Casting off knitting made easy
How to get your stitches off your needles? Easy! Discover all you need to know about casting off knitting with our guide to five cast-off techniques.
Now you’ve learned how to cast on knitting, mastered the knit stitch and made some beginner-friendly garter stitch, it’s time to finish off your piece of knitting to give a neat edge. This is called casting off, the opposite of casting on.
Some patterns will call it ‘binding off’ instead – these are usually US ones. When you come to the end of your knitted item, it’s important to cast off properly, to make sure all the knitted loops you’ve worked don’t unravel.
In this tutorial we’ll show you five different methods for casting off, from a basic cast off that you’ll use all the time, to decorative and stretchy versions that may be suggested by your pattern. Are you ready? Let’s learn how to cast off knitting!
How to cast off knitting
There are lots of different ways to cast off, but the first one we are showcasing in this how to cast off knitting guide is the simplest technique and the one that you’ll use most.
To learn how to cast off knitting, you’ll first need to cast on some stitches onto your left needle – about 22 stitches is a good number to practice with, using double knitting (DK) yarn and a pair of 4mm needles.
Then just knit a couple of rows in garter stitch before casting off all the stitches, following the step-by-step guide below.
Remember to try not to hold your needles too tightly or to pull the stitches too much as you go. If the cast-off is too tight, it will bunch up and won’t lie flat.
Don’t worry if your casting off looks uneven – just try again. Undo your work, cast on some more stitches, and give it another go! You’ll find that with practice your cast off looks neater and more even.
Other ways to cast off knitting
If you’re looking for more advanced techniques for how to cast off your knitting, we’ve also included walkthroughs for four alternative techniques. Follow the links below to jump to the instructions.
1. How to cast off knitting using the sewn cast off
This cast off is ideal for anything that needs to be stretchy, such as the tops of socks and mittens, or the brim of a hat. To do it you’ll need a tapestry needle.
If you’ve tried Kitchener stitch, the technique will feel familiar.
2. How to cast off knitting using the picot cast off
The picot cast off creates a decorative, soft edge that looks gorgeous on shawls or toe-up socks.
It involves casting on stitches and then casting them off again, so it uses up lots of yarn and can be time-consuming to work.
3. How to cast off knitting with a three-needle cast off
The three-needle cast off method is often used to join shoulder seams, and is a handy alternative to Kitchener stitch when you want to cast off stitches from two needles at the same time.
As the name suggests, to do it you’ll need an extra knitting needle.
4. How to cast off knitting using a suspended cast off
This is a variation on the standard cast off that looks very similar but has more elasticity. It’s great for hems on garments.
How to cast off knitting step by step
Seeing a technique in action can be a huge help, especially when you’re a beginner, so take a look at our YouTube video tutorial to find out how the cast off process works.
If you prefer written walkthroughs, you can also check out our how to cast off knitting step-by-step guide below.
You Will Need
- Knitting needles
Start by knitting the first two stitches of the row as normal, but don’t go any further along as you usually would.
Insert the left-hand needle through the first stitch on the right-hand needle, as shown. Lift this stitch over the other stitch on the right-hand needle and off the needle point.
Knit another stitch so you have two on the right needle again. Use the left needle to lift the first stitch over the second stitch, as shown in step 2. Repeat this process all the way to the end of the row.
When you only have one stitch left on the right-hand needle, cut the yarn about 15cm away. Feed it through the last stitch and pull through firmly to fasten off.
How to cast off knitting: Sewn cast off
This cast-off was originated by knitting legend Elizabeth Zimmermann. Break the yarn, leaving a tail at least three times the width of the stitches you’re casting off, thread it onto a tapestry needle and pass purlwise through the first two stitches.
After pulling the yarn all the way through the first two stitches, use your needle to pass it back knitwise through the front stitch only, taking this stitch off your needle as you do so.
Repeat steps 1 and 2 across the whole row. For the best finish, pull the yarn through fairly tightly. This is a neat and stretchy cast-off, but it is slow to work, so be patient!
Boost your skills!
For more beginner tips and tutorials check out our guide on how to start knitting.
How to cast off knitting: Picot cast off
Using a picot cast off when you cast off knitting gives a pretty decorative edge to your projects.
Knit the first two stitches as you would with a standard knitted cast-off, and pass the first stitch over the second as normal.
Place the remaining stitch back onto your left-hand needle, being careful not to twist it.
Use the cable cast-on method to cast on three stitches. This method does use more yarn than normal, due to the extra stitches you are making for each picot point.
Now cast off five stitches, using the standard knitted cast-off. This will give you your first picot point. Repeat steps 2 to 4 until your last stitch, which you fasten off as normal.
As you progress you’ll get into a rhythm of casting on and casting off, making this method quicker than you’d expect. You can vary it too, by casting on and off different numbers of stitches – just swatch first!
How to cast off knitting: Three needle cast off
With ‘live’ stitches on two needles, hold your two pieces of finished work with right sides together, both needle tips pointing right.
With a third needle (hence the name), knit the first two stitches together (one from each needle) and slip them onto your right-hand needle.
Make sure that you don’t knit these stitches together too tightly. The three-needle cast-off gives a very firm finish, but if you start knitting tightly it will pull in and your shoulders will end up looking bunched.
Knit the second pair of stitches together in the same way. You should now have two stitches on your right-hand needle.
Just as with a standard cast-off, pass the first stitch over the second and slip it off the right-hand needle. Ensure you don’t pull up the remaining stitch on the right-hand needle tightly – keep it loose for an even finish.
Repeat steps 1 to 4 until you have worked all your stitches and only one remains on your right-hand needle. Break your yarn and fasten off the remaining stitch. Now flip over your work and admire your neat join!
Learn a new cast on
Now you’ve perfected your cast-offs, try out some new cast-ons too with our how to cast on knitting guide.
How to cast off knitting: suspended cast off
Knit the first two stitches, one at a time, onto your right-hand needle, using a normal amount of tension.
Use your left-hand needle to pass the first stitch on the needle over the second stitch, but don’t drop it! Leave it on the left-hand needle for the next step.
This bit is slightly fiddly – use the right-hand needle to knit into the front of the next stitch on the left-hand needle. (Ignore the one you’ve just put back onto it).
Pull the yarn through just as if you were knitting a stitch normally. You will now have two stitches on your right-hand needle again.
Repeat steps 2 to 4 and you will end up with a cast-off edge which looks just like that achieved with a standard knitted cast-off, but with far more stretch in it.
Learn how to cast off knitting with Gathered
Every knitter needs to know how to cast off their knitting – and if you have a variety of techniques at your fingertips, even better!
Once you’ve mastered the basic technique we recommend giving the more advanced versions a try. You might find that one of the stretchier cast-offs becomes your favourite for everyday, or it might confirm that for you the simplest is the best.
Either way, being able to cast off easily and efficiently will mean that all your projects have a neat, professional finish.
Get perfect results with blocking
Now your knitting is off the needles, it’s time to block it to make it look its best. Find out how this is done with Gathered’s guide on how to block knitting projects.