Knitting cast off, also called binding off, is one of the last things you will do in your knitting project. After this, the only things left are assembling, and blocking. Casting off isn't any more difficult than knitting. The hardest part is continuing to keep your stitches even.
General Instructions for Casting Off
To start, slip the first stitch from the left-hand needle to the right-hand needle. This is done by putting the needle into the first stitch, as if you are going to knit, and then pull it off the left needle. Now, knit the second stitch.
Take the point of the left needle; place it into the slipped stitch on the right needle, from the front and from left to right. Bring that stitch forward over the second stitch on the right-hand needle and allow it to slip off.
The first stitch is now cast off. Next, you will knit the next stitch.
There are two stitches back on the right needle. Using the left needle, pick up the first stitch and lift it over the second stitch and off. The second stitch is cast off. Repeat this process until you get to the last stitch. Cut the yarn, leaving several inches of "tail" for sewing and pull the end through the last stitch.
Purl Cast Off
The purl cast off is the same as the knit cast off, except you purl the stitches where the previous instructions say to knit.
Cast Off in Pattern
When you see instructions that tell you to "cast off in pattern," that means that you should cast off by continuing to knit when it calls for a knitting stitch and purling the purl stitches in the pattern. This is one of the easiest knitting cast off for ribbing.
The Sloped Knitting Cast Off
This is a little tricky and may need some practice to get it right. The sloped bind-off is the best to shape shoulder and necklines. By using this technique you avoid the stair-step edge formed by a series of bind-offs. The sloped cast off makes a smooth transition between rows.
- One row before the next bind-off row, work the row to the last stitch. Don't work this stitch. Turn the project.
- Keeping the yarn in back, slip the first stitch from the left needle as if to purl.
- Pass the unworked stitch over the slipped stitch. The first stitch is cast off. Continue in the pattern until all the stitches are cast off.
The one-over-two method of casting off pulls the stitches close together for a gathered edge. It is an excellent way of casting off pattern stitches like traveling cables or openwork stitches.Work three stitches in the pattern. Insert the left needle into the first stitch. Pass the first stitch over the next two. Work another stitch onto the right needle. Repeat.
Three Needle Casting Off
Casting off with three needles is a good way to get a neat seam without sewing. It makes for a strong seam that will hold up well in areas of the garment getting a lot of stress, like the shoulder. You will need an extra needle in the same size you have been working with.
- Looking at the wrong side of the knitting, and with the needles parallel, insert the tip of the third needle into the first stitches on both of your stitch-holding needles and knit as though you were doing a knit 2 together (k2tog). Remove both stitches from their needles so that it makes a single stitch on the third needle.
- Repeat. Now you have two stitches on the third needle.
- Slip one stitch over the other, just as in casting off.
Reading knitting instructions can be confusing. It often helps to see someone else use the technique you are trying to learn. View these techniques and more at Knitting Help. Just click on either the continental or English video to see a demonstration. Other helpful videos:
Other Methods of Casting Off
As you work with different types of casting off and different types of projects, you will want to have as many ways of casting off as possible to get just the right finish to your creations. After mastering the methods above, you may want to learn the following decorative, and unusual, finishes:
- Knitty, an eMagazine has several decorative casting off methods:
- Double crochet bind off
- Picot edged casting off
- I Cord bind off
- Elastic bind off
- Tubular cast off
Practice Makes Perfect
Even the most basic method of knitting cast off takes practice to perfect. It is time well spent because the quality of the finished project relies, in a large part, on the quality of the binding off. Take your time and enjoy the process of creating, and soon you will be an expert at knitting finishes.