Three needle bind-off
Three needle bind-off* is an excellent technique for joining two pieces of knitting horizontally. It is especially good for shoulder seams because it gives a neat, non-bulky join, with the reinforcement and rigidity provided by a seam. It’s also great if you find grafting (Kitchener stitch) fiddly, or like me, you just don’t like seaming.
* Note to any baffled British readers: ‘Bind-off’ is the US term for cast-off. As I’m British, I normally use British terms but this technique seems to exclusively be known by the US term.
It is normally worked with right sides together for a neat finish, but it can also be worked with wrong sides together, to make a feature of a join with a row of running stitches along the seam, as shown in my photo tutorial. The latter is perfect for baby clothes because it leaves the inside of the garment perfectly smooth.
You’ll need: Some knitting to join, with the same number of stitches on each needle; a spare needle of a similar size to the ones your knitting is on.
Let’s get started!
Decide if you’d like your seam to be on the outside of you work. If yes, hold your pieces together with wrong sides together, as I have. If you’d like your seam on the inside, hold the pieces with right sides together (inside out).
1. Align your needles so that both are in the same position with the yarn between them.
2. With the third needle, insert through the front loop of the first stitch on the facing row (as if to knit) and through the front loop of the first stitch on the back row.
3. Knit both stitches together.
4. Carefully slide the two worked stitches off the needles on each side. You’ll have a single stitch on the third needle.
5. Repeat this process, knitting the next stitch on the front needle together with the first stitch on the back needle.
You’ll now have two stitches on the third needle.
6. Lift the first stitch on the third needle off over the second, casting (binding) off one stitch, exactly as you would normally. Take care not to drop any stitches off the working needles, this step is normally when it happens!
That’s it! This is a good time to check your needles are lined up nicely to make the next stitch easier.
Repeat steps 1-6 until you’ve run out of stitches.
This will feel a little fiddly at first. Dropped stitches are common so be extra vigilant and keep your needles aligned.
The three needle bind-off works very well combined with short rows for a jogless sloping seam, which is exactly what I did in the project pictured.
What is this mysterious project? It’s a new pattern, coming very soon.
Many thanks to Rob Wilson for the photography in this tutorial.