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.
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 introduce a range of 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 got walkthroughs for alternative techniques. Follow the links below to jump to the one you need.
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.
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.
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.
This technique is worked using a tapestry needle and produces a stretchy cast off that’s a good match to the cast on edge.
Designed for use on ribbing, this cast off is indeed suprisingly stretchy! Use it for hems and cuffs that need plenty of give.
This is a variation on the standard cast off that looks very similar but has more elasticity. It’s great for hems on garments.
Stretchy cast off techniques
For the best cast offs for socks and more, see our guide on how to finish your knits with a stretchy bind off.
How to bind off knitting
Binding off knitting is exactly the same as casting off knitting – ‘bind off’ is simply an alternative term that’s common in the US.
You might see the techniques covered here referred to as the picot bind off, three-needle bind off, and so on. Again, they’re the same methods, just with a slightly different name.
So now you know – wherever you see ‘bind off knitting’, just replace it with ‘cast off knitting’ and you’ll know what to do!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.