions.
To make sure every step is clear, I’ll use yarn in a contrasting colour to bind off stitches of my swatch. This way you will better see how this bind off is formed.
Before we start to bind off stitches, keep the stitches on a knitting needle and cut the working yarn leaving a pretty long tail. The tail should be at least 4 times as long as the length of the bind off edge.
To be safe, I usually measure 5 times the length of the bind off edge before I cut the yarn.
If you plan to make the edge looser to give it additional elasticity, cut an even longer tail. It is especially helpful when you make high toe-up socks for someone who has wide calves or for someone whose calves get swollen.
Thread the yarn tail into a wool needle and let’s get stitching!
For this demonstration, I attached a piece of yarn in a contrasting colour as if it were the yarn tail.
Insert the wool needle from back to front into the second stitch from the tip of the knitting needle. Be careful not to split the yarn!
Pull the yarn through.
This technique allows us to make the bind off edge as stretchy as we like. The degree of elasticity depends on how tight we pull the yarn after we make each stitch.
If you pull the yarn tight, the bind off edge will have just a bit of stretch – a bit more than the regular bind off but not as much as one of more elastic bind offs.
If you keep the sewn stitches loose, the edge will have a lot of stretch but it won’t become shapeless. This type of bind off ensures that the fabric springs back to its shape as soon as we stop stretching it.
No matter how stretchy you want the edge to be, be consistent and form stitches of approximately the same size every time you pull the yarn.
Insert the wool needle from left to right into the first stitch on the knitting needle.
Slip this stitch off the knitting needle.
Insert the wool needle from back to front into the stitch that is now the second one from the tip of the knitting needle.
Pull the yarn through.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have only two stitches left on the knitting needle.
FINISHING THE SEAM
If you bind off stitches of a project worked flat, insert the wool needle from left to right into the first stitch from the tip of the knitting needle.
Slip both stitches off the knitting needle, pull the yarn through and secure it on the wrong side of the work.
If you bind off stitches of a project worked in the round, work step 2 one more time (insert the wool needle from left to right into the first stitch on the knitting needle and slip this stitch off the needle).
Then find the first bound off stitch and insert the wool needle from back to front into that stitch.
Pull the yarn through.
Finally, insert the wool needle from left to right into the last stitch and slip this stitch off the knitting needle.
Pull the yarn through and secure it on the wrong side of the work.
The edge formed by this bind off technique is not bulky. That’s why it does not keep stitches in a certain pattern. The knitted stitches are free to form a stitch pattern that they are supposed to form – knits behave like knits and purls behave like purls. That makes this bind off great for any stitch pattern – ribbing, lace, seed stitch, moss stitch, cables, you name it.
If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:
“Matching Cast Ons and Bind Offs” Book
Discover six pairs of cast on and bind off methods that form identical edges on projects worked flat and in the round.
“Neat Side Edges” Book
Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.
Dealing with Unfinished Projects
Dictionary of Knitting Symbols and Abbreviations – E-Book
Eastern (Russian) Knitting Simplified
How to Shape Neckline Without Binding Off Stitches – E-Book