Newbie Knitting | Binding Off

Newbie Knitting | Binding Off

Lesson Three : Binding Off

Binding off is how we get those live stitches off of our needles in a way that they will no longer unravel. Since it is one of those things that you only do occasionally it can be easy to forget… there is a good chance you will be back again to look this up… but it is not difficult to do.

I think I should put a note here so that you make sure you have enough yarn left to bind off. I have had friends bring me their knit pieces where they have knit every bit of yarn. They hand me their pieces with only 3-4 inches of yarn left and we have had to take out a row in order to bind off. This happens frequently if you are knitting a scarf or something similar when you just keep knitting until you run out of yarn. It takes about 3x the width of your piece to knit a row (maybe a little more). So if you are making 4 inch square you will need at least 12 inches of yarn left just to bind off… plus you need extra for a tail.

You start by knitting two stitches.

Then you use the left needle to go down into the first stitch you just made, the bottom one (in this case the green stitch).

Catch the first stitch on the left needle and flip it up over the second or top stitch (the blue stitch) and off the needle. Be sure the keep the second stitch on your needle (the blue one).

What you have done is wrapped the first loop around the second which creates a chain along your finished edge. The picture shows what it looks like after you have bound off two stitches so you can start to see the chain.

Knit another stitch so that you have two stitches on your right needle again. These pictures are taken towards the end of the row, at the next color change… it is the same concept all the way across the row.

Again flip the bottom stitch (the green one) over the top stitch (the orange one) and off the needle.

Knit another stitch and repeat. Keep working 2 stitches at a time in this manner.

Work this way until you have gotten to that very last stitch on your right needle. All the other stitches should now be bound off in a chain.

Cut your live yarn. The length you want to leave will depend on if you need to use the tail to sew up a seam or just weave it in. If you are working on the birdie project, leave yourself about 12-18 inches since we will need to sew with our ends. If you are finishing a blanket or scarf about 8 inches will be enough. Do not cut it too close to the end. You will want some tail to work with regardless of what you have made.

Slide that last stitch off the need and pull the end of the yarn through the last loop, then tighten. This will lock that last loop in place and your piece is now safe from unraveling.

See the nice neat, chain on the end. If you bind off too tightly it can cause the end of your piece to pull in. You will often read patterns that tell you to bind off loosely so that doesn’t happen. The easiest way to do that is to use a needle one size up from what you knit piece with… ie if you knit your piece on size 8s, use a size 9 needle on the right side during the bind off row. You should be left with several inches of tail that we will work with later.

Just for fun, here is a little story I’ve heard told before to help jog people’s memories when binding off. How many of each animal did Noah collect? 2 at a time. Well Noah was doing just fine until he came to the frogs. He got two frogs on the ark (knit two stitches), but the first frog jumped right over the other frog and off the ark (flip that first stitch off). So Noah went back and got another frog (knit another stitch). But when he put the new frog in with the other, the one waiting jump over them and off the ark (flip the next stitch off). And so on. Hehe, this is just a little, silly way to remember to work in twos when binding off and to “jump” the first stitch over the second.

Ok so here is a bit more about binding off. Yes there are other ways to bind off, but you will use the way I just taught you most of the time and it might be the only binding off you ever learn. If you do get into more advanced patterns you will encounter other techniques, especially in highly shaped pieces. These other techniques can require the use of a 3rd needle or a yarn needle. Binding off can sometimes be calling casting off. It means the same thing. In general though, more modern patterns use the binding off terminology just because when you abbreviate it BO in a pattern it is less confusing then CO… which we generally associate with Casting On.

Binding off is usually abbreviated BO in a pattern.

Ok, for those of you following along, bind off your Little Birdie square. Our next lesson will cover how to sew up and finish your birdie or how to weave in your ends if you are working a flat piece. You can either just wait or better yet, cast on another bird. Feel free to play with the size of your bird. If you cast on a few more stitches you can make a mommy bird… or a few less to make a baby bird, etc. Just work the length until you have a square.

Michelle ~ Wee Folk Art


  1. YAY! My son and I are feeling so accomplished. We just bound off our squares. (He’s 8) He’s already started another square. He plans to make the chickens for Christmas gifts for his little twin sisters. Thanks so much. We are KNITTERS, hehe.

    1. Yeah… congrats to you both. Glad to have helped. I'm sure his sisters will love the little birds that he makes.

  2. Thank you so much for teaching us! The pictures are such a help and so easy to see with the different colors in the yarn.

    Will you also be showing us how to fix mistakes, like picking up a stitch? Especially on purl rows?



    1. Short answer… yes, eventually.

      I'm not sure when that lesson will be but I do plan to cover fixing some minor mistakes liked a dropped stitched.

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