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Casting Off Knitting and Finishing Projects

Finished Knitted Mug Cozy

All knitting projects, big or small, must be finished with a cast off method.

All knitting projects, big or small, must be finished with a cast off method.

Key Terms

I'll be using the following terms throughout this article, so here are some definitions.

Working Needle - This refers to the needle which the new stitches go on.
Bind Off - This is just another way of saying Cast Off
Stockinette Stitch - Fabric made up of only knit stitches.
Rib Stitch - Fabric made up of a combination of knit and purl stitches. This is the type of fabric often found on gloves.

You’ve finally gotten to the end of your knitting pattern, and all that’s left is to bind off the project. These three cast off methods are simple to do once you get the hang of them, and each one works well with a variety of projects.

Basic Cast Off

This is the first method most people learn, because it works so well with the majority of patterns you’ll come across.

Here’s what you need to do for this one:

Step One: Knit two stitches onto the working needle.

Step Two: Insert needle with the stitches on it into the first stitch on the working needle, as if to knit (behind the working needle).

Step Three: Pull the first stitch over the second stitch. Let the first stitch drop from the needle.

Step Four: Continue until the only stitch left is the one on the working needle.

Step Five: Pull the loop until it’s several inches long and cut the tail, leaving enough length to weave it into the finished piece.

For extra stability, you can pull a length of yarn through the final stitch and pull it tight.

This method is ideal for finishing things like scarves, blankets and things that won’t need a lot of stretch. Although the seam will have some stretch to it, it may not be enough for the neck of a sweater, top of a sock or glove hems.

However, make sure the tension matches the rest of the project you just made. If it’s too tight, the fabric will bunch, but if it’s too loose, it will flair at the top.

Stretchy or Elastic Cast Off

Sometimes, a project will rely on the final edge being stretchy enough to fit over something, like a foot, head or hand. In these cases, while the basic cast off might work, you run the risk of having it turn out too tight to be comfortable or even fit over whatever it is you wear it on.

This one starts off the same as the basic cast off, but after you get the first two stitches knit, you’ll need to do the following:

Step One: Slip both stitches from the working needle onto the one with the rest of the stitches.

Step Two: Slide the tip of the working needle through the two new stitches as if to knit.

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Step Three: Yarn over the working needle.

Step Four: Knit both stitches together.

The resulting edge is extremely stretchy, and works best for projects involving the stockinet stitch. This makes it great for socks, stocking hats and some types of sweaters. However, it will stand out if you use it on a pattern that calls for ribbing at the end.

Video Instructions for Stretchy Cast Off

Invisible Cast Off

When you use this technique, it will result in an edge without a ridge, and one that will work with a simple knit or purl finish or with ribbing. When used with ribbing, it’ll be just as stretchy as the elastic bind off.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll just work off of a simple knit two, purl two ribbing pattern.

Step One: Knit two stitches onto the working needle.

Step Two: Pull the first stitch over the second stitch.

Step Three: Move the yarn between the needles to the front of the project.

Step Four: Purl one stitch.

Step Five: Pull the first stitch on the working needle over the new stitch.

Step Six: Purl one stitch.

Step Seven: Repeat step five.

Step Eight: Move the yarn between the needles to the back of the project.

Even though this technique is a little more complicated than the first two methods, it gets much easier once you get the hang of it. When you get a rhythm going, you will be able to bind off a project using this process as quickly as you would the other two.

You can also alter it to fit any knit/purl pattern with great results.

How to Bind Off Ribbing

Decrease Cast Off

The preceding three techniques result in more squared off corners, which are the most common in knitting. However, if you’d like a more rounded appearance for your scarves, blankets or washcloths, give this binding off method a try.

To start, knit one stitch, as usual, then follow these steps:

Step One: Slip the new stitch from the working needle onto the one with the rest of the stitches.

Step Two: Insert the working needle’s tip into the last two stitches on the other needle as if to knit.

Step Three: Yarn over the working needle.

Step Four: Draw the loop through the two stitches, knitting them together.

Step Five: Transfer the new stitch back onto the other needle and repeated steps one through four until you only have the new stitch on your working needle.

Although this method won’t work if you don’t want a rounded edge, it does result in a lovely, very unique finishing seam.

Weaving in the Ends

Finishing Your Knitting

Regardless of the bind off method you use, you’ll always need to take a couple more steps to finish it off.

Once you’re done with the casting off, always leave a tail of at least 6 inches. This is because you’ll need to weave the end into the fabric with a yarn or tapestry needle. There are as many ways to weave in the ends, as there are to cast on or off.

I’ve included a video with a number of suggestions about how to do that.

Once everything is bound off and ends are all woven in, you might notice the piece is curling in around the ends. That’s perfectly natural, and easily remedied.

To fix this, first wash the piece, according to the care instructions for the yarn you used. Instead of hanging it or putting it in the dryer, however, lay it flat on a towel. You can either weigh the edges down with books or other things from around your house, or pin them down with straight pins. There are also wires and clips that you can buy for this purpose. All that’s left is to let it dry.

If you used a type of yarn that stands up well to heat, you might be able to speed up the process by using an iron on it in the same way you’d iron wrinkles out of your clothing.

This process is called blocking.

The beautiful thing about knitting is that no matter how long you’ve been doing it, there’s always more to learn. These techniques are all great ways to get started with the basics, but never be afraid to experiment with new ways of creating things.

More How-To Knitting Articles

  • How to Knit a Purl Stitch
    Knitting a purl stitch can be tricky to learn, but this video, step by step instructions and pictures will make it easy.
  • How To Cast On For Knitting - Three Ways!
    When it comes to knitting, casting on is the first step to a great finished product! Read on to learn how to do Knitting On, Long Tail Cast On and Cable Cast On to get started.


Emilie S Peck (author) from Minneapolis, MN on March 14, 2014:

Thanks very much! After you get past the initial awkwardness of learning the steps, it really is easy. :)

Victoria Van Ness from Fountain, CO on March 14, 2014:

Very interesting and informative article. You make this process look really easy!

Emilie S Peck (author) from Minneapolis, MN on March 13, 2014:

Thank you! You're not alone in that, either. Part of why I write these is to give myself a bit of a refresher on this kind of stuff, too. ;)

Claudia Porter on March 13, 2014:

Nice hub! I can never remember these steps since I don't knit that much. This is very helpful. Shared around!

Emilie S Peck (author) from Minneapolis, MN on March 12, 2014:

So glad you like it! Thanks much for the vote and share. :)

Sushma Webber from New Zealand on March 12, 2014:

A well rounded article with all the information one needs to finish a knitting project properly. Thanks for writing this. Have bookmarked it and shared on Facebook. Voted up!

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