How to Bind Off Knitting Loosely – Suspended Bind Off Tutorial

by | Jun 22, 2020

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Is your bind-off edge too tight? Learn to bind off your knitting loosely with the Suspended Bind Off! This one extra step makes your bind off looser and more stretchy.

A tight bind off edge is a common problem for many knitters. The bind off / cast off edge often tends to be tight, limiting the stretch of the finished edge.

Because of this, knitting pattern instructions may tell you to “bind off loosely”.  A looser bind off edge can be achieved in several different ways, but regardless of how it is done, it allows the edge to stretch more and lay nicer. You can bind off with larger needles to get a looser bind off, but my favorite way is to use the Suspended Bind Off, which I’ll show you how to do in this tutorial.

What Does It Mean to Bind Off Loosely In Knitting?

When a pattern tells you to bind off loosely, that means you’re going to bind off the loops on your needle, but make sure the stitches aren’t tight.  If the stitches aren’t loose enough, the bind off edge can limit the stretch of the fabric, which, in some cases, can greatly affect the look and functionality of the finished project.

There are several reasons why it’s better to bind off loosely in knitting.

First, a loose bind off creates a more stretchy bind-off edge, which is necessary, because knitted fabric has a good amount of stretch.  If the knitting is stretchy, and the edge is not, that can make the bind off edge problematic when the finished project is used.

Second, a tight bind off can cause the knitting to pull in and pucker.  This can distort the finished project.

Finally, a loose bind off is easier to do and can be less frustrating than a tight bind off.  This is especially true if you’re going to need to pick up stitches from the bind off edge later.

How do you bind off loosely?

To bind off loosely, you’ll need to make the stitches along the bind off edge looser as you work them.  There are several ways to do this, but here are my favorite methods.

If you’re looking to achieve a looser bind off edge in your knitting, one option is to use larger needles for the bind off row. This will create stitches that are larger, more loosely bound off, and therefore stretchier.  Another option is the Suspended Bind Off, which is my favorite way to create a stretchy bind off edge.

What is the Suspended Bind Off?

The Suspended Bind Off is very similar to a regular bind off, but adds one extra step to lengthen the stitches. The structure of the finished edge is just like the edge created by a standard bind-off, but is looser, and therefore, a bit more stretchy.

If you’re looking for a bind off that is both looser and stretchier, the suspended bind off technique may be just what you need.

Where can I use the Suspended Bind Off?

The Suspended Bind Off is structurally the same as the basic bind off method, but the extra step that lengthens the stitches helps to make the bind off looser.  So in any pattern that says to “bind off loosely”, the Suspended Bind Off will work perfectly.

The Suspended Bind Off technique is not an elastic bind off, so you wouldn’t want to use it for things like toe-up socks, where the bind off edge is at the sock cuff.

It can be used for some types of shawls, depending on the type of edge that the shawl has.  For any lace projects with lace near the bind off edge, the lace needs to have a very stretchy edge so that it can freely open up after blocking.  So for a lacy shawl, the Suspended Bind Off may not be a good option, and a bind off method that is really stretchy will be best.

For shawls that do not have lace near the edge, but rather something like garter stitch, the Suspended bind off can work well.

It is not a particularly stretchy bind-off method, but because it is looser than the basic bind off technique, it allows the bind off edge to stretch a bit more.

To perform this technique, follow the steps below.

How to do a Suspended Bind Off

Begin by knitting the first two stitches.

  1. 1. With the left needle tip, lift up the first stitch on the right needle.  Pass it over the second stitch and off the tip of the right needle, but leave it on the tip of the left needle.
  2. 2. Insert the right needle into the next stitch, leaving the passed-over stitch from the previous step still on the left needle tip.
  3. 3. Knit through the stitch.
  4. 4. Slide both the stitch held on the left needle tip and the stitch you just knit off of the left needle.

close up photos of steps to work suspended bind off in knitting

Repeat steps 1-4 across the row, until you have only two stitches remaining on the right needle and no stitches remaining on the left needle.  Pass the first stitch on the right needle over the second, then cut the yarn and tie off.

Here’s a video tutorial demonstrating the suspended bind off, and comparing it to the regular bind off method.

How Do You Bind Off Loosely In Pattern With The Suspended Bind Off Technique?

To “bind off in pattern” just means that when you’re binding off, you’ll work the stitches that you’re binding off in the same stitch pattern you’ve been doing.  When you bind off in pattern, you are essentially allowing the stitch pattern to flow to the edge of your knitting. This can be a great way to finish off a piece of knitting and create a polished look.

For example, when you’re working a k1, p1 ribbing and you’re told to “bind off in pattern”, instead of knitting each stitch as you work the suspended bind off as instructed above, you’ll need to purl the stitches in the purl columns as you bind off.

In this example, if you’re following the basic suspended bind off instructions above, here’s how you would work it in pattern with k1, p1 ribbing.

To begin, you would work 1 knit stitch, then 1 purl stitch.  As you bind off the first stitch in step 1, you would insert the needle into the next stitch as if to knit in step 2, then knit through it in step 3. Then, follow step 4 to finish binding off the stitch.

The next stitch in the row would be a purl stitch, so as you follow steps 1-4, you’ll first bring the yarn to the front of the work, work step 1, then for step 2, insert the needle into the next stitch as if to purl.  Purl the stitch in step 3, then follow step 4 to finish binding off the stitch.

To continue binding off across a k1, p1 ribbing row, you would alternate knitting and purling into the stitches as you work the suspended bind off across the row.

In this example, we worked the suspended bind off in pattern across a k1, p1 ribbing, and that can work well in many cases, like along a button band on a sweater.

However, if the ribbed edge of your project needs to be very elastic and stretchy, like a sock cuff, for example, you’ll need to choose a bind off technique with high elasticity.

If you need to bind off in pattern with the suspended bind off method, and you’re not comfortable with it yet, I would highly recommend practicing the bind off technique in pattern on a swatch knit in the stitch pattern you’re using.

Have you tried the Suspended Bind Off technique in your knitting projects? It’s a great way to loosen the tension of your bind off stitches and create a nice, loose edge. Give it a try the next time you finish a project – I think you’ll love the results!

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  1. Kathy Ann Klein

    Love that tip. Makes sense to me. Surprised that someone didn’t tell me sooner.

  2. Ainopnr8

    Thank you to the problem of a too tight edge when finishing. Such a simple idea to just use a larger needle!

  3. Dina

    Wow, that is really useful to know! I always worry about when I bind off necklines, especially sweaters for my husband, because he has (in my opinion) and ENORMOUS noggin, ha ha! I’m definitely going to try this method next time. Thanks so much for this tip!

    • Barbara G Meyer

      Thank you for presenting this. I do this bind off for all my knitting. It usually is too tight so I ALWAYS use a larger needle (at least one size, maybe two) to hold in the right hand for binding off. Makes a world of difference.


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