Yarnless Bind Off: Normal and Stretchy

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about how to cast on or start a piece of knitting, but so far, I’ve only described two ways to bind off. That’s because I have fewer bind-offs in my bag of tricks. Nevertheless, I have a couple more to post.

One of my favorites is called the yarnless bind off. It’s yarnless in the sense that you use the yarn that is already on the needles, not the working yarn that’s hanging from the beginning of the row or round. It’s also the technique that all knitters discover eventually, but never admit to, because they think they’re committing some knitterly infraction.

Yarnless Bind Off (Normal)

The yarnless bind off is useful when you know or suspect you don’t have enough yarn to bind off in the usual way. Here’s how it works:

1. Find your starting point.
a. When you’re knitting flat, start at the end farthest from the working yarn. If you’re using circular needles, hold the tip nearest the end of the round in your left hand. If you’re using single-point needles, first slip all the stitches to another needle, so the working yarn is closest to the button; then put that needle in your left hand.
b. When you’re working in the round, do a little prep work. First, slip the first stitch of the round to the right needle. Then bring the working yarn between the needles, to the front if you’re knitting or to the back if you’re purling, and drop the working yarn. Finally, return the slipped stitch to the left needle.
2. Slip two stittches to the right needle.
3. Pass the second stitch over the first stitch. This means that you use the tip of the left needle to pickup the second stitch (the one farthest from the tip of the right needle), lift it over the first stitch (which is closest to the tip), and let it drop off the needle altogether. Only one stitch remains.
4. Slip one stitch to the right needle.
5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 until one stitch remains. The remaining stitch is on the right needle and has the working yarn at the base.
6. Draw the working yarn through that last stitch and pull the tail to close the loop.

Yarnless Bind Off (Stretchy)

The stretchy yarnless bind off is useful when you need the bind off edge to be especially loose, like when you’re making a hat that starts at the crown, socks that start at the toes, or gloves or mittens that start at the fingertips. It’s also a great way for tight knitters to loosen things up. It’s a two-part process. Part 1 (Step 1 below) sets up the bind off, and Part 2 (Steps 2 through 9 below) actually bind off. Here’s how it works:

1. On the last row/round of the project, work 1 st as directed, * yo, work 2 sts as directed; rep from * until no sts rem. The last yo may be followed by one or two stitches. If working the yarn overs into the existing pattern feels overwhelming, simply knit or purl across the entire row or round with the yarn overs (e.g., [K1, * yo, k2 *] or [P1, * yo, p2 *]).
2. Find your starting point.
a. When you’re knitting flat, start at the end farthest from the working yarn. If you’re using circular needles, hold the tip nearest the end of the round in your left hand. If you’re using single-point needles, first slip all the stitches to another needle, so the working yarn is closest to the button; then put that needle in your left hand.
b. When you’re working in the round, do a little prep work. First, slip the first stitch of the round to the right needle. Then bring the working yarn between the needles, to the front if you’re knitting or to the back if you’re purling, and drop the working yarn. Finally, return the slipped stitch to the left needle.
3. Slip one stitch to the right needle, drop the yarn over off the left needle, and slip another stitch to the right needle. There are two big floppy stitches on the right needle.
4. Pass the second stitch over the first stitch. This means that you use the tip of the left needle to pickup the second stitch (the one farthest from the tip of the right needle), lift it over the first stitch (which is closest to the tip), and let it drop off the needle altogether. Only one stitch remains.
5. Slip one stitch to the right needle. There are now two stitches on the right needle.
6. Repeat Step 4 to pass the second stitch over the first.
7. Drop the Yarn over off the left needle and slip the next stitch to the right needle, repeating Step 4 again.
8. Continue as established, working the normal yarnless bind off except that you’re dropping all yarn-overs as you come to them.
9. When only one stitch remains, draw the working yarn through that last stitch and pull the tail to close the loop.

All of this sounds a lot harder than it is. For the yarnless bind off, you’re really just slipping stitches from one needle to the other and passing each stitch over its neighbor, and for the stretchy version, you add lots of yarn overs to the last row so that, when it’s time to start slipping stitches and passing them over their neighbors, you can drop the yarn overs making the stitches extra big.

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