Friday, December 26, 2008

Ordinary chain bind off, part 2a: binding off in the middle of a fabric--starting the bind off

8 illustrations Click any illustration to enlarge
A buttonhole, a pocket opening, the bottom of a neck opening: these are all examples of binding off in the middle of a fabric. This sort of binding off often looks very sloppy indeed, both where it starts (at the right edge of the bind off) as well as where it ends (at the left edge of the bind off)

Today's post concerns the starting part of the bind off--the right edge. The next post will be about the ending part of the bind off--at the left edge.

Let's say that our pattern requires us to bind off several stitches in the middle of our fabric, using the chain bind off. (Click here for further information on the basics of the chain bind off). First we'll look at the traditional method, and then the improved method.

The traditional method
Illustration 1, below: Many books do not have any preparation step for binding off in the middle of the fabric. Rather, you are instructed to simply begin with an ordinary chain bind off as illustrated below: the last stitch of the fabric will be the teal stitch, while the first stitch bound off will be the purple stitch, which is being drawn over the green stitch. As you can see, the purple stitch is connected to the teal stitch by the little red tail, and we'll talk more about that little tail in illustrations 3 and 4, below.
Illustration 2, below: According to the traditional method, you are then instructed to continue the bind off as for an ordinary bind off, so the situation looks like this:
Illustration 3, below: As you can see, using the traditional method, the last fabric stitch (teal) and the first bind off stitch (purple) are connected by nothing other than a single strand--the tail yarn which connects the teal stitch to the purple stitch. This little tail (red) is going to form the bottom right corner of the bind off.

Sadly, over time, the result is going to be an ugly and weak gap. As the teal stitch and the purple stitch stretch ever further apart they will stretch and expose that single red tail. In close-up, the situation is going to look like this:
Photograph 4, below: Here it is in real life, in all-purple yarn. The red arrow is pointing to the stretched-out single tail in the lower right corner of the bind off.

The improved method
To get rid of this ugly, weak gap, let's try this trick: instead of starting the bind off with the purple stitch, we'll do a little sleight-of-hand with the teal stitch. Remember that what we want to do is to improve the connection between the last fabric stitch and the first bind off stitch. As it turns out, when we use a kfb increase (knit front, back), the two daughter stitches which result are hooked together by a veritable spider's web of yarn. So, let's turn that fact to our advantage.

(For illustrated instructions on how to work a kfb, click here.)

We'll use a kfb increase and force the teal stitch to do double duty by turning it into the last fabric stitch AND the first bind off stitch. In this manner, we'll be able to position that strong connection between the two stitches just at the weak corner. In other words, in this improved version of the chain bind off, we are going to use the kfb increase to create TWO teal stitches--one to lay in the fabric, and one BONUS stitch, with the strong connection between these two stitches positioned at the weak corner.

Illustration 5, below: Under this new improved method, when we come to knit the teal stitch, we will work it as a kfb into its underlying foundation stitch. As you can see from the illustration below, this results in TWO teal daughter stitches. The kf part of the foundation stitch lays under the first teal stitch, and this part of the foundation stitch is brown, whereas the kb part of the foundation stitch lies under the second teal stitch, and this part of the foundation stitch is orange.Illustration 5, above, shows the very real benefit of using the kfb increase. You see, due to the kfb increase, the two teal stitches are not merely connected by one single tail like ordinary stitches--no! Rather, they are connected by three strands of yarn: the two orange strands in the twisted portion--the kb portion--of the foundation stitch, as well as the one-strand-tail (red) between the two teal stitches themselves, making three strands altogether. So, instead of the single red tail from illustration 3, by the traditional method, we have three strands--two orange and one red--to fortify our corner by this kfb trick. (There is a close-up of this in illustrations 7 and 8, further down this post.)

Per illustration 6, below, we'll begin our improved bind off by drawing the second teal stitch--the bonus stitch which we made--over the purple stitch, then the purple stitch over the green, and so on.Here is something important to remember about the teal bonus stitch: We do not COUNT it as a bound off stitch. Remember: the second teal stitch is an EXTRA stitch which we've created with only one purpose in mind: to put more yarn into that weak right corner of the bind off. Because we created it as an extra stitch, a bonus stitch, we do not count it when we get rid of it again.

In other words, the second teal bonus stitch flashes into existence for only a brief moment: we create it, then draw it over the first stitch to be bound off, and then the bonus stitch is gone forever. It leaves behind only a stronger corner, but it never alters our stitch count. It is only when we draw the purple stitch over the next (green) stitch that we start counting our bound off stitches--the purple stitch, NOT the teal bonus stitch is the FIRST bound off stitch.

Below, illustration 7, is a close up of what the improved corner looks like once we've add the teal kfb bonus stitch. As you can see, the corner which had only a single, weak red tail by the traditional method now has a sturdy spider's web of yarn fortifying the corner in this improved version. Instead of one strand of yarn, three strands of yarn lie there now--the two strands at the top of the bonus stitch's foundation stitch (orange) as well as the bonus stitch's own tail (illustrated in red). This construction will last far longer than the unimproved traditional corner of illustrations 3 and 4.Photograph 8, below: here is what the kfb looks like at the start of a bind off, in real life, in all-purple yarn. Although you can see the extra yarn in illustrations 5, 6 and 7, yet in an actual photograph (8) you can see that all these extra fortifying loops are actually hidden away, and all you see is the front of the bonus stitch. In other words, even though you've packed that formerly weak corner with lots of yarny fortification, the front presents a nice, even appearance instead of the the loose, sloppy and weak single strand in illustration 3 and photograph 4, above.

I think you will find that over time, this little trick of fortifying the right corner of a bind off by starting the bind off with a kfb will pay off in sturdier buttonholes, more robust pocket openings, and easier to pick-up-through neck openings.

One last thing--are you worried that adding an extra stitch to the corner will make the opening too large? In my experience, that won't happen. In fact, the tight twist introduced by the kfb will keep the starting (right) edge of the bind off tighter than by the original method, because you won't have a stretched-out mess in the corner there.

This post is part of a series. The others in this series are:
Ordinary chain bind off, part 1: binding off along a straight edge
Part 2b: binding off in the middle of a fabric--ending the bind off
Part 3: binding off circular knits.

(You have been reading TECHknitting on: "bind off (cast off) in the middle of a fabric.")


Blogger Amanda said...

Thanks for the great tutorial! I was dealing with this exact problem earlier this week while making slippers. Brilliant solution.

December 26, 2008 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Amelia, belle of The Bellwether said...

this was one of those knitting mysteries that always got to me. I can't tell you the number of times I have duplicate-stitched over that loose single or tied it down on the wrong side so it didn't look so funky. Thanks for a far more elegant solution!j

December 26, 2008 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger soknitpicky said...

*Thank you* so much for this. I've always noticed this problem, and now I know what you do about it!

December 26, 2008 at 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great column. Thanks very much.

December 26, 2008 at 1:47 PM  
Anonymous Kelli said...

I really like this solution. It's so . . . tidy. Would you achieve the same effect with a M1 increase as with the Kfb increase?

December 26, 2008 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Hi Kelli: You would not achieve the same effect with an m1--the reason being that you would continue to have a single tail with that increase. It is only with the kfb that you get all that extra yarny goodness right where you need it--on the weak gap. Thanks for writing.

December 26, 2008 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger FlippyTWS said...

Thanks so much for taking the time and effort to write these tutorials. I'm a self taught knitter and this is a problem that I've often noticed and have never known how to fix. I usually go back behind and tinker a bit to get it to look smooth, never again with this method!

December 26, 2008 at 2:20 PM  
Blogger Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I am dense, I guess, but I just can't wrap my mind around the kfb on the right edge of the bind-off. (Having a busy child underfoot may contribute to my inability.) I've kfb before, but always into a leftside stitch. I'll try to work through it again, but may need some clarification.

December 26, 2008 at 3:41 PM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Hi Michelle--Yes, the kfb itself is done into first the right side of the stitch, and then the left side. It is the whole kfb (both parts) which you are to perform at the beginning (right edge) of the cast off.

Hope this clarifies things.


December 26, 2008 at 4:02 PM  
Blogger Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Okay, do you do this while the "teal" stitch is still on the left needle then?

December 26, 2008 at 4:43 PM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

So, the first set of illustrations have the one teal stitch, BUT the second set of illustrations (illustration s 5, 6, 7 and 8) show the situation where you make TWO teal stitches by the kfb method. The first teal stitch you make is by the "kf" part of the kfb (the part where you knit into the front of the stitch) and the second teal stitch you make is made by the kb part of the kfb (the second part of the increase, where you knit into the back of the stitch). This trick--creating two stitches from one--is what makes the kfb an increase. And, the method whereby the kfb works (by twisting the top part of the loop below) is what makes this increase a good match for the loose corner--the twisted top of the foundation stitch adds two additional strands of yarn right where you want them--in the weak corner.


December 26, 2008 at 5:11 PM  
Anonymous =Tamar said...

Thank you. That is a really neat method.

December 26, 2008 at 11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never posted before, but this is such a great site with so many good ideas! Thank you for all the time and effort that you've put into it.

Wishing you the very best for the new year.

December 27, 2008 at 6:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terrific post. Thanks.

Best wishes for a happy new year!

December 27, 2008 at 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Kara said...

Brilliant! Thanks!

December 27, 2008 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

What a great idea! I will definitely use this in the future.

December 28, 2008 at 7:37 AM  
Blogger Camping Jason said...

Your techniques never cease to amaze. Wonderful stuff.

December 29, 2008 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger Kate M said...

Oh, what a great solution to an annoying little problem!

December 29, 2008 at 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Kyle Kunnecke said...

I wish I could spend a weekend just watching you knit.... you are so full of valuable information I had to be sure to send a note to say THANK YOU - I read every post and do my best to practice what you preach...

you're amazing.

Happy New Year!

December 30, 2008 at 3:19 PM  
Blogger Marjorie said...

I've got to try that. I have never been happy about my binding off, and on occasion, I'll go over it with a crochet chain stitch. Your method seems so much better.

And when I knit combined and "knit front and back", I'm really purling the second stitch, and so I do get the same bar as you do. I'll fiddle with your instructions on this post to see what I end up with when I work first as you do and then when my stitches are mounted for combined knitting.

Have a Happy New Year. I'm looking forward to more of your super advice.

December 31, 2008 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger gayle said...

What an elegant solution! Thank you very much.
I've been knitting since dinosaurs roamed the earth, and am always happy that there will always be new things to learn!

January 1, 2009 at 2:01 PM  
Anonymous Judith in Ottawa said...

Thanks for the great tip and timing! I've just used it on the bind-off below armhole steeks on a FI cardigan. One less weak spot subject to wear or gappy hole in the line of picked-up stitches to come.

January 1, 2009 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger MonkeyGurrrrrl said...

:) I was *just* futzing with this exact dilemma (buttonhole) last week. I will be sure to utilize this method the next time. So simple, but I never would have figured it out if not for you. Thank you very much.

January 2, 2009 at 12:10 PM  
Anonymous twinsetellen said...

This is really good. Really, really good. I love the analysis of thread count holding the stitches together - such a civil engineering way of looking at knitting. :-)

January 4, 2009 at 11:20 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

So simple, so useful. I would have never thought of this on my own... thank you!

January 5, 2009 at 12:15 PM  
Anonymous Melody said...

I just wanted to say thank you for such an amazingly helpful blog. I just discovered your blog, and it is now my favorite (and most helpful) knitting resource. Being a self-taught knitter with no nearby LYS or knitting friend to help me, and a graduate student who really appreciates knowing how things work, this blog is an amazing resource. I can't imagine how much time it must take you to write and illustrate all these posts, and wanted you to know that your time is greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!!

January 6, 2009 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Theresa Tate said...

Wonderful Techknitter - Can you give us a lesson on the mystical "wrap and turn"? I've read the instructions but, for some reason, it is not sinking in. I need your crystal clear explanations and diagrams!

I'll wait patiently:)

January 8, 2009 at 4:07 PM  
Anonymous Jane said...

Hey there, Techknitter! This is wonderful! I've been procrastinating about returning to a sweater because the buttonholes in the pattern didn't appeal to me and I wasn't sure how to proceed. Now I want to know the rest of the story! Will stay tuned!

Neighbor Jane

January 8, 2009 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Hi Theresa: The wrap and turn is on my to-do list, just not sure when....

Also: Hi Neighbor Jane!!


January 8, 2009 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger Gina J said...

As usual, your instructions are FABULOUS!!! I have had this problem with the neck of a V-neck sweater and just did my picking up down a row to deal with the problem, but it took FOUR tries of picking up the stitches to get it right and the V was never quite right! This is the solution! Thanks for your hard work! I'm glad you're back!

January 9, 2009 at 4:31 AM  
Anonymous farmnana said...

You are fabulous. Thanks so much for all of your detailed and well illustrated info.

January 10, 2009 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Sinje Ollen said...

This is very helpful! Thank you for posting it.

January 10, 2009 at 4:22 PM  
Blogger Judi P said...

Oh how I wish I'd seen this before working the arm holes on my Loppem vest (Norah Gaughan 3). Must say, I LOVE your blog, which I just discovered two days ago when looking for an easier way to do a tubular cast-on. Used your method and am very happy with the result. I'm especially glad I followed your advice on needle size, and loved the easiness of removing the waste yarn. BRILLIANT! I'm off to find you on Ravelry and friend you! I need friends like you!!

January 11, 2009 at 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Kajin said...


Thank you for taking the time to write such informative articles.

January 12, 2009 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

This is really great. Thanks a million!

January 13, 2009 at 11:50 AM  
Anonymous riv said...

I just discovered this blog today and wanted to say that it's the best thing since sliced bread. It works like my brain works! Thanks so much for this great resource!

January 15, 2009 at 12:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your photos and exceptionally nice illustrations are the best I've seen in demonstrating what is being explained. I hope you have a book in the works. I've sure it would be a classic.

January 15, 2009 at 3:32 PM  
Blogger Teri said...

I just found your blog and love it, but have a request. The lighter color of fonts are very hard for me--and probably a lot of other people--to see. Is there any way you could darken them up?

January 16, 2009 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Hi Teri: Thanks for the heads up. I'll try to stick more to the black font.


January 16, 2009 at 1:44 PM  
Anonymous technikat said...

Thanks for the great tutorial. Very readable!

I'm looking forward to the left side of the buttonhole. That's where I seem to create a hole.

One instruction for the start of the bindoff called for wrapping the first stitch of the bindoff before passing it over the next stitch. Is that the same effect as your kfb?

January 17, 2009 at 3:02 PM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Hi Technikat: Wrapping is a differnt try at a solution to add more yarn in the weak corner. In other words, while wrapping is not the same as kfb, it IS an attempt to solve the same problem (a weak corner due to a sngle strand of yarn) with the same solution (more yarn in that corner) but the method of the solutions are different between wrapping and kfb.

January 18, 2009 at 1:20 AM  
Anonymous Deborah (mtmom on Ravelry) said...

Stunning! Just marvelous. [As usual ;) ]
I'm on pins and needles to see how you cope with the left corner. I've been known to k2tog to avoid the non-symmetry of the horizontal wrap visible around the first non-bound-off stitch.

January 18, 2009 at 6:18 PM  
Anonymous happybuela said...

Yesss! Thanks so much for this. I have made five Thorpe hats over the holidays and still have requests for three more. I hated the way that part looks when you start to bind off only some of the stitches. The crocheted edging might boost the strength of those corners, but they are wonky places to crochet into. Thanks so much, eagerly waiting for 2b of this series!

January 19, 2009 at 10:51 AM  
OpenID tunderjoke said...

Dear Techknitter,

Thanks for this! I Already used it on two sweaters.

I have another problem when knitting top-down raglan sweaters. There is this point where I have to put the sleeve-stitches on waste yarn and join the front and back stitches in the round. These stitches however get really weak and leave gaps. I've tried crossing the first and last stitches, as I do on socks and mittens, but this doesn't really solve it.
Do you have a solution for this problem?

Greetings from Utrecht, the Netherlands.


January 28, 2009 at 5:24 AM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Hi Jo: In a few posts, TECHknitting will take up casting on in the middle of, or at the end of, a fabric. Perhaps the tricks shown in that post will help you. Stay tuned!


January 28, 2009 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger Sarah / Blue Garter said...

This should join the Techknitter's Greatest Hits! I usually end up using a tail of yarn from picking back up to work those left-hand stitches (at a neck divide, for instance) to weave in a false first chain, but this kfb way is very, very clever indeed.

January 28, 2009 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger SadieKate said...

I've just recently found your blog. It's wonderful! I, too, would like tips to avoid holes when casting on in the middle of a row. Thanks so much for your efforts.

March 22, 2009 at 1:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great! I just wish I'd seen this post before I knitted my swiss cheese scarf. I spent ages covering up this problem in every single hole...

August 22, 2009 at 5:57 AM  
Anonymous Jenny in Duluth said...

It's been a year since the last comment, but I had to add: I usually cross the last stitch of the fabric and the first stitch to be bound off in order to avoid the stretched-out effect of ordinary binding off, but this way looks much nicer. I learnt the trick from a v-neck pattern. Before splitting the front at the V, the knitter is told to cross the 2 stitches at the center of the V so they don't gap open. Works like a charm! (the pattern was very simple, with no extra edging around the neck - otherwise the edging will stabilize those stitches, of course.)
Thank you for a wonderful blog, I am keeping you bookmarked for sure!!

May 27, 2010 at 10:56 AM  
Anonymous Jenny in Duluth said...

Ahem, if only I'd read ahead in your archive... 4 or 5 posts later, there it is! Crossing stitches in vertical knitting. :) *sheepish*

May 27, 2010 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I think I could or rather should express my sincere thanks to you, dear TECHknitting wonder person, for every post and tutorial you do. Thank you thank you thank you for all your wisdom imparted to us readers in such a clear and well comprehensible manner. Danke, merci, gracias, gracie! That's about all the languages I know (more on Your very faithful and very old reader...

June 23, 2011 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Thanks so much for writing, Laura, it means a lot: it's great to hear that you are finding TECHknitting blog useful! --TK

June 23, 2011 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger fethiye said...

Hello, is there a way to include a video of this technique?

November 9, 2011 at 6:07 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Unfortunately, this is a blog of pictures only. But maybe there is a video on U-tube? Sorry I can't help you more...

November 9, 2011 at 7:30 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Just found this post today. It was exactly what I was looking for to reinforce a bind off row for a leg hole for a dog sweater!

Thank you for such an awesome resource.

March 14, 2012 at 7:16 AM  
Anonymous Robin said...

You are INSANELY brilliant!!! My first visit to your site today, and you have blown my mind. I came on the advice of a lovely Ravelry friend to solve the thorny issue of a garter stitch button band. . . and that was hours ago. I am mesmerized. Your brain works very, very, very well.

Mainly, though - thank you. I know we're all more grateful to you than we can say.

December 9, 2012 at 12:54 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Thank you for your kind words, Robin! Welcome to TECHknitting blog, and I am glad you are finding it useful. Best, TK

December 9, 2012 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger Tilza Buschner said...

Do you have a video of the instructions?

February 1, 2014 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Tilza--this site mostly does not have videos, it is mostly line drawings. You might want to check google to see what is available on You tube. Best regards, TK

February 2, 2014 at 3:05 AM  

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