Backstitch Bind Off

This backstitch bind off method is one of the first taught to beginning machine knitters. It is worked while the live stitches are still on the needle bed, and, while a little slower to do, has the advantage of not pulling in or tightening the bound off edge as some other methods can do.

To begin, loosely measure the yarn 3 times across the span of working needles. Cut the yarn and thread it into a yarn needle. If you didn’t get one with your machine, which oftens happens when buying a used machine, make sure you use an appropriately sized tapestry or yarn needle with a blunt tip. A darning needle with a sharp point tends to split the yarn.

These instructions show knitting being bound off from the left side; it can be done from the right end, as well. Practice first using these illustrations so that you become familiar with the technique.

In general, the first step for each bound off stitch is to push the needle away from you, toward the machine, through the next live stitch, make a sort of scooping motion and bring the needle back towards you through the center of the previous stitch. You will be going through each stitch twice, first pushing away through a new live stitch, then pulling back towards yourself through the last previously worked stitch.

backstitch bind off step 1

Step 1
Insert the needle from front to back through the first needle, and push it all the way through, away from you, toward the machine.

backstitch bind off step 2

Step 2
Bring the yarn back to the front of the work. Insert the needle from front to back, away from you, through the second stitch; insert the needle tip from back to front through the first stitch and pull it all the way out toward you. The illustration shows this being done as a single step. If this is difficult at first, push the needle all the way through the second stitch, toward the machine, then insert the needle tip from the backside of the work, through the first stitch, and pull it all the way out toward you.

backstitch bind off 3

Step 3
Insert the needle from front to back through the third stitch, then from back to front through the second stitch.

backstitch bind off step 4

Step 4
Continue to work each remaining stitch in the same manner, all the way across. When you get to the last stitch, take the threaded needle around to the back of the work and bring it from back to front through the last stitch. Carefully lift the work off the needles.

When you have several backstitches completed and it is getting a little awkward to manipulate the needle, you can release a few completed stitches on the left edge. Always leave at least two completed stitches on the machine to help keep tension even, and help support the weight of the fabric

backstitch bind off step 5

This is what the completed bound off edge looks like from the knit side


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This tutorial was copyrighted and uploaded to the original Clearwater Knits website in 1997. It was updated July 15, 2016.