Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I cord bind-off, I-cord selvedge border

Today's post is about knitted-in-place I-cord bind-offs AND edgings. Along the way, I'll show you a little trick for two-color I-cord.  (Today's post is not about attaching I-cord which was knit ahead of time--that is called "applied I-cord" and is a trick for another day.)  

Below: this little trivet has a two-color I-cord bind-off across the short end, which segues around the corner right into an I-cord border along the long edges (selvedges).

The pattern for the little trivet is at the bottom of this post--a stocking-stuffer, perhaps?

We'll start with the bind-off  (short edges), and get to the edging (long edges) in the second half of this post.

There are many tutorials for I-cord bind-off out there, but I do it a little different, so bear with me.

Here are the pithy directions.  If these make sense to you, no need to crawl through the rest of the post:
At top of work, with right side facing, CO 2 st via backwards loop technique. For same color I-cord, use running yarn from the top st of the fabric, for CC I-cord, use the tail end of a CC skein. K3. * Slip these 3 sts back onto L needle maintaining orientation.  K2, K2 tog tbl.    Repeat from * until all fabric sts are bound off, BO I-cord. 
This differs from the usual instructions by substituting "k2tog tbl" for "sl1, k1, psso."  IMHO, this substitution makes a neater, more tailored cord.
For more detail, read on...

--Step 1: At the top of the work with right side facing, use the running yarn to cast on two backwards loops onto the left needle. These are shown in lighter orange.

--Step 2: Knit three stitches: these would be the two you cast on followed by the first of the fabric stitches--which has been colored brown in the below illustration. After knitting, slip these off your right needle, returning them onto your left needle without twisting or reorienting the stitches in any way. What you have should look like this--

After slipping, the running yarn protrudes from the fabric three stitches in from the edge.  This is not a mistake. Rather, this is how I-cord is made: the running yarn becomes a traveling strand drawn across from the outermost (first) to the innermost (last) of the three I-cord stitches.  Because the traveling strand will take the shortest path, it pulls the first and last stitch together, making the (if you stop and think about, magical) result of a round cord knitted flat. The traveling strand has been shown long, flat (and colored green) in the below illustration, but in reality, the whole 3-stitch assembly is round and the traveling strand becomes invisible.

--Step 3: Draw the traveling strand to the edge of the work, then knit two stitches in a normal manner.  **Working through the back loops** knit the third stitch (brown) together with its neighbor to the left (darker brown) as shown below.  In so doing, the lighter brown stitch becomes the edge of the I-cord and the darker brown fabric stitch has been bound off into the I-cord.

Below: Inserting the right needle into the back loops of the two brown stitches.  Note the running yarn has been colored blue to identify the part of the running yarn which turns into the stitch holding together the two brown stitches.

After knitting the two brown stitches together with the blue yarn, you will wind up with a total of three stitches on your right needle--the blue, which is the last (edge) stitch of the I-cord, as well as the two orange stitches which make up the other two-thirds of the I-cord stitches.  The traveling strands which connect the I-cord's first and last stitches have been colored green, and shown long and flat, but in real life, the cord is round and the traveling strand, invisible.

--Step 4: Slipping these three stitches off your right needle, return them to the left needle. The running yarn will again protrude from the fabric 3 stitches in from the edge.

You can also see that knitting through the back loops not only twists the stitches but also puts the first I-cord stitch (lighter brown) over the top of the fabric stitch (darker brown) thus hiding it.

Here is a reality check: this is what a same-color I-cord in progress looks like "in the wool" at the end of step 4, with the stitches returned to the L needle.

--Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you get to the end of the live stitches.

If working flat, when you run out of live fabric stitches to bind off, bind off the I-cord.  Finish by running the tails at both ends of the I-cord into the hollow core of the I-cord itself, never to be seen again.

If working circular, (ie: around a continuous edge, such as the live stitches at the top of a cowl or live stitches around the bottom of a hat) there are three ways to end the work, depending on your relationship to perfectionism:

  • --if you are a perfectionist, you can undo the two backwards loops at the I-cord cast-on, then Kitchener-stitch the beginning of the I-cord to the end where they meet.  Remember that the Kitchener stitching itself has the height of one round of I-cord, so plan to factor that in.
  • --if you are an ordinary mortal, then, at the end, knit an extra two or three rounds of I-cord loose of the edge.  Next, bind off the I-cord by threading the tail through the three live I-cord stitches.  Finally, using a crochet hook, pull the end inside the core of the I-cord where the cord first started. The result is like a snake eating its own tail.  I call this a "dive-join" because the end of the I-cord dives into its own beginning. Dive-joins create a little bump, yes, but nobody--except you--will ever notice.
  • --if you are somewhere between ordinary mortal and perfectionist,  duplicate-stitch one or two stitches over the dive-join to disguise the break in fabric pattern. Lower in this post, there is a photo of a dive-join which has been disguised in this way.

In step 1, cast on two backwards loops using the contrast color yarn. Then, using the contrast color for all the knitting, simply follow all the instructions of steps 3 and 4.   Here is a closeup photo of a contrast color bind off--orange on a white background

The red boxes show where the white blips would be if you pushed the 
stitches of the I-cord apart to see them. 

As you see, the blip of the white stitch (the one being bound off) is pretty well hidden. If the blip shows more than you want it to, sharply pull the I-cord up and the fabric down.  This seats the fabric stitches deeper inside the I-cord fabric.  You can also fluff up the edge stitches with a slim dpn to hide the blip even deeper inside the I-cord.  If you're still having an issue, knit the I-cord with a larger needle or fluffier yarn, or both, so there is more bulk with which to hide the blip.

If really want to get fancy, you can work an I-cord bind-off in two (or even more) colors, but it is something of a pain the neck:  you have to work with a cut length of yarn and you'll also need a crochet hook or a blunt-nosed yarn needle.  (OTOH, hiding the ends is easy--you simply slide them into the hollow core of the I-cord.)

I have worked this two-color trick on the live stitches of the fabric ends (a bit lower in this post, that I-cord you see on the selvedge will make a how-to appearance, and the same trick as shown here to add a color to I-cord binding off live stitches can be used to add color on selvedge stitch borders, as well).

OK, so for the color, let's say you want to insert a 4-round-long dash of green into an orange I-cord. Start off working in orange. Go as far as you want to go in that color, ending on a step 4.  Drop the orange yarn and, starting with step 3, work 4 rounds of I-cord in the green, again ending on a step 4.

--Step 5: Now it is time to again knit with the orange yarn.  But, there is a problem: you dropped that color several rounds ago, so how to get at it? If you simply draw it across the back, you'll get a long loop laying on the fabric surface--not nice.

After much fooling around experimentation I think what shows least and is easiest is to actually cut the orange yarn to about a twenty-inch length, thread it onto a blunt needle and draw that entire length THROUGH the four rounds of green you just knit.

Keep pulling the orange through through until the cut ends pops free. Now that the orange is the correct spot, use that for knitting, starting off on step 3.  Continue with orange for four rows, ending on a step 4.  Don't yank the orange through the green: that would distort the last stitch of the orange and would make the green segment stiff and short. Be mild in your tension, this is like adjusting the traveling strands in two-color knitting(And that's because...it IS two color knitting!) 

--Step 6: Repeat step 5, except thread the green yarn through the core of the orange stitches and knit the desired number of rounds with green.

--Repeat steps 5 and 6.  As you run out of yarn, cut a new length to use.  At the end of the work, you can work in all the loose ends, they will be hidden in the core of the I-cord.

This post does not show an I-cord cast on.  This is because  if you start your knitted item with a provisional cast-on (COWYAK is an easy one), at the end of your project, you can remove the provisional cast on to get live loops. With live loops at both ends of your fabric, you can bind OFF both ends via this trick and get absolutely matchy-matchy ends. 

I cord can be attached to the  selvedge (long edge) as a flat-laying border or trim (a "purfle" as the old folks used to say, as opposed to a "ruffle" which was also a trim, but does not lay flat).

If you are simply adding the I-cord at a single selvedge, you have no worries.  However, if you wanted to go around a corner--such as we are doing here to get from binding off live stitches to edging the selvedge-there is a trick for that.  Specifically, you have to add slack at the corner to avoid cupping and curling.  If you fail to add slack, your corner will never lay flat.

To add slack, simply  knit a round or two of I-cord loose of the edge, by which I mean, knit this little stretch of I-cord as a free-standing cord, not attached to the underlying fabric.  Once you have the necessary slack, you then begin to attach the I-cord along the selvedge.  By knitting this extra row or two, the I-cord can make the bend without distorting the underlying fabric.

Three things to notice about the above photo.  First, you can see the I-cord has been knit loose of the edge in order to create the required slack for getting around the corner.  Second, note the stitches being held in waiting along the upright needle.  This is an every-other-row fabric method pick-up of stitches through the selvedge, and we'll get to that in the very next part of this post.  Finally, if you want to see what the corner actually looks like anchored down, the last two photos below both show a fastened-down corner. 

Once you have sufficient slack in your I-cord to get around the corner, your work is not done.  The problem is, there are no live loops waiting to anchor the I cord to the selvedge.  You must therefore make some appear, and you have two choices about this.  Confusingly, both choices are called "picking up stitches." May I suggest that you go to this post and read all about both methods?   I'll wait here til you're done.

Anchoring via the fabric method: Choose the every-other row method--the illustration just above shows two stitches picked up this way onto the upright needle.  Then, knit the first picked-up stitch together with the first I-cord stitch just as you did along the cast-off edge. When you get to the second row, where there is no stitch waiting to be picked up, you would knit the three I-cord stitches loose of the fabric edge, just as if it were a free-standing I-cord. On the third row, you'd again knit the I-cord onto the stitch picked up out of the fabric, and so on.

Anchoring via the added-yarn method: As shown in the photo below, with this trick, you have one loop per row, placed on a knitting-needle yarn holder.  Because you have picked up one stitch per row, there is no need to knit every second round of the I-cord loose of the edge.  Instead, simply proceed as if you were working a cast-off edge. In other words, each round of I-cord is anchored to a picked-up stitch loop, just as if it were a live loop being bound off. Here is an illustration of a contrast color I-cord being knit onto live loops along a selvedge, where the live loops were obtained via the added-yarn method.

When you get all the way around all four corners, you are facing the identical situation as mentioned above for circular knitting.  That is, the end of the I-cord has come around to meet the beginning.  You would therefore "dive join" the ends according to those same directions, again--it's just like a snake eating its own tail.   Here is a photo of a dive-joined ending--it is just at the corner, and I took two duplicate stitches where the end of the I cord dived into its beginning .  You might be able to feel it a little bump, but you pretty much can't see it--have a look for yourself. (Also, note how nice and flat that corner lays due to added slack--no cupping at all.)

Dive-joined I-cord, joined just at the corner, disguised via duplicate stitches 
Good knitting


Bonus stocking-stuffer trivet pattern (this could be made into a neck scarf by simply knitting it longer.  If you want it wider, add stitches in groups of 4) 

Materials: Scrap amounts of worsted weight yarn in three colors, knitting needles which, in your hands, give a nice fabric with this yarn, and also knitting needles three sizes smaller.  Crochet hook and/or blunt nosed yarn needle.

Directions: Using needles three sizes smaller than you usually use for worsted-weight yarn, CO 27 sts in waste yarn.  Work a row or two in stockinette, ending on a knit row.

Switch to main yarn.

Row 1: p
Row 2: k
row 3: p
Row 4: establish ribbing patt as follows: *k3, p1, repeat from * to within 3 st of end of row, k3.
Row 5: *p3, k1, repeat from * to within 3 sts of end of row, p3
Switch to larger needles.
Rows 4 and 5 make up the ribbing pattern.
Continue in ribbing pattern until you have worked a total of 29 rows from beginning of piece.  Upon completion of row 29, you should have just finished a purl row. Switch to smaller needles.
Rows 31, 32 and 33:  continue in rib pattern.
Rows 34: purl
Row 35:k
row 36:p
Turn work, remove provisional cast on from bottom and put those stitches on a dpn or stitch holder. You are now ready to add I-cord bind off as shown in the above post.

Optional: steam block piece before adding I-cord (makes it easier to handle).

Siting the color blips: Obviously, you can put these wherever you want.  I put the color blips on the bound-off ends only, not on the selvedges.  There there are 7 total ribs, and I centered the two green 4-round-long blips on third and fifth ribs respectively.  Due to a quirk of the structure of color knitting, you must change colors one I-cord round BEFORE the rib stitch itself if you want the color change centered on the rib.  This is because the first green stitch actually anchors down the last orange stitch.  Try and see for yourself.

BTW:  you get around to the bottom of the work, where the live stitches were freed from the provisional cast-on, you'll see that the rib seems to growing out the middle of two knit columns, instead of coming out of the middle of one knit column. This is because knitting is 1/2 stitch off at a provisional cast-on edge.

Why knit the first and last few rows so tightly?  Due to the structure of knitting, fabric edges want to flare. A tight first tight rows at beginning and end of the work help counteract this nasty tendency. (Good trick for the cast-on and bind-off edge of any strip of knit fabric: scarves, afghan strips, etc.)


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the explanation of the dive join, and the note to undo the backwards cast-on! I always struggle with joining my i-cord ends neatly, this sounds like just the ticket.

Unknown said...

Oh icords, how I love them!

"After much fooling around experimentation I think what shows least and is easiest is to actually cut the orange yarn to about a twenty-inch length, thread it onto a blunt needle and draw that entire length THROUGH the four rounds of green you just knit."

- Does anyone else just manipulate the unused(orange) yarn so it gets caught in the middle of the icord? I just always make sure it stays snug behind the 3 stitches on my needle, like twisting travelling yarn in at the edge of a row. But I hate cutting yarns and messing around with crochet hooks.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Unknown: Years of messing around led me to reluctantly conclude that I had to bite the bullet. In my hands, the cutting-and-threading just turns out better than switching the other color of yarn around. Manipulating always led to blipping, but threading has eliminated that for me. But, hey--if you've figured out how to hide the cc yarn as-you-go, that's fabulous! Wanna share some tips about how you do it?

shari said...

I'm surprised that you haven't mentioned row vs stitch gauge here. I've found that, just as in the picking up stitches article, that difference can be problematic and sometimes requires a larger needle for the bindoff or an unattached row every few rows to maintain the right gauge. It makes sense that on the selvedges that the every other row unattached us the perfect gauge although now that im thinking more, youre using the smaller needle at that point. Anyway, do you not encounter this as an issue?

Lucy said...

A very timely post for me! Thank you (for this, and all of your other crystal clear explanations over the years).

TECHknitter said...

Hi Shari: Thanks for your comment about gauge, which gives me a wonderful opportunity to address this important issue.

I had hoped folks would read the post about picking up stitches at the provided linky (which is why I wrote and published that post first). The matter of gauge is discussed there. Further, I-cord on a selvedge is a row:row matchup, which should go 1:1 (1 row of I-cord for every 1 row of the item being edged).

The pattern for the sample trivet offers the idea of knitting the first and last rows much tighter, which should draw the stitch gauge of the fabric down to the row gauge of the I-cord. Of course, it would also be possible to knit the I-cord looser for the top and bottom (bind-off) portions of the fabric, which would bring the row-gauge of the I-cord down to the stitch gauge of the underlying fabric, if the "knit it tighter" trick hadn't been followed.

Thanks again for writing. Best, TK

betty2dogs said...

Thank you again for a clear, concise explanation! I love that you include both drawings and photographs. I like i-cord a lot, but didn't quite understand how to use it this way.

Anonymous said...

Mind reader! I've been wanting to try this but my mind wobbles everytime I look at everyone else's directions. Once again, you've given clear, simple directions for something that need not be complicated. Idiot cord bind off should not make you feel like an idiot because you can't do it from poorly instructive descriptions.

kushami said...

Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou! Now I can face rejoining a piece of i-cord on the back neck of my Stranger Cardigan. I grafted the ends, which took hours, almost making my head explode, than afterwards realised the grafting had been done with a rather worn, untwisted length of yarn that should have gone into the scrap bag - argh! I shall pull it out and do a lovely dive join instead :-)