Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tubular cast off (it's pretty)

includes 4 illustrations--click any illustration to enlarge
The tubular cast OFF described today is identical to the tubular cast ON of the last post in every way but one: you create them differently. But when the creation process is complete, these two are identical twins. The structure of the fabric is the same, they look the same, they stretch the same. Knitters often complain that their casts on look so different from their casts off, but after this post, YOU, dear reader, will no longer be able to complain about this particular annoyance. In examining the exposed fabric edge, the most eagle-eyed expert will find it impossible to say whether your tubular ribbing edges were created by a cast ON or a cast OFF.

The tubular cast ON, the subject of the previous post, is a three-phase process:
Phase 1 is a row of stockinette stitches cast on over a provisional tail,
Phase 2 consists of four double-knitting foundation rows which are knitted into the heads and tails of the cast-on row, and
Phase 3 is the 1x1 ribbing which follows.

The tubular cast OFF, the subject of today's post is done exactly in reverse, also in three phases:
  • Phase 1 is the 1x1 ribbing,
  • Phase 2 consists of four double-knitting foundation rows (created exactly like the four double-knitting foundation rows of the cast-ON) and
  • Phase 3 consists of two parts:
  • part 1 is a preparation row or round to separate and prepare the stitches for grafting.
  • part 2 is the final trick of the whole thing: the stitches separated in the previous part are grafted together. This creates a row of stockinette stitches on the very edge of the garment which is identical in every way with the row of stockinette stitches of the tubular cast ON.

Phase 1: 1x1 RIBBING
1. This step is easy: you create a 1x1 ribbing, as deep as you would like. ( BTW: 1x1 ribbing means a k1, p1 ribbing.)
2. This step consists of FOUR foundation rows or rounds. These are the foundation for phase 3. If you are working in the round, place a marker. If you are working flat (back-and-forth) no need for a marker.
  • ROW/ROUND 1: Knit each KNIT stitch, and SLIP each purl stitch.
  • ROW/ROUND 2: depending whether you are working a row or a round, proceed as follows:
  • row 2: Turn work, and repeat row 1
  • round 2: slip maker. Now PURL every purl stitch and SLIP every knit stitch.
  • ROW/ROUND 3: Repeat row/round 1
  • ROW/ROUND 4: Repeat row/round 2
This completes the four foundation rows.

As stated above, this phase is in two parts. For some reason, the first part of this phase often confuses folks, so here are some illustrations:

(below) Hold TWO circular needles in your RIGHT HAND. To make it easier on you, these should be a little THINNER than the needles used to create the ribbing. (If you are a perfectionist, no fears: transferring these stitches onto these smaller needles will NOT affect your gauge in any way--for more information about why this is true, click here.) Slip a KNIT stitch to the front needle. Specifically, slip the stitch as shown: untwisted. (Unlike in phase 2, there is NO KNITTING in this step, just SLIPPING.)

(below) Next, slip a PURL stitch to the back needle--slipped UNTWISTED as shown. (Again, unlike in phase 2, there is NO PURLING in this step, just SLIPPING.)

Alternate the two procedures: A knit stitch to the front needle, a purl stitch to the back needle and so on, until ALL the stitches have been separated.

(Below) At the end of the separating process, you should have 1/2 the stitches (the knits) on one needle, and 1/2 the stitches on the other needle. The project should look like this:
Now that the stitches are separated, the final step is to GRAFT the stitches together. For this, you will use the KITCHENER stitch. If you know how to Kitchener stitch with a yarn and threaded needle, have at it. If you don't know, follow THIS link for a new, easier method of doing the Kitchener stitch with knitting needles. The separated stitches are exactly like the front and back stitches in all the Kitchener diagrams. In other words, the separated stitches are just like the front and back stitches of a sock toe (the most common form of Kitchener stitching).

(Below) Here is the final result "in the wool." Nice, hey?
One last tip: If you are Kitchener stitching in the ROUND, and you want the round to end beautifully, here is the trick: If you are using a method of Kitchener stitch which involves a prep step for the first two stitches, IGNORE the prep step. If you are using the TECHknitting method, no worries as there is no prep step. When you work the first knit stitch, simply work it 1/2 (insert yarn in correct manner, pull it through BUT instead of dropping the stitch off the needle as you would normally do, put a bobby-pin or other holder through this stitch. Do the same with the first purl stitch--work it 1/2 and put a bobby pin through it as you drop it off the needle. When you come to the end of the round, RETURN the pinned knit stitch to the front needle (right arm forward) and the pinned purl stitch to the back needle (also right arm forward). Use these returned stitches to perform the last half of the Kitchener stitch maneuver on the final repeat. Tada! a perfect ending. (If this closing tip sounds mysterious and difficult, it will all come clear when you try it with yarn and needles--really! Is it worth it to fool with the final stitch like this? I think so: the last photo, above, includes the round end as finished according to this tip and I don't think it shows at all.)

ADDENDUM 5-6-09. If you click this link, you will be taken to a post by Revknits, who adapted the 1x1 tubular bind off for a 2x2 rib--and did a great job of it!

* * *
This is part 9 of a series. The other posts are:

How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 1: Opera and Soap Opera (November 1, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 2: Why cuffs and bands are wonky, and what to do about it (November 14, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 3: Hems and facings:(November 22, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 4: Knitting shut hems and facings (December 9, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 5: Sewing shut hems and facings (December 23, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 6: Your steam iron: a mighty weapon in the fight against curling and flipping (December 25, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 7: Zig-zag bands (December 29, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 8: Provisional tail method of 1x1 tubular cast on (January 11, 2008)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs: the wrap-up (January 23, 2008)

(You have been reading TECHknitting on: "Tubular bind off")


Carla said...

This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for another great tutorial.

AuntieAnn said...

When I do tubular bind-off, I do the prep stitches in grafting, then "complete" them when I come back around.

But what is the purpose of the foundation rows? Mine seem to work just fine without them. When I had a mighty struggle (which I lost) with 2x2 tubular bind-off, the foundation rows seemed to be making the bound-off edge tight and inelastic.

--TECHknitter said...

Hi AuntieAnn: The foundation rows are what creates the sides of the "tube" for tubular bind off. What you are doing is knitting 2 rows of fabric on the front, and 2 rows of fabric on the back, then uniting the two 2-row fabrics at the top with the grafting. If you look at the second to last illustration, you can see that each of the two needles is actually at the "top" of a separate piece of fabric, and both of those fabrics grow out of the ribbing: the back fabric grows out of the purls, and the front fabric out of the knits. You should knit the foundation rows with a not-too-tight tension, because each is only half as long as the ribbing. (In this, as most other things in knitting, use makes master, and swatches rule!) Thanks for writing.

Nancy said...

I found your blog through Ravelry, and I am hooked.

What great articles you deliver!!!! So precise and so clear.

Thank you so much for your work, I really appreciate it.

Zoe said...

You are amazing. What an elegantly simple technique! You should publish all these in a handbook, you provide the clearest, easiest to understand instructions and explanations I've ever seen. Thank you so much.

Tallulah said...

Genius! I have recently learnt and adopted the tubular cast-on, but was always unhappy about the look of the sewn bind-off, which is what most sources tell you to use in this case. Your solution looks much neater. Thankyou!

Cassandra said...

I can't wait to give this a try. Thanks for such precise instructions!

trek said...

Great job

Marjorie said...

Thanks for your last two posts. I've printed them so I can study them. These are things that I've never done well, although I have managed a good tubular cast on when I start with a row of single crochet (that is eventually removed).

Elizabeth said...

I'm trying this cast-off for the first time, and when slipping stitches for the foundations rows, I've been leaving the yarn in back or front, depending on if I'm knitting or purling. But it's not looking right. Do I need to bring the yarn to the opposite side when slipping stitches? Thanks!

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Elizabeth--Thanks for your question. When you slip, the yarn GOES TO THE MIDDLE. In other words, when you are knitting the knits and slipping the purls, the yarn goes BEHIND the slipped stitches. When you are purling the purls and slipping the knits, the yarn goes IN FRONT of the slipped stitches. By keeping those slips in the middle--inside the tube, the walls of which you are creating during the foundation rows--they are hidden and will not show when the tops of the tube are grafted (kitchener stitched) together. --TK

Lisa said...

Why not a 3 needle bind off instead of kitchener? What would be the difference?

Jen said...

Hi TechKnitter! Your bind-off is a thing of beauty, and it really makes a difference in how professional my knitting looks. Is it possible to do the same bind-off with 2x2 knitting?

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Lisa:
Good question! In structural terms, both the three-needle bind off and the kitchener stitch finish off knitted fabric so it will not run. However, the tubular bind off (kitchener stitch) makes the fabric look like it has no edge--like the fabric simply goes around the top of the ribbing. By contrast, the three-needle bind off makes a distinct edge--not bad, just not as pretty as the tubular bind off.

Hi Jen:
I have not yet found a method of binding off 2x2 ribbing that looks ANYTHING like as nice as this trick for 1x1 ribbing. If a trick for binding off 2x2 ribbing reveals itself to me, I will certainly post it, but none has so far.

Thanks for writing


Anonymous said...

this is the first time I've come across TECHknitting. it's wonderful! thank you to whomever putss this site together. pictures are great and text is very readable. all I need now is an extra day/week to read it all!

shirley - in the twin cities, where spring has finally arrived

p.s. my response is not to tubular bindoff, but to flat-topped cap, and the site in general

Larissa said...

I know I'm a few months late to the tutorial, but I have a question -- Do you have to start with twice the number of stitches for the "foundation up" rows as you had in the actual garment? I'm at the top of a sock with 72 stitches of 1x1 rib: do I need to increase to 144? It seems like if I just start slipping every other stitch of the 72 and then graft them that I'll end up with a stretchy but too-tight bind off. Thanks so much!

gorlitsaknits.com said...


No, leave it at 72 stitches, and it will work out fine. It's amazing!

Hillary said...

To bind-off a 2x2 ribbing, you can use the "Invisible bind-off for 1x1 rib" technique (the kind that uses a tapestry needles), with this adaptation: Treat the 2 knit stitches as one knit stitch, and treat the 2 purl stitches as one purl stitch. Be sure to watch your tension. The end results look good!

Diana Troldahl said...

Slip wyif.
I did it the standard way hand had a bit of frogging to do.

kitmonster said...

I agree with AuntieAnn... I did the two foundation rows, slipping stitches, and found the edge much less elastic than the rest of the ribbing. The whole thing still works without those two rows, and (i think) it's tidier. So while I know that those 4 rows make the tube, does it really matter?

Anonymous said...

I have 41 stitchs - 21 k and 20 p. What would I do with last stitch?

Karen said...

I am know sure if I misread the instructions but it seems you left out one vital point...In the four foundations rows of phase 2; bring the yard forward after knitting knit stitch and before slipping purl stitch, then return yarn to back of work.
It seems no-one else had a problem so maybe it was me!

nicolesfitch said...

I love your website and have been using it a ton! A question on this method though--can you do more than the 4 foundation rows to make the tube and still have the same result? I'm doing a Christmas stocking and would like a larger contrasting rib at the top. Is it better to just do a length of ribbing and then switch to the tubing you show, or should I do the tubing the whole way up the (probably 1") rib?

socknitster said...

So, I'm coming to this site after being dissatisfied with the tubular bind-off instructions I have been following out of a popular "how to" book--the results just weren't as neat looking as I would like. I have frogged my neck edge several times and couldn't figure out why it wouldn't look right even though I am following the steps that are commonly given and could do kitchener in my sleep.

Your site is the first time I have come across the idea of setting up some rows of double knitting after the 1 x 1 rib but before the actual bind off. I really like that idea!

I already have my knits and purls separated. Any reason why I can't just knit around like a tube of circular knitting and then kitchener it closed? Is that really any different in a practical way, do you think? I'm thinking the floats between stitches would probably be shorter, but since what I really want is for the top of the ribbing to pull in a bit because the neckline is really deep, this might work to my advantage, though it might not be as stretchy--thoughts?

I'm new to your site and am really glad I stumbled upon it! Great blog!


TECHknitter said...

Hi Socknitster! Welcome to TECHknitting blog! There is no particular reason not to proceed as you have outlined--you clearly know the danger (short floats) and will keep a sharp eye out (and, if the floats are TOO short, then you must frog!)

The fact is, it is often a quick short cut in any blank part of double knitting to simply treat the fabric as the circular tube it really is, and knit around on a circular needle or on dpn's--much faster than actual double knitting, as you so clearly know.


msHedgehog said...

I've done this a few times and really like it - it's wonderful for a little stand-up collar on a cover for a hot water bottle.

I realised that it's not actually necessary to separate the stitches onto two needles. If I skip that step, and thread the yarn on a tapestry needle, I can do it quite a lot faster straight from the one needle, by just following the yarn path in your diagrams from "a better way to kitchener stitch". And eliminating the two needles seems to eliminate the gauge problems that doing it with a tapestry needle usually gives me.

I did get a slightly stretchier edge than I normally would with this method, flaring very slightly instead of pulling in, but that was partly on purpose, as I was stretching it as I went.

Strix said...

Wonderfully helpful blog. I refer back here over and over :)

I wonder if you can help: I have a hat that turned out to be too loose around the rim, and, since it is also a tad short, I wanted to add amore snug brim by, I guess, using a smaller needle in 2x2 rib and thought a tubular bind off would look great (it is a regular rib bind off now) Is it possible to somehow do this? Would I pick up stitches and start ribbing again, or perhaps undo it, and...?? I'm clueless where to start. Or should I forget about it? Haha. Hope I clearly expressed my thoughts.
Thanks for any wisdom!

TECHknitter said...

Hi Strix--please pardon me for taking so long to reply to your comment--it mysteriously appeared in a very delayed fashion, together with several other comments.

As far as the hat being loose around the brim: It is possible to take off a brim and add another, or to lengthen the existing brim: depends which way you knit the hat.

If you started from the top down, then you have two choices: First, you can simply unpick the bind off or, second, and even easier, snip one stitch, one round up from the bottom, and as you unpick the yarn, catch the live loops on a small circular needle. You can now work the brim longer.

If you stated from the bottom up, the the best course, imho, would be to again snip a stitch and unpick the yarn, but this time, snip in the top round of the ribbing, catch the live loops of the hat, then work an entirely new ribbing, working down. The reason you can't simply lengthen a ribbed brim on a bottom-up hat is that the ribbing will be 1/2 stitch off where you wend from working "up" to working "down." (Stockinette does not have this problem, btw, only ribbing does.)

To find more information about this snipping option, there is a post about it, which you can find if you google "TECHknitting" and :length reassignment surgery." That will bring up a link to a post which has a lot more info about adjusting the length of already-knit items.

Now, as regards the tubular cast off of a k2,p2 ribbing, I have never found a satisfactory method of doing this--there are instructions for this out there, but when I try them, I don't get nearly as nice a result as when I use the tubular bind off for a 1x1 ribbing.

As far as the hat being a little too big, there are several possible fixes. First of all, with a tubular bind off, you can run a thread elastic through the "tube" part of the tubular bind off, and that will certainly tighten the brim.

Another nifty trick is to add a lining--a polar fleece lining, either headband style or fully lined style. I don't know how to add links in the comments, but you can simply google "TECHknitting" and "polar fleece" and you will get the necessary links showing how to do this.

Best of luck to you.


PS: If you ever write again in the comments and get no response, please feel free to e-mail: the e-mail comes more reliably, it seems, than the comments.

M. Nicodemus said...

Thank you for your great tutorials, I have learned some very useful techniques from your blog.

I have one question regarding your tubular cast off; in your post explaining the tubular cast ON you suggest using smaller needles for the foundation rows, do you have a similar recommendation for the cast OFF?

TECHknitter said...

Hi M--sorry it took so long to get back with you--the comments sometimes hide in a spam folder--sorry about that.

As far as needle size, it is best NOT to use smaller needles for the cast off. You want this to be stretchy, and smaller needles could make things tight. I fact, you might like to think about knitting the last few rounds with a LARGER needle, to avoid a tight cast off.

The cast on and cast off look alike, but they have different properties as far as tightness is concerned, so what works for one will not necessarily work for the other.

Thanks for writing, and sorry for the delay in response.


kittenknit said...

I didn't expect this to be easier than with a needle and was delighted with how fast and easy it was! Unfortunately, it pulled to the side so badly I couldn't use it. What did I do wrong?

TECHknitter said...

Hi KK--I really don't know...I've never had that problem. Maybe sign onto Ravelry and show it with a photo in the techniques or TECHknitting forums and I can have a look that way?


Xenia said...

What can I say? I'm so glad I found you. Thank you so much for all this work.

Knitinator said...

Great tutorials. Whenever I have a technical knitting issue I come to you. Does the tubular bind off method work with stockinette? Do I have to create a row of 1x1 ribbing first?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Knitinator-- if you did a single row of 1x1 ribbing, it's be easy to do this, whereas if you try it directly from stockinette, you'll have to separate the stitches, which will give a ribbing-like effect, anyhow. Bottom line: If it were mine, I'd do the single row of 1x1 ribbing first.

Thanks for writing, TK

Anonymous said...

My question is twofold:
1. will the 4 foundation rows make the collar of my garment longer? and if so should I end my 1x1 ribbing 4 rows earlier

2. should I start the tubular cast off on the right or wrong side of the garment or does it matter.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anaon, and thanks for writing. It sort of depends on the yarn you are using, but in anything short of a bulky yarn, the extra rows will not make your garment longer, or only very marginally so. They actually stand out a bit sideways, giving the tube a certain 3-d quaility.

As t the front of back, I do not believe it will make any difference, but if unsure, try it on a tiny swatch first, and see what you think.

Best, TK

kushami said...

Dear Techknitter,
I found that when slipping stitches, in order to keep the floats in the middle of the tube, I had to do as follows:

When knitting the knits and slipping the purls, the yarn goes in front of the slipped stitches.

When purling the purls and slipping the knits, the yarn goes behind the slipped stitches.

So, it seemed I had to change the orientation of the yarn when slipping stitches. (I am knitting in the round.)

Thanks for the great blog!

Dez said...

This is the easiest to follow tutorial for this technique I have been able to find. Thank you so much for taking the time to figure this out!

Grace said...

I'm stumped at the kitchener part. I've followed all the directions exactly and rather than my neckline being perfectly grafted I get an unsightly row of purls along the neckline edge. I've grafted before for socks, but never for necklines in the round. I feel that there must be something else at beginning of this kitchener process that I am missing because if I follow the directions exactly I can see that the stitches are not creating an invisible graft. What am I missing?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Grace: Somehow, the Kitchener stitch is (as you have discovered) coming out backwards. This is because somewhere along the line, one false move set the pattern off by half-a-stitch. In other words, somewhere, either in the set up or the execution, the kit side was worked with 1 or 3 knits, rather than 2, OR the purl side was worked with 1 or 3 purls, rather than 2. The only cure I know about is to pull out, a stitch at a time. However, the other way to consider this situation is that to to some folks, that row of purls is considered quite attractive, because it makes an actual fold line along the top of the ribbing. Stated otherwise, the fold line is considered so desirable by some knitters that there are published directions on how to achieve this result, see e.g.


However, if you do not like the result, even after thinking about it, then undoing by un-sewing is the only cure I know (other than simply removing the whole bind off to below wehre the slipping began and re-knitting from there).

Crafty Andy said...

I have not forgotten you and this proves it. lol. Thanks again for the information on this blog that has helped me more than once rise to the challenge.

Pearl* said...

Ok, this is BRILLIANT! Works like a charm! I mentioned this post on my blog this morning and back linked to your article. Thanks so much!

Viking Knitter said...

I LOVE your blog.

--A fellow Wisconsin knitter.

Lisa Geller said...

Love your posts. For some reason my tubular bind off came out really tight though and I thought it was supposed to be stretchy! Do you think I should frog it and do the bind of with larger needles (the ribbing was done in size 0 - I can go up to size 1) or do you think that the problem was doing a total of 4 foundation rows - do you think 2 rows would make it more loose?


TECHknitter said...

Hi Lisa--for sure, if it is tght, take it out. Nothing worse than a tight bind off. As to why--well, it might be the # of foundation rows, or the temptation, when working with a cut-end of yarn, to pull it really snug. Stated otherwise, regardless of whether you did the final Kitchener with a sewing needle (traditional style) or w/ a knitting needle, as the post recommends, you are forming (what amounts to) knit stitches without benefit of the barrel of a knitting needle to form them over. So, this kind of stitch often comes out tight.

if it were me binding off something knit with a size zero, I'd consider making the foundation rows on a size 2 or even 3, and then consciously working the final bind off L-O-O-S-E. Anyhow, try a small section this way--a cuff, perhaps? before committing all the bands.

In a worst case scenario, consider making a ribbing topped with a rolled edge--these always come out just right, tensionwise (at least in my experience).

cut and paste the below link into your browser window for more info on rolled edge ribbing:


Best, TK

Lisa Geller said...

I am going to try to knit the foundation rows with a size 2 or 3. My sense is that it will come out perfectly that way.

Another question - I am making fingerless mitts and going to start the bind off for the thumb. When I separate my stitches after the foundation rows my yarn is hanging off the bottom needle instead of the top needle - I Kitchener stitch with a knitting needle - my favorite technique of yours - and your post clearly states the yarn has to be hanging from the back needle when you start. How do I get the yarn to hang off the back needle? I fooled around trying to re-arrange stitches for an hour last night and couldn't figure it out! Will your technique work if the yarn starts off on the front needle? Maybe I start with step 3?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Lisa--will it work to simply flip the work over (turn it around) so that the front needle is the back needle? Otherwise, you'll have to figure out where in the process you are, and start from there (in other words, with the yarn in the front, you are at a different step than the usual starting step...)

Best, TK