Friday, November 4, 2011

The stretchiest (and easiest) cast on and bind off

There are many elegant and stretchy ways to start and end knitting, and particularly, ribbing. Among these are:

Tubular cast on
Tubular bind off
Elizabeth Zimmerman's sewn bind off
JSSCO (cast on)
JSSBO (bind off)
Reverse stockinette cast on
The "miraculous" stretchy bind off

Every single one of these is a great invention, a monument to human ingenuity.

Yet, when I go to cast on or bind off, the technique I use more than any other is the simple rolled edge.
simple rolled edge on 1x1 ribbing

This edge can take it--hats and mittens go through three kids and the edge still looks good.  Socks last until the heels wear out. The main thing, though, is that it Could.Not.Be.Easier.

  • Step 1: cast on any way you like: long-tail, cable cast on, literally any method at all. The only thing is make it LOOSE.  Much looser than you think.  Use larger needles if you need to. 
  • Step 2: switch to the needles you'll use for the ribbing and make the rolled edge by working several rows or rounds of stockinette. 
  • Step 3: start your ribbing.

That's it.

For bind off, reverse: work several rows or rounds of stockinette, then bind off any way you like.  Just make it LOOSE. Bonus points: bind off and cast on match.

The stockinette rolls over, hides the edge, wears like iron, never binds. 

(If you want to know the technical details of why this should be so, here's a series about knitted fabric edges.)