Ask Patty: How to Tidy Up That Bind-Off
Lately my inbox seems to be filled with emails that I would put in the category of (as my 20-year-old niece would say) “things that bug.” None of these things are the end of the world, but they are annoying.
I had not one, but two emails about the weird loop that appears at the end of a bind-off.
Can This Bind-Off Be Saved?
I’ve tried everything. No matter what I do, when I bind off, I’m left with a giant loop at the end. I pull my tail through that last stitch and pull it as tight as I can, but the giant loop is located below the bind off. I hope that makes sense.
Save my sanity,
First of all, it’s not you, it’s the stitches. It’s their fault. I don’t know why, but that always makes me feel better.
Why Does This Happen?
I know you didn’t ask what causes this giant loop, but I can’t help myself: I need to start with the why.
All stitches are made neat and lovely by the next stitch worked. A freshly made stitch might be a little large, but that excess yarn is used up when you work the next stitch. However, for the final stitch of the row, the next stitch is not next to it, but above it. That’s why when you have a loose edge and you knit your first stitch and then tug on your yarn, it helps nothing. It’s not the first stitch of the row that’s loose, it’s the last stitch of the row below. I have a trick for that, but that’s a subject for another day.
When you bind off, that last stitch is it—The End. No stitch next to it, no stitch above it—it is what it is: a big, loose, sloppy ol’ mess. To fix it, you have to do something with the excess yarn.
First, An Ounce of Prevention
Before we fix Mr. Sloppy, I want to voice my personal preference for not pulling the tail through the last stitch left on the needle.
When you do that, it creates an extra stitch and makes the problem that much worse.
I prefer to simply cut the tail and then lift my needle, pulling that tail out of the final bound off stitch. But even doing that doesn’t get rid of what I call “the tumor.”
It’s better. still there, but better.
Fixing That Icky Last Stitch
Here are five ways you can fix that icky stitch. Two involve prepping the row before, and the last three you do on the bind-off itself.
Method 1: Prep with Lazy Purl
One way to get rid of the excess yarn is to have less of it to begin with.
On the last WS row before you bind off, use the eastern purl on the first two stitches. This means wrapping the yarn under the needle rather than over it.
On the next row, when you are binding off, you will need to work those last two stitches through the back loop to untwist them, but you will have used less yarn.
Knitting those two stitches through the back loop on the bind-off row.
Notice that there is not a long running thread between those last two stitches:
Much better! It still lifts up a bit, as we didn’t fully solve the issue of the larger stitch, but we’ve reduced the amount of yarn between the last two stitches.
This is a fine solution in a lot of cases.
Method 2: Prep with Slipped Stitch
But what if you already eastern purl?
You can also reduce the excess yarn a bit by slipping the first stitch of your last WS row.
This eliminates the big long running thread, but you do have a slightly elongated last (slipped) stitch.
Very similar in appearance to the eastern purl method.
Method 3: Work Together with Running Thread
Here you see that extra yarn in the running thread between the last two stitches when we don’t prep the row before.
You can insert the tip of your left hand needle front to back, and pick up that running thread.
Then knit the last stitch together with the running thread, and pass the last stitch over to bind off the final stitch.
This method is really easy to do—you don’t have to remember to prep in the row below—and gives you a much nicer look.
Here I’m using a chunky, fuzzy wool, and it looks pretty good. I don’t always love the way it looks in a smoother yarn.
Method 4: Work Together with Head of Stitch of the Row Below
In this method we are going to deal directly with the row below.
Knit to the last stitch and insert the tip of your right hand needle into the head of the stitch of the row below and lift it up onto the left hand needle without twisting it.
This will put the real stitch to the outside and the stitch from the row below to the inside.
Now knit them together and pass the last stitch over.
This one looks pretty slick:
Method 5: Work Together with Head of Stitch of the Row Below (Futzy Version)
The last one might be the futziest, but despite that—or maybe because of it!— it’s my favorite.
Bind off until you have one stitch left on each needle. Pass the last un-worked stitch from left needle to right needle.
With tip of left needle, pick up the left loop of the row below the un-worked stitch by inserting the needle back to front.
Move the un-worked stitch back to the left needle. Notice how that puts the real stitch to the inside and the stitch from the row below to the outside. Now knit them together and pass the last stitch over.
Ta-da! No extra lump, no giant stitch. My favorite!
If I could only solve other big, loose, sloppy ol’ messes in my life as easily!
In the MDK Shop
Let’s All Scream: It’s Not Knitting, It’s Crochet
I am a crocheter. I knit sometimes, but mostly crochet. Can you explain why every news article ever written about crochet calls it knitting? It doesn’t matter if it’s a story about charity hats or fiber art. It doesn’t matter if it shows a picture of the finished objects or a picture of a person holding an actual, gosh darn crochet hook, the photo caption will still say “knitter or knitting.” It makes me so mad! The only thing that is stopping me from poking the writer in the eye with a crochet hook is knowing the photo caption would read “Angry knitter goes on rampage.”
Angry Crocheter (Laura)
Dear Angry Crocheter,
Like the letter from “Drowning in Emails,” this one also required me to put my head between my knees, curl up in a tiny ball, and gently rock back and forth quietly chanting “knitting is not the new yoga, knitting is not the new yoga, knitting is not the new yoga,” until I felt calm enough to respond.
One is a hook, one is two needles, what can be so hard, you ask. Why can’t they get this right, you ask—WHY? I can only answer as my mother did every time she had no good answer. “Why does anyone do anything.”
I know, not very satisfying.
I literally have no idea why yarncraft seems to bring out the laziest reporters on the planet. With the care they give to most stories, I can only imagine they consider covering the lowly fiber arts as punishment. I visualize a drawer filled with tiny scraps of paper with things like “not your grandmother’s knitting” and “knitting is good for your health” and “knitting is not just for ladies anymore” and “yarn bombing, not as scary as it sounds.” I see them reaching in the drawer and pulling a bunch of random quotes, shaking them up in a jar like they were playing Boggle, and writing their stupid, stupid stories.
When you think of the level of thought that goes into these “news” articles, to expect them to recognize that a woman holding a crochet hook is not actually knitting seems like a big ask.
My advice: look away, put your head between your knees and quietly chant “smart people know it’s crochet, smart people know it’s crochet” until the urge to kill passes.