Working in the Round: Hiding the Gaps
Let’s talk about weaving in the ends for projects worked in the round. Sock knitters have to do this a lot, and it’s hard to make it look good.
A key reason why it’s hard: When you’re knitting in the round, you’re actually working a spiral, so that end of the round sits one “row” above the start. This means that the top and bottom edges of the cylinder of stitches will always be misaligned.
This doesn’t look great at the cast-on edge, but it’s even worse at the bind-off edge because the stitches of the bind off lean in the direction of the knitting, pulling the first stitch towards the second, which makes a big gap.
You can see both top and bottom edges in this swatch:
I can offer some tips to make the result look better. Note that these swatches are all worked in ribbing, because that’s common for sock tops, hats, and mitten and sleeve cuffs.
The Cast-On Tail
For demonstration, I’m using the long-tail cast on, with some notes on other methods below.
When working in the round, I always start my long-tail cast on with a proper slip knot, and I always work the first stitch with both ends of the yarn. I find that this makes things better, even before I get to the weaving-in. Using a slip knot for the first stitch makes the first stitch the same height and shape as its neighbor, making the edge more consistent; working with both ends pulls things together a bit more, reducing the gap somewhat. When you do this, note that your tail is connected to the first stitch of the round.
Thread the tail onto your darning needle and bring it down through the knot of the slip-knot.
I’m using a contrasting color yarn instead of the real tail, so you can see what I’m doing.
Go across the gap and insert the darning needle up through the lower edge, so that you come up beside the first stitch. Go over the base of that first stitch, and back down through the lower edge.
Bring it across the gap, and then run it up into the knot of the slip knot.
Take it to the WS of the work, and you’re done.
In the image below, I haven’t quite neatened it up fully: as with Kitchener stitch, you will find that you’ll need to adjust the tension to make sure it matches the neighboring stitches. But once that’s done, it’s invisible.
For this photo, I did the steps just described using the real yarn tail. Voila: invisible.
Then see below for how to finish.
For other cast-on methods, what you need to do differs somewhat, but the principle remains the same. The key is to look at the very lower edge of the knitting, and work the tail back and forth over the gap, mimicking as best you can the path of the yarn in the cast-on edge.
For example, here I’m mimicking the edge of a cable cast-on.
In the MDK Shop
The Bind-Off Tail
When finishing the bind-off, pull the tail out of, rather than through, the final stitch. That is, when you’ve lifted the last stitch over, cut the yarn, leaving yourself about 4-5 inches/10-12 cm and pull it up, so that the tail comes out through the final stitch.
Keep pulling until the end comes through that final stitch.
Now thread the tail onto your darning needle.
Looking at the top edge of the piece, use the darning needle to take the yarn under the pointy-end of the first stitch in the chain, across the gap, from the RS of the work.
Come back across the gap again, and poke the needle back down into the center of the stitch where the working yarn is coming out, back in where you came out. Pull that through to the wrong side.
This creates a “bridging stitch” in the chain, making an invisible join.
Once again, I’m using a contrasting color yarn instead of the real tail, so that you can see what I’m doing.
If it’s a sleeve cuff, or something that’s not going to be stretched out, that will be perfect. All you need to do from there is weave the end in.
If it’s a sock top, or something that’s going to be stretched out, there’s one more step.
When stretched out, you can see there’s a gap below the bridging stitch.
To fill that in, turn the work to the WS, and use the darning needle to go under the stitches that are just under the gap: go under the left-leg of the knit column, and the right leg of the purl column, under the purl bump.
Snug this up.
My two favorite special-purpose bind-offs, Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off and the Russian/lace method can be handled pretty much the same way. Work Jeny’s as normal; for the Russian/lace method, it’s best if you plan ahead, and make a tiny adjustment to the final stitch. Once you’ve only got one unworked stitch on the left needle, bind that off normally and pull up and through.
Because both of these methods produce a chain of stitches at the top edge, you can create the bridging stitch described above, and then catch loops near the top in the back as required, to close up any below-the-edge gaps.
Once you’ve got the join dealt with, whether for cast on or bind off, finish up by weaving the end down through a column of wrong-side knit stitches. To do this, run the needle down the right leg of the knit column, down for at least an inch or two (3-5 cm); and then come back up the other leg of the knit column.