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When you knit the last row of your knitting project, you are not quite done. First you have to bind off to secure the stitches and give the piece a nice finished edge, then you weave in the yarn tails, and as the icing on the cake, you may choose to wash and block your piece. Here’s a little guide to binding off and weaving in the yarn ends, and I have written a separate article about blocking.
Binding off is how you get your knitting off the needles in a way that ties up the live stitches and secures your work. The abbreviation for binding off in a knitting pattern is BO. Sometimes it’s called “casting off” instead. There are many distinct methods for binding off, and each method has different qualities and a different look. There’s one standard method that I will show you here, but be aware that there are others, and you will want to eventually learn a few different ones so that you can pick a bind off that suits your project. For example, you might want a stretchier bind off, or something that matches the look of your cast on row.
The standard bind off method
Knit the first two stitches. If you have been slipping the first stitch of every row, you do not slip it for the cast off row. You now have two stitches on the right needle. Use the left needle to slip the first stitch on the right needle over the second stitch and pull it off the needle. That is one stitch bound off. Knit one more stitch so you again have two on the right needle, and pull the first of these over the second and off the needle. Be careful no to knit your stitches too tight. You want a nice loose bind off. Continue in this way, always with two stitches on the right needle, and slipping the first over the second and off the needle to bind it off. When you have a single stitch left on your right needle, and none on your left, you cut off a 10 inch tail (25 cm). Wrap the tail around the needle and pull it through the last stitch to bind off that final stitch. Tighten and done!
Here’s a nice demonstration from Sheep and Stitch.
Weaving in the tail ends
When you have bound off your knitting project, you have to weave in the yarn tails. You will have at least two, one from the cast on and one from the bind off, but if you have changed yarn colors or added a new ball of yarn you will have more. You weave in the ends using what’s called a darning needle or a tapestry needle. They are made of plastic or metal, have large eyes that allow for easily threading the yarn, and blunt tips. I like this set of darning needles from Clover which comes in a handy, but tiny case. Some times the tip is bent, like this colorful tapestry needle set.
You want to weave in the ends in a way that is secure and inconspicuous, if not invisible. Thread the needle and pull the yarn through to the inside or the wrong side of the work. If you are knitting a flat piece, it is typically the side with the most purl bumps. If the yarn tail is attached to a corner, think about how and where you pull it through so that it is the least noticeable.
Weaving in the tails in garter stitch
If you are coming to this guide from the free dishcloth patterns on my site, then you are finishing a piece that has a garter stitch border. Garter stitch (knit all stitches on both sides) is probably the easiest stitch to weave your ends in to. The trick is to follow the path of the yarn as much as possible, while involving stitches on two of the horizontal ridges that characterize garter stitch. It is important to match the tension of the knitted stitches, so don’t weave in the ends to tightly.
The wrong side of stockinette stitch looks almost the same as garter stitch, and you can follow the same instructions.
My favorite YouTube video showing how to weave in the yarn tails for garter stitch or reverse stockinette (the wrong side of stockinette) is from Rokolee DIY. It has a nice diagram for remembering the order of the purl bumps you want to go under.
Here’s a video from VeryPink Knits demonstrating the method for the wrong side of stockinette stitch in slow motion and with a contrast color.
Weaving in the tails in ribbing
If you have ribbing then you want to avoid weaving in the ends in a horizontal fashion, because that will restrict the stretchiness of the fabric that is the whole point of ribbing. Instead you can go up and down along a column of knit stitches. First you go up under the right legs of the V’s, then turn around and go down the left legs of the V’s. Here’s a video from VeryPink Knits demonstrating the technique.
Weaving in the tails for stripes
When you have knitted with stripes of colors then you will end up with a lot of yarn tails. You want to try and weave in the tails so that the colors are matched. You weave in color A in stitches of color A, and color B tail ends are weaved in to stitches in color B. Otherwise you risk that the color will show through to the right side of the work. VeryPink Knits has us covered again.
Stripes knitted in the round
If you are knitting something like a striped hat, knitted in the round, then you have to be aware of the holes that can appear where you have joined a new color. Conveniently, the yarn tails can be used to close the holes. This video is from PleasantSeas.