When a pattern tells us to bind off stitches at the beginning of every other row, and we follow those instructions without any adjustments, it usually results in an edge that looks a lot like stair steps.
In most cases, it’s not a big deal. But it becomes quite an issue when we make a project with exposed edges or/and when we struggle to seam a “stair step” edge to a straight edge (e.g. when setting in sleeves).
The good news is there is a simple way to turn an uneven edge into a smoothly shaped one. This little trick works both for a left-slanting and a right-slanting shaping.
First, let’s see how we can improve an edge that slants to the left.
This shaping is created by binding off stitches in every right side row. I’ll use a swatch made in stockinette stitch, so I’ll bind off stitches in every knit row.
This sample swatch has 9 stitches, and we’ll bind them off in three batches of three stitches each. When working on an actual project, follow your pattern and bind off as many stitches as it tells you to bind off.
ROW 1 (right side): In this row, we’ll bind off 3 stitches same way as we usually bind off stitches – knit 2 stitches and pass one over the other and off the right needle. Knit the next stitch and bind it off. Then knit one more stitch and bind it off as well. We’ve just bound off 3 stitches as knits. Work to the end of the row. Turn your work.
ROW 2 (wrong side): Purl all stitches to the last stitch. Keep the last stitch on the left needle and turn your work.
If you feel awkward turning your work with one stitch sitting on the left needle, slip it to the right needle, then turn your work and slip that unworked stitch back to the empty needle.
ROW 3 (right side): Slip one stitch purlwise to the right needle. Pass the unworked stitch over the slipped stitch and off the right needle. Knit the next stitch and bind it off. Then knit one more stitch and bind it off as well = 3 stitches bound off. Knit to the end of the row and turn your work.
Work rows 2 and 3 to finish the shaping as instructed in the pattern and you’ll form a lovely edge with a smooth shaping. You can leave this edge exposed or you can easily seam it if necessary.
This shaping is created by binding off stitches in wrong side rows. That means that we won’t bind off stitches in row 1 (a right side row), and will start shaping in row 2. Here’s how it happens:
ROW 1 (right side): Knit all stitches and turn your work.
ROW 2 (wrong side): Bind off 3 stitches as purls – purl 2 stitches and pass one over the other and off the right needle. Purl the next stitch and bind it off. Then purl one more stitch and bind it off as well. Work to the end of the row. Turn your work.
ROW 3 (right side): Knit to the last stitch of the row. Leave the last stitch on the left needle and turn your work. You can also slip the last stitch to the right needle, turn your work, and then slip the unworked stitch back to the empty needle.
ROW 4 (wrong side): Slip one stitch purlwise to the right needle. Pass the unworked stitch over the slipped one and off the needle = 1 stitch bound off. Bind off two more stitches as purls. Purl all stitches to the end of the row and turn your work.
Work rows 3 and 4 to complete the shaping as recommended in your pattern.
Here it is – a simple trick that turns “stair-steps” into a nice slope and significantly improves the look of our knitted creations.
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