Bind-Offs for Garter Stitch

Garter-Stitch Bind-Off SamplerGarter stitch may well be the perfect knitted fabric. Anyone can do it, it can help you meet handsome strangers, and looks great coming and going. But let’s face it — on garter stitch, a regular bind-off never seems to cut it. The fabric spreads out more than Stockinette stitch, but doesn’t bounce back in like ribbing, plus you’ve got those horizontal bumps to try to match. A regular bind-off just makes a pulled-in, inflexible edge. Ick! Now, with more than 40 perfect bind-offs at my disposal, I set out to find THE bind-off that I would use on every Garter-stitch project from now on.

I decided the ideal bind-off would be:

— stretchy but not too stretchy — a good match to the horizontal bumps — fast and easy I picked the three bind-offs from this course that I thought would work the best. They are shown at left. All three turned out to be great choices!

Picking a Winner

I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite from among my top three choices. I know that for any project over 60 stitches wide, I would choose the fastest one: the Icelandic bind-off, which is a great default choice. The Icelandic bind-off (shown at left) is faster because it is done “on the needles” as opposed to sewn with a tapestry needle. For any long-edged Garter-stitch project like the Color Affection shawl that’s so popular on Ravelry (pictured below), I recommend this excellent bind-off. It matches the fabric almost perfectly, and is strong, stretchy, and sturdy — just what the doctor ordered.

For Long Swaths of Garter, Choose the Icelandic Bind-Off

Color Affection Shawl by Veera Välimäki See for yourself! I’ll teach you the quick and easy Icelandic Bind-Off below, and you can try it on a swatch of Garter stitch and see what you think.

The Winner

For a wide project (more than 50 stitches or so), I recommend the Icelandic Bind-Off. A fast, knitted bind-off, it’s one of the stretchiest of the standard bind-offs.

Icelandic Bind-Off
Winner: The Icelandic Bind-Off
A fast, stretchy bind-off. This is a medium-speed, stretchy bind-off that’s good for intermediate knitters. Tip: You can use the Icelandic Bind-off on any fabric, not just Garter stitch. Try it on Stockinette – it will make a pretty little rolled edge.

The Runner-Up

For a narrow project (less than 50 stitches or so), I recommend the Latvian Bind-Off. An easy sewn bind-off, it makes a soft and stretchy line of V’s on the right side (and matches the Long-Tail cast-on).

Latvian Bind-OffRunner Up: The Latvian Bind-Off A smooth and stretchy sewn bind-off.

On the other side of the garter stitch, it blends in completely. It’s also super stretchy. And, if you get a rhythm going, it can be relatively fast for a sewn bind-off.

A Perfect Match

My third choice for Garter-stitch bind-off is the EZ Sewn Bind-Off, which matches the Garter stitch fabric and stretchiness the best of all three choices.

EZ Sewn Bind-OffThird Place: EZ Sewn Bind-Off A perfectly-matching bind-off for beginners.

The only drawback is that it’s a little slow (because it’s a sewn bind-off) and it’s not as easy to get into a rhythm as on the Latvian bind-off. It may also be hard to get your tension perfect right off the bat.

Try It For Yourself

The best way to see what bind-off is your favorite is to do a sampler and try all three. Directions for knitting a garter-stitch sampler are below.

Garter-Stitch Bind-Off Sampler Instructions

Garter-Stitch Bind-Off Sampler Instructions

With white yarn, CO 54 sts.
Work in garter stitch (knit every row) for 6 rows.
With blue yarn, work in garter st for 4 rows.

  1. BO the first 18 sts using the Icelandic Bind-Off. When done, move st from R needle back to L needle.
  2. Cut yarn, leaving a 1.5-ft tail. BO the next 18 sts using the EZ Sewn Bind-Off.
  3. BO remaining sts using the Latvian Bind-Off.

Blocking this sampler is optional, as the edge will not roll.


The Bind-Offs

Icelandic Bind-Off for Garter Stitch

This is a fantastic stretchy bind-off that even many advanced knitters have not heard of.

It’s one of the three stretchiest standard bind-offs (the other two being the Elastic Bind-Off and EZ Sewn Bind-Off).

It’s also amazing for Garter stitch.

Icelandic Bind-Off

This is my #1 recommended bind-off for binding off on garter stitch.

See how this bind-off compares to other good bind-offs for Garter stitch in Bind-Offs for Garter Stitch.

Be warned that this edge will roll if you do it on Stockinette stitch, so just make sure that that’s a feature that you want on your knitting.

A technique used in this bind-off is also used in: Japanese Bind-Off
Other stretchy bind-offs in this section are: Elastic Bind-OffEZ Sewn Bind-Off
This technique is part of the Advanced Bind-Off Challenge

To Do the Icelandic Bind-Off:

  1. With R needle, reach through 1st st purlwise.
  2. Catch front loop of 2nd st.
  3. Draw 2nd st through 1st st.
  4. Wrap your yarn to knit. Pull yarn through.
  5. Complete the K stitch.
  6. Move st back to L needle.
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 across row.
  8. Cut yarn and pull through last st.

One thing to help you do this bind-off faster is to get into a rhythm.

Don’t be afraid to stretch the stitches as you do them so that you can get into a rhythm and make sure that the bind-off comes out nice and even.

If your tension varies a lot you’ll notice the bind-off won’t look as nice.

To go faster: when you put the stitch back on the left needle, leave the right needle-tip inserted in the stitch.

You will already be in position to catch the front loop of the second stitch and start the movement again.
Also, make sure to push each completed stitch onto the barrel of the R needle, even if only briefly, before you pass it back to the left-hand needle.

This will keep the stitches from getting too tight.

Click image to play. If GIF doesn’t play immediately when clicked, wait 20-30 seconds. Click the GIF again to stop.


Latvian Bind-Off for Garter Stitch

This is an intermediate sewn bind-off that is the stretchiest of all the sewn bind-offs.

Not only is it very stretchy, it also springs back into place nicely.

Latvian Bind-Off on Garter Stitch

This bind-off looks similar to the Long-Tail Cast-On when viewed from the right side, and the Old Norwegian Cast-On when viewed from the wrong side.

I chose to include this bind-off because it is really pretty as well as being very stretchy.

Most of the ribbed bind-offs are kind of utilitarian so I wanted to give you a more decorative option.

In fact, this bind-off is also gorgeous on Garter stitch.

The Latvian bind-off is the least sturdy of all the stretchy bind-offs. Don’t expect this bind-off to hold up the cuff of your sock — if you decide to use it to bind-off toe-up socks, make sure you do enough rows of ribbing so that the ribbing does that job.

Almost-matching cast-ons:

To Do the Latvian Bind-Off:

  1. Cut yarn, leaving 3x the width of the sts to be bound off. No extra tail needed.
  2. With the tail threaded onto a tapestry needle, go purlwise into the 1st st.
  3. Pull yarn tight.
  4. Push st off needle.
  5. Go knitwise into the 2nd st.
  6. Pull yarn through.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 to last st.
  8. Go knitwise into last st.
  9. Pull yarn through.

Watch out: Don’t go under the loop of yarn that’s across the stitches.
Latvian Bind Off Tips 1 Watch out Don’t go under the loop of yarn that’s across the stitches 1
Always come out over the loop.

2. To go faster, combine two steps.

Do “purl-off, knit” before pulling the yarn though.
Latvian Bind Off Tips 1 3 Do “purl off knit” before pulling the yarn though 1

3. After you’re done binding off, take your thumbs and push the little loops of yarn up towards the top edge.

This will give the edge a little bit of a different look.
Latvian Bind Off Tips 1 4 After you’re done binding off take your thumbs and push the little loops of yarn up towards the top edge 1

Click image to play. If GIF doesn’t play immediately when clicked, wait 20-30 seconds. Click the GIF again to stop.


EZ Sewn Bind-Off for Garter Stitch

This is a very stretchy sewn bind-off that’s good for beginners. This was famously Elizabeth Zimmerman’s favorite stretchy bind-off (which is what the “EZ” stands for)

It’s great on Garter stitch.

This bind-off is very stretchy but, importantly, bounces easily back into shape. Nobody likes a stretched-out bind-off.

Matching Cast-On: Long-Tail Cast-On

EZ Sewn Bind-Off

When I tried this bind-off I was surprised at how easy it was. It really only has two movements so, as an introduction to sewn bind-offs, this one is great.

This bind-off does have the tendency to roll forward, which is fine as long as it doesn’t take you by surprise. It is also quite slow (which is the norm for sewn bind-offs of any kind).

A warning for you about sewn bind-offs and delicate yarn: Any time that you’re using a delicate yarn, you’ll want to be careful when doing a sewn bind-off because you are pulling on the yarn more than you would for a knitted bind-off.

If you are using a delicate, one-ply yarn like Noro or Malabrigo Worsted, it could break.

I don’t think that will happen in this case, because you’re not putting a lot of stress on the yarn in this bind-off, but it’s important to know.

Also be careful because, like all sewn bind-offs, this bind-off is difficult and time-consuming to undo. Basically you have to take your tapestry needle and go back the way you came, slowly retracing your steps and putting each stitch back on the needle.

Therefore, you may want to try this bind-off on a small swatch before you do it on a larger project, just to make sure you understand it before using it on hundreds of stitches.

Matching Cast-On: Long-Tail Cast-On

Similar toLatvian Bind-Off (which I prefer to this bind-off)
Other stretchy bind-offs in this section areIcelandic Bind-OffElastic Bind-Off

To Do the EZ Sewn Bind-Off:

  1. Cut yarn, leaving a tail 3x the width of the edge to be bound off + 6 in. for weaving in later.
  2. Thread yarn onto a tapestry needle.
  3. With tapestry needle, go purlwise in to 1st 2 sts on L needle. Pull yarn through.
  4. Go knitwise into 1st st on L needle. Pull yarn through.
  5. Push 1st st off L needle.
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 across.
  7. Cut yarn and pull through last stitch.

Click image to play. If GIF doesn’t play immediately when clicked, wait 20-30 seconds. Click the GIF again to stop.


Scroll to Top