Table of contents for Sock Design 101
Hey, we made it! This is the final post in the toe-up sock design series. And since it is the final one, naturally we are going to talk about binding off.
The biggest problem with binding off a toe-up sock is how to keep the bind-off from being too tight. The BO edge has to be able to stretch a lot to pull on comfortably, and NOT BREAK under the stress. Seriously important, that "not breaking" part. If your bind-off is too tight, it will eventually break under repeated stress.
However, if your BO is too tight, it may not undergo all that many stress cycles — because you (or your giftee) might not even wear the damned socks if the BO edge cuts into your leg.
A third consideration is that we don’t want it to be too loose, either, but this is pretty low on the totem pole as far as I’m concerned. A loose BO edge might look a little "flappy" when the socks are not being worn, but I will gladly give that up for socks that are both wearable and durable.
And as usual in knitting, there are a few different techniques around to keep your bind-off loose. Here are a few choices:
Strategy #1: making the BO sts bigger
Bind off with a larger size needle: kind of self-explanatory. The stitches created during the final round will be bigger, thus will be able to stretch further.
Suspended bind-off: for people who habitually bind off too tightly, and are (like me) too lazy to go get a larger needle. Instead of dropping the bound-off st off the tip of the left needle after you have pulled it over, leave it there while you go behind it and work the next st, and drop it off when you drop the newly worked st. Kind of crazy the first time you try it, but it does work! Anne Hanson of Knitspot says she uses this one.
Strategy #2: changing the structure of the BO
K2tog or decrease bind-off: K2tog, place new st back on left needle, repeat. Easy-peasy, but gives a bit of a different look to the edge. Can be done as K2tog tbl to make it look more like the usual bind-off.
A variation of this is, instead of working two sts together for every BO stitch — work 2 sts tog for, say, every other BO stitch. I.e. K1, ** K1, do regular BO; place loop on RH needle back on LH needle; K2tog (tbl probably will look more consistent here) **. Repeat between ** to end.
Ribbing bind-off: A variation on the above. I’m not sure where I picked up this little gem. In my notes it says it’s for 1 x 1 ribbing, but I’ve successfully used it on other rib patterns too, such as this 2 x 2 rib.
** Look at 2nd st on LH needle. If it is a knit, k2tog; if it is a purl, p2tog. Slip the new st back to LH needle without twisting.** Repeat between ** until all sts are cast off.
It would be interesting to combine the two above and see how it looks if you alternate K2tog tbl and P2tog tbl. However, P2tog tbl is not for the faint of heart.
Yet another version: can be found at lotsofyarn. The first two described on this blog actually involve working into sts a couple of times each on the BO round. I haven’t tried these out physically, but trying to "knit" them mentally gives me the suspicion that they either (a) end up being exactly the same, or a very similar, structure to some of the others, for a lot more work, or (b) have the odd effect of adding a plain knit round between any ribbing and the BO sts, which I am not certain is going to buy you a whole lot of stretch… but, I’ve been wrong before!
Attached I-cord BO: I did actually try this on a pair of socks, to see if having the lateral I-cord would work as a stretchier edge. Unfortunately, it didn’t, really, but it does give another different "look".
EZ’s sewn BO: Not one of my faves. There are several good posts about this one out there already, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. Take a look at this one on WeebleKnits — it’s right at the top of the page (and there’s a rather interesting-looking one after it, too, which I’m going to have to try out).
Strategy #3: adding extra sts to the BO
Adding YO’s (= chains), or M1’s: There are a lot of ways to achieve this one, including a couple of the ones described at Weebleknits. The version marked "Peggy’s" is, structurally, a variation on this idea. For crochet-phobes, one simple way to make a "chain" between regular stitches is by placing the loop on the right needle back on the left needle and knitting it again.
My own version, which I haven’t seen anywhere else, is this: Every time I have a knit st in my ribbing, I do a KFB instead, and pause in between the "knit front" part and the "knit back" part to bind off. It goes like this — we’ll pretend we’re doing K2, P2 rib in this example.
Begin with a plain ol’ KFB: Knit into the front of the first knit st, leaving old st on left needle. Knit into back of same st on left needle, and drop old st off. You have two loops on the right needle, so bind off one of them.
** Begin another KFB: Knit into the front of the next knit st, again leaving old st on left needle. However, you already have two loops on the right needle now, so interrupt your KFB for a moment and bind off one of them. Now go back and finish off your KFB: Knit into back of same st on left needle, and drop old st off. Two loops on the right needle yet again, so bind off one of them.
Perform regular BO on purl sts: Purl one st, BO one st. Purl another st, BO another st.
Begin another KFB: Knit into the front of the next knit st, again leaving old st on left needle. You again have two loops on the right needle, so again interrupt your KFB and bind off. Finish off your KFB: Knit into back of same st on left needle, and drop old st off. Two loops on the right needle yet again, so bind off one of them. **
Repeat between ** until all sts are bound off.
Works great, looks good, what more could you want?