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How to Bind Off (Cast Off) Knitting for Beginners

When you’ve reached the end of your knitting project, it’s time to bind off (aka cast off) the stitches. This will secure the edge of your work so that it doesn’t unravel. If you’re a beginner knitter, learning to bind off might be a little tricky. But don’t worry; this step-by-step tutorial will show a simple bind off method that is easy to follow.

a swatch of garter stitch with all stitches cast off, and one loop left on the knitting needle

Now that you know how to cast on, knit, and purl, it’s time for the finishing touch. The next step is to bind off your stitches – i.e., get them off your needles.

Binding off is an essential skill for any knitter to know. In this article, you’ll learn how to bind off your knitting to give your finished project a neat and tidy edge. Let’s get started!

What is a Bind Off?

In knitting, “binding off” is the process of binding off stitches at the end of a row. The bind off secures the stitches and prevents them from unraveling. It also creates the finished edges on garments or other knitted projects.

The term “bind off” doesn’t refer to a specific technique per se, but rather a whole category of techniques that you can use to finish your last row of knitting.

(If you’ve read our tutorial on how to cast on, you’ll know that there are many ways to go about it. It’s the same way with binding off – there are many ways to do it – each with its own pros and cons.)

Written Patterns and Abbreviations

In knitting patterns, you might see the bind off written as “Bind off all stitches” or simply “Bind off.” You might see it abbreviated as BO (or CO for cast off).

Some patterns may call for a particular bind off method, but sometimes they don’t.

Is it Bind Off or Cast Off?

The terms “bind off” and “cast off” are often used interchangeably. Generally speaking, the term “cast off” is more commonly used in the UK, while “bind off” is more commonly used in the United States.

For the purposes of this tutorial, we will use the term “bind off” and “cast off” interchangeably – just know that they mean the same thing.

Types of Bind Offs

There are many different ways to bind off in knitting. Your chosen method will depend on the project you’re working on and your personal preferences. Some of the most common methods include:

  • The basic or standard bind off method (This is the method you’ll learn in this tutorial)
  • The stretchy bind off
  • The sewn bind off method
  • The three-needle bind-off method
  • The i-cord bind off

In this tutorial, we’ll cover the basic bind off. This is the most common method, and it is suitable for many beginner-level projects. It creates a neat, tidy edge with a little stretch (if you work it loosely).

Which bind off should you choose?

Some patterns will specify a particular bind off method. Other times, it will be up to the knitter to choose their favorite method.

For example, you’d want to choose a stretchy bind-off when finishing the cuffs of mittens or socks. But, you might choose the basic bind off for finishing the edge of a simple dishcloth, where stretch doesn’t matter.

If your knitting pattern doesn’t call for a specific bind off method, try using the basic bind-off method.

What You’ll Need

All you need to learn how to bind off is some yarn and knitting needles.

  • Yarn: I recommend using a smooth, light-colored yarn in medium or bulky weight.
  • Knitting Needles: I recommend using wooden or bamboo needles, which are less slippery than metal needles

If you’ve been following along with our beginner knitting tutorials, you might have a swatch of garter stitch ready to go. If so, great! You’re ready to learn the bind off.

Make a swatch: If you don’t have a swatch, don’t worry – you can make one. Grab some yarn and matching needles, and cast on 15-20 stitches. Knit a few rows of garter stitch, and meet me in the next step.

How to Bind Off, Step by Step

When you come to the end of your project, it’s time to bind off your stitches. Here are the instructions to bind off (cast off) your knitting.

Note: The following instructions assume that you have a swatch of plain stockinette or garter stitch, since we’ll be binding off the stitches knitwise (or as if to knit.) If you have a swatch with ribbing, you may want to bind off a little differently. In that case, I suggest clicking over to this tutorial, which will show you how to bind off ribbing.

Step One: Knit the First Two Stitches

a swatch of garter stitch in blue yarn, with wooden knitting needles
Knit the first two stitches as normal.

Typically, you’ll bind off on a right-side (RS) row. If you have a swatch of stockinette fabric, that means you’ll bind off with the knit side facing you. And since garter stitch is reversible, you can really bind off on either side.

The first step is to knit the first two stitches on your needle as you normally would. Try to keep your stitches relatively loose, so that your bind off doesn’t become too tight.

Step Two: Bind Off the First Stitch

Insert the tip of the left needle into the first knit stitch on the right needle.

Next, use the needle tip to lift the first stitch (the one on the right) over the second stitch (the one on the left). Let this first stitch drop off the needle. (Be careful not to drop both stitches off the needle accidentally.) You will now have one stitch remaining on your right-hand needle.

There you go – you’ve just bound off one stitch!

one stitch cast off in the standard knitting bind off method
One stitch cast off.

If you have trouble with this motion, try sliding the stitches closer to the tapered tip of the needle, where you’ll have a little more room to maneuver.

Step Three: Knit the Next Stitch

blue yarn and wooden knitting needles showing to knit the next stitch as normal
Knit the next stitch.

Now, knit the next stitch on your left-hand needle as normal. You will now have two stitches on your right-hand needle.

Step Four: Bind off the Next Stitch

Next, use the left needle to lift the right stitch over the left stitch, and let it drop off the needle. Ta-da! You’ve bound off another stitch!

Step Five: Repeat

a swatch of garter stitch with all stitches cast off, and one loop left on the knitting needle
One stitch remaining on the right needle.

Repeat the previous two steps until you have only one stitch remaining on your right needle.

In other words, continue the pattern of “knitting one stitch, binding off one stitch, knitting one stitch, binding off one stitch” until you have one stitch left on the right needle.

This is the final stitch. Don’t remove it from the needle just yet.

Step Four: The Last Stitch

To finish the bind off, cut the yarn leaving a tail of about six inches. Draw the yarn through the last stitch until the end pops through, and pull it to tighten. Then, all that’s left to do is weave in the ends.

a swatch of garter stitch, with all stitches cast off
Thread the yarn tail through the last stitch, and pull to secure.

Alternative method. Another way to finish the last step is to thread the yarn tail through the last stitch. Drop the final stitch from the needle, thread the yarn tail through the stitch, and pull on the yarn tail to tighten. Then, weave in the yarn tail to secure it. 

Congratulations! You have now learned how to bind off in knitting. This simple method can be used for many different types of projects. Practice this technique until you feel confident and try it on your next project.

Tips for Binding Off

Here are a few things to keep in mind when binding off for a neat, even finished edge.

  • Be sure to bind off with loose tension. To avoid a tight, difficult-to-stretch edge, don’t pull too tightly on the yarn as you work each stitch.
  • If you tend to be a tight knitter, you may want to switch to a needle that is one size larger than the needle you used for the body of your project. This will create a looser edge that won’t draw in.
  • Finally, take your time and be sure to count your stitches as you go. It’s easy to accidentally drop a stitch when you’re binding off, especially when you’re first learning.

By following these simple tips, you’ll be able to create a neat, professional-looking finish on all of your knitting projects. Practice makes perfect, so don’t get discouraged if it takes a few tries to get the hang of it. Soon, you’ll be able to bind off like a pro!

Bind Off Terms You Should Know

If you see these instructions in a knitting pattern, here’s what they mean.

Binding Off Knitwise

The knitwise method is the most common way to bind off. (It’s what we just learned in the tutorial above.) To bind off knitwise, you will need to knit the first two stitches on your needle as normal. Then, use your left-hand needle to lift the first stitch over the second stitch and off the needle. You will now have one stitch remaining on your right-hand needle. Repeat this process until you’ve bound off all stitches.

Binding Off Purlwise

The purlwise method is similar to the knitwise method, but it’s worked with purl stitches instead of knit stitches. To bind off purlwise, start by purling the first two stitches on your needle. Then, holding your working yarn to the front, use your left-hand needle to lift the first stitch over the second stitch and off the needle. You will now have one stitch remaining on your right-hand needle. Repeat this process across the row.

Binding Off in Pattern

When a pattern says to “bind off in pattern,” it means that you should bind off following the established stitch pattern. In other words, work the bind off stitches as if you were working the next row of the pattern. This ensures that your bind off edge matches the rest of your fabric.

You’ll often see these directions when binding off ribbing. For example, let’s say that you just finished working 2×2 ribbing, and it’s time to bind off. In this case, you’d bind off the 2 knit stitches knitwise, and then the 2 purl stitches purlwise.

Binding Off Loosely

When a pattern says to “bind off loosely,” it means that you should use a loose tension when making the bind off stitches. If you have trouble maintaining an intentionally loose tension, you can use a needle that is one or two sizes larger than the needle you used for the body of your project. This will help you create an elastic bind off that doesn’t pull in.

The Next Step? Weaving in the Ends

a swatch of garter stitch in blue yarn, with a metal tapestry needle

Once you have bound off your stitches, you will need to weave in the ends. This is a simple process that secures the tails of yarn and prevents them from unraveling.

To weave in the ends, use a tapestry needle to thread the yarn tail through the fabric. You will need to do this several times to secure the yarn.

Once you have woven in the ends, your project is now complete! Congratulations on finishing your first knitting project.

Bind Off FAQs and Troubleshooting

Something go wrong? Here are a few of the most common questions we get about binding off (binding off).

I’ve bound off, but my stitches are too tight, and I can’t stretch the edge. What can I do?

If your stitches are too tight, you’re likely pulling the yarn too tight as you work each stitch. Try using a larger needle, or holding the yarn a bit looser as you bind off.

I’ve dropped a stitch while binding off. How can I fix it?

If you’ve dropped a stitch, don’t worry! Just insert your needle into the dropped stitch and back onto the needle. Then, continue with the rest of your stitches.

The last stitch of the bound off row looks loose and sloppy. What can I do?

If the last stitch looks too loose for your taste, you can try knitting it together with one leg of the stitch below. This fix requires some preplanning. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Work until you have one stitch left on the left needle. Slip this stitch purlwise (as if to purl) to the right needle.
  2. Use the left needle to pick up the left loop of the stitch one row below (just underneath the slipped stitch), and put this loop on the right needle together with the last stitch.
  3. Slip the extra loop and the last stitch back to the left needle purlwise.
  4. Knit the loop and the last stitch together, then pass the right stitch over the left stitch and off the needle. (This is binding off as normal.)
  5. Then, cut the yarn and pull it through, as you normally would.

More Knitting Tutorials

Be sure to check out our other knitting tutorials for more helpful tips and techniques.

What’s Next?

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a swatch of garter stitch with all stitches cast off, and one loop left on the knitting needle

How to Cast Off (Bind Off)

Yield: 1
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Casting off is an essential skill for any knitter to know. In this article, you’ll learn how to cast off your knitting to give your finished project a neat and tidy edge.

Materials

  • Yarn

Tools

  • Knitting Needles

Instructions

  1. Start with a swatch of garter or stockinette fabric. Knit the first two stitches as you normally would. Try to keep your stitches relatively loose. a swatch of garter stitch in blue yarn, with wooden knitting needles
  2. Insert the tip of the left needle into the first knit stitch on the right needle. inserting the left needle into the right most stitch on the right hand needle
  3. Next, use the needle tip to lift the first stitch (the one on the right) over the second stitch (the one on the left). Let this first stitch drop off the needle.
  4. Then, knit the next stitch on your left-hand needle as normal. You will now have two stitches on your right-hand needle. blue yarn and wooden knitting needles showing to knit the next stitch as normal
  5. Next, use the left needle to lift the right stitch over the left stitch, and let it drop off the needle. a step in casting off, passing the first stitch over the second stitch and off the needle
  6. Repeat the previous two steps until you have only one stitch remaining on your right needle. a swatch of garter stitch with all stitches cast off, and one loop left on the knitting needle
  7. To finish the cast off, cut the yarn leaving a tail of about six inches. Thread the yarn tail through the last stitch, and pull to secure. a swatch of garter stitch, with all stitches cast off

Notes

Here are a few things to keep in mind when casting off for a neat, even finished edge.

  • Be sure to cast off with loose tension. To avoid a tight, difficult-to-stretch edge, don’t pull too tightly on the yarn as you work each stitch.
  • If you tend to be a tight knitter, you may want to switch to a needle that is one size larger than the needle you used for the body of your project. This will create a looser edge that won’t draw in.
  • Finally, take your time and be sure to count your stitches as you go. It’s easy to accidentally drop a stitch when you’re casting off, especially when you’re first learning.

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