Bind-Offs for Lace

I’m so excited about bind-offs for lace right now.

While I was putting together this course, I solved a problem that I didn’t even realize that I had, which was that that I never really gave a thought about how to bind-off for lace.

I had the feeling I wasn’t the only one.

To make sure, I checked the 20 most popular lace scarf patterns on Ravelry.

ZERO patterns gave specific advice about bind-offs. “Bind off loosely,” was as good as it got.

Most of the patterns forget to tell you to bind off at all! Clearly, people aren’t thinking about bind-offs when they are thinking lace. Why not?

My theory: When you’re knitting a lace project, you spend hours and hours painstakingly following a complicated pattern to make your beautiful piece.

By the time you get to the end, you just want to finish. And why shouldn’t you? We don’t get any guidance otherwise.

BUT: The problem is that when you just use a regular bind-off on lace, it’s not stretchy enough.

I know, stretchiness isn’t top-of-mind when you think about lace. It’s not like the cuff of a mitten where you need it to stretch out and stretch back.

Lace makes open, airy, flat designs, but the only reason they get to be open and airy and flat is because after you knit them, you BLOCK THEM.

You soak them, you squeeze them, you stretch them, you pin the edges into points, all so that you can see the beautiful pattern that the lace creates.

And here’s where the bind-off is key because the bind-off has to be able to take all this abuse. And only a STRETCHY bind-off has what it takes.

A Stretchy Bind-Off Is Best For Perfect Lace Projects

A standard bind-off is just too firm to use as a bind-off on lace. That’s why patterns tell you to “bind off loosely” Springtime Bandit by Kate Gagnon Osborn— they’re trying to compensate for lack of stretch by making the loops larger. But I have a better solution for you.

A word of caution, though: a bind-off that’s too stretchy will make a weird flare along the edge. The last thing you want on a beautiful lace project is to have an edge that looks stretched or wider than the whole project.

And don’t forget the clock! When binding off lace, you’re usually dealing with a ton of teeny-tiny stitches. Whatever bind-off you use, it can’t be slow, because you’ll be at it for a while.

I decided my students shouldn’t have to settle for less-than-perfect bind-offs, and so in order to find solutions to this problem, I sacrificed a bunch of my lace projects in progress (believe me, they weren’t going anywhere).

Comparing Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off and Frilled Standard Bind-Off

I divided each lace project into two or three sections and did a different recommended bind-off on each one, and then I blocked them and took pictures and decided for myself which ones work the best — and what I consider my favorite option.
Comparing Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off and Frilled Standard Bind-Off

The three winning bind-offs I found were the Frilled Standard Bind-Off, the Picot Chain Bind-Off, and Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off (JSSBO).

Try them for yourself by doing the sampler below.

Lace Bind-Off Sampler Instructions

Lace Bind-Off Sampler Instructions

This sampler is two repeats of the simple Feather-and-Fan (technically “Old Shale”) lace pattern.

With white yarn, CO 58 sts.

Row 1: K

Row 2, 6 : K2, p to last 2 sts, end k2.

Rows 3 and 7 (RS): K2, *k2tog 3 times, (yo, k1) 6 times, K2tog 3 times, repeat from * to last 2 sts, end k2.

Rows 4, 5, and 8: K
Row 6 (WS): K2, p to last 2 sts, end k2.

Change to pink yarn.
Row 9: k.
Row 10: K2, p to last 2 sts, end k2.
Row 11: K2, *k2tog 3 times, (yo, k1) 6 times, K2tog 3 times, repeat from * to last 2 sts, end k2.
Row 12: k.

Bind Off:

  1. BO 5 sts using the Standard Bind-Off. BO next 12 sts using the Picot Chain Bind-Off. BO next 3 sts using the Standard Bind-Off.
  2. BO next 18 sts using the Frilled Standard Bind-Off.
  3. BO rem sts using Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off.

Block this sampler aggressively.


The Bind-Offs

Frilled Standard Bind-Off for Lace

This is an intermediate, medium-speed bind-off that I highly recommend you learn, mostly because it’s great for binding off on lace projects — as a frilly bind-off it’s actually not very frilly at all.

It does increase the number of stitches that are in the bind-off, which makes the edge wider (thus making it flare out a little bit – hence, the “frill”).

Frilled Standard Bind-Off on Lace (Feather and Fan)

My favorite bind-off for lace, the Frilled Standard Bind-off was actually not one of the suggested lace bind-offs from any of the books I studied. But I discovered it anyway!

Being an increase bind-off (increased stitches = increased edge length), it makes a very subtle frill shape on Stockinette stitch fabric. However, because lace stretches when blocked, the edge lays flat on lace.

This bind-off is stretchy enough that you can block it and stretch out, but it’s not so wide that it looks stretched out. It’s also not very hard to do.

In my experimentation, this bind-off seems to fit perfectly with any lace pattern no matter what the edge looks like (scalloped, straight, etc.). It also coordinates well with the wrong side of the Long-Tail cast-on, and who doesn’t love a matching cast-on?

In comparison to Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off on lace, this bind-off is less bulky, and it doesn’t have a pronounced chain of stitches along the top edge.

If you’re using this bind-off on something where the edge will be stretched, the bind-off won’t frill but it will still look gorgeous. I recommend that you use this bind-off on any and all lace projects that you’ll be blocking.

At right you can see a photo of how this bind-off looks on a lace project: The Frilled Standard Bind-Off on a Feather-and-Fan lace swatch.

To see how this bind-off compares to other recommended bind-offs for lace, see Bind-Offs for Lace.

This bind-off gets its name from the Standard Bind-Off, to which an extra movement (which you might recognize from the Suspended Variation Bind-Off) is added.

To get the full effect on this and any frilled or ruffled bind-off, you’ll need to block this it: get it wet, squeeze the water out, and shape the edge with your fingers to make it into a frill.

Similar bind-offs: Frilled Decrease Bind-Off (which is more frilly), Icelandic Bind-OffElastic Bind-Off.
Based on: Standard Bind-Off + Suspended Variation Bind-Off
This bind-off is part of: the Intermediate Bind-Off Challenge

To Do the Frilled Standard Bind-Off:

  1. K1.
  2. K1 but don’t drop the st off the L needle.
  3. BO 1. Original loop remains on L needle.
  4. K into the loop that’s still on the L needle.
  5. BO 1.
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 across.

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


Also see the blog post: Best Bind-Off for Lace: The Frilled Standard Bind-Off

Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off for Lace

Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off (JSSBO) on 1x1 Rib

This is an intermediate bind-off for ribbing that is super stretchy. It is not blazingly fast, but it’s faster than most of the other stretchy bind-offs out there.

This bind-off, also called JSSBO, is a heavy-duty bind-off that stretches out — yes — surprisingly far, and then, accordion-like, springs back into shape. It does this feat better than many other stretchy bind-offs, which either flare when un-stretched or stay stretched out once stretched (and nobody wants that).

Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off on Lace (Feather and Fan)
One of the bind-offs that I thought would be promising for lace was Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretch Bind-off. It works so well as a stretchy bind-off for everything else that I thought, “Why not try it on lace?”

The result was a sturdy, stretchy edge that lies flat on the edges of both scalloped and flat lace patterns, with a pronounced chain of stitches along the top.

However, the bind-off was a little hard to do on lace, especially with lace-weight yarn. The combination of thin yarn and tiny stitches did not work well with binding off backwards yarnovers, so it was a little difficult and slow to work this bind-off.

Tip #1: Use pointy knitting needles to make this bind-off easier. It is also easier to do using thicker yarn.

Tip #2: Squeeze the yarnover or push it forward with your finger so that it’s easier to get your needle into to bind it off.

The only difference between doing JSSBO on ribbing and doing it on lace is that you won’t necessary have alternating knit and purl stitches in front of you. Just alternate the two movements anyway, as if you are binding off on 1×1 rib.

In comparison to the Frilled Standard Bind-Off on lace, this bind-off is more substantial, and it has a pronounced chain of stitches along the top edge.

Lots of patterns suggest that you use this bind-off, and I agree. I would consider this bind-off “required reading” for intermediate-level knitters.

JSSBO would work well for the ribbing at the bottom of a top-down sweater or at the brim of a top-down hat — anywhere you want the bind-off to not look stretched-out.

This bind-off is also a great choice for binding off lace projects.

This bind-off was invented by Jeny Staiman and published in Knitty in Fall 2009.

Matching cast-on: This bind-off sort of matches the Chinese Waitress Cast-On that was so popular in my Cast-Ons class. This or a one-stitch I-Cord Bind-Off was the closest thing I could find.

Based on: Yarnover Bind-Off
This bind-off is also used in: Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off for 2×2 Rib
Also see: Bind-Offs For Lace

To Do the Jeny’s Surprisingly-Stretchy Bind-Off (JSSBO) for 1×1 Rib:

  1. 1st st is a K st: Backwards YO.
  2. K1.
  3. BO 1.
  4. Next st is a P: YO.
  5. P1.
  6. BO 1 twice.
  7. Next st is a K: Backwards YO
  8. K1.
  9. BO 1 twice.
  10. Rep. steps 4-9
  11. Cut tail and pull through last loop

Keep these tips in mind as you work Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off. To keep the yarnovers from getting mixed up:

Before a Purl Stitch: REGULAR YO –>
Before a Knit Stitch: BACKWARDS YO –>

Also, use your right index finger to push the backwards yarnover loop forward to loosen it up so you can get into it to bind off.

Push the yarnover forward with your index finger.

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


Picot Chain Bind-Off

Picot Chain Bind-Off on Lace (fFeather and Fan)
The Picot Chain Bind-Off is an intermediate, medium-speed increase bind-off. This means that you add stitches (yarnovers, in this case) in order to make a wider edge.

This bind-off is good on any knitting that flares out, when you need to make sure that the bind-off also flares out.

The Picot Chain bind-off is similar to the Yarnover Bind-Off in that it uses yarnovers every other stitch in order to increase the width of the bind-off. Unlike the Yarnover bind off, however, there’s no purling involved.

I don’t particularly like the look of the edge, but I still think this bind-off is worthwhile learning. It’s important to know how to add yarnovers wherever you want into your bind off to make it wider -— useful for when you’re winging it.

To Do the Picot Chain Bind-Off:

  1. K1
  2. YO
  3. BO 1
  4. K1
  5. BO 1
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 across
  7. Cut yarn and pull through last st.

1. If while doing this bind-off you forget what you just did, look at the last stitch on your right-hand needle.

If you just did a “YO, BO 1,” the stitch will be farther away from the work.
Picot Chain Bind Off Tips 1 If you just did a “YO BO 1” the stitch will be farther away from the work 1
If you just did a “K1, BO 1,” the stitch on your needle will look closely connected to your work.
Picot Chain Bind Off Tips 2 If you just did a “K1 BO 1” the stitch on your needle will look closely connected to your work 1

2.

You can add yarnovers into your bind-off any time you need your bound-off edge to be wider and stretchier. For example, you can add a ‘YO, BO 1’ into your bind-off every 10 stitches if you desire.

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


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