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Casting On & Binding Off Techniques in Knitting

When learning to knit, it's natural to want to dive right into the fun and fancy stitches and patterns that make finished pieces look so fantastic. But it's important to remember that casting on and binding off your stitches are every bit as important as the body of the work. Both of these steps lend stability to your knitting and they affect the appearance of your edges, which can make or break how good your finished piece looks.

Casting On

Casting on is the very first step in every knitting project. When casting on, you're creating the foundation that will become your initial stitches, so it's important that you choose the right method for your particular project in order to create a strong, attractive fabric. Listed below are three of the common methods for casting on.

Single Cast On

This method is the most common and because it's easy to learn, it's great for beginning knitters. Here’s how to use it:

1. Make a slipknot with your yarn, and then place it on your knitting needle. Tug on the yarn to tighten it.
2. Loop your yarn around your thumb.
3. Pass your needle through the loop, bringing the needle under and then up through the loop.
4. Slip the loop from your thumb and onto the needle, and then give your yarn a tug to tighten the loop.
5. Repeat from step two until you have cast on the number of stitches needed for your pattern.

Knit Cast On

This is another method that is suitable for beginners and it creates an attractive, sturdy edge.

1. Create a slip knot and place it on your knitting needle. Go ahead and take up both knitting needles as if you were about to begin knitting.
2. Slip your right hand needle through your loop, placing the left needle on top of the right one.
3. Pass your working strand around the left needle.
4. Gently pull the yarn with your right needle through the loop on your left needle.
5. You should now have a loop on your right needle. Simply push the loop on your right needle back onto the left needle, passing the left needle through the loop front to back.
6. Give a gentle tug on your working yarn. You should now have two stitches on your left needle.
7. Continue casting on knit stitches until you have the amount needed for your pattern.

Cable Cast On

This method is ideal when working on projects that have cables or ribbing. It's a stretchy cast on that is well suited for stitches that are twisted or turned in pattern.

1. Cast on two stitches using the knit cast on method.
2. Slip your right needle between the two stitches held on your left needle. Make sure that your right needle passes between the left needle and the yarn that connects the two stitches.
3. Wrap your working yarn around your right needle in a counter clockwise direction.
4. Using your right needle, pull the wrapped loop between the two stitches.
5. Slip the new stitch onto your left needle from your right needle, slipping the left needle through it from front to back to make it turn. Give your working yarn a tug to tighten the stitch. You should now have three stitches cast on.
6. Continue casting on stitches by repeating steps two through five until you have the number of stitches required for your pattern.

Binding Off

Just like casting on, binding off (also referred to as casting off) is a very important step in creating a knitted piece. Binding off prevents your finished piece from unraveling, and it lends additional stability to your knitting. Binding off also gives a clean, finished edge. Listed below are three of the more common methods of binding off.

Standard Bind Off

This method is the most common one used and quite easy to learn, making it an ideal choice for beginners. The end result is a clean, even edge. It doesn't give very much stretch however, making it inappropriate for cuffs, socks, and some hats.

1. Knit your first two stitches as usual.
2. Insert the point of your left needle into the first stitch that you knitted onto the right needle.
3. Using your left needle, lift the first stitch over the second stitch. You will now only have one stitch remaining on the right needle.
4. Repeat steps two and three, knitting a stitch and then lifting the previous stitch over it, until there is only one stitch remaining on the right needle.
5. Cut your yarn, leaving a six to eight inch tail. Slip the final stitch carefully off of the right needle and loosen it slightly with your fingers. Pass the tail through the stitch and pull snug.

I-Cord Bind Off

This method is a great choice when you want your edges to have a clean, polished look. The appearance of this bind off is very similar to a regular I-Cord, creating a flat tube of stitches as your edge.

1. Begin by casting on three additional stitches with your work yarn. Cast them on directly in front of the stitches that you already have on your needle.
2. Knit the first two stitches as you normally would, but slip the third stitch to the right needle knit wise.
3. Knit one more stitch from the left needle onto the right, giving you a total of four stitches on the right needle.
4. With your left needle point, lift the slipped stitch over the last stitch that you knitted, leaving three stitches on your right needle.
5. Slip the three stitches back onto the left needle purl wise.
6. Repeat steps one through five until you have three stitches left. Slip them onto the left needle and then knit the three stitches together, going through the back loops.
7. Cut a six to eight inch tail and pull it through the last stitch, pulling it snug.

Stretchy Bind Off

This method is ideal for projects that have ribbing or cuffs that need to be able to stretch such as hats, necklines, socks and booties.

1. Knit together the first two stitches, going through the back loops instead of the front as you would normally.
2. Slip this stitch from the right needle back onto the left needle.
3. Repeat steps one and two until you bind off all of your stitches and are left with only one stitch. Cut your yarn, leaving a six to eight inch tail and then pass the tail through the final stitch and pull it snug.

Knowing a variety of methods of casting on and binding off will make a vast difference in the appearance and versatility of your finished pieces. Just as you take the time to find the perfect stitch to create a stunning pattern, you should also take the time to choose appropriate methods of casting on and binding off to further enhance the beauty and durability of your piece. Hopefully the techniques listed above will help to get you started!

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