knitting, techniques

“Long Tail” Bind Off

If cast on and bound off edges are viewed close together when a project is worn, I like to make them match. After examining my long tail cast on edge carefully and picking it apart, this is what I came up with. At the time I hadn’t come across this bind off in some of the current basic reference books. I suppose you could say that I “unvented” it because since then, I’ve found it in June Hemmons Hiatt’s The Principles of Knitting: Methods and Techniques of Hand Knitting and Montse Stanley’s Knitter’s Handbook : A Comprehensive Guide to the Principles and Techniques of Handknitting (sadly out of print, but easily found). Both of these books are excellent resources to have in your library.

I’m using contrasting coloured yarns for the purpose of illustration.

Long Tail Bind Off tutorial | Holli Yeoh

Begin by cutting your working yarn and leaving a long tail—about 4 times longer than the width of the bind off edge. Thread it onto a blunt-tipped tapestry needle.

Long Tail Bind Off tutorial | Holli Yeoh

Step 1. Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the second stitch on your left-hand knitting needle and pull the yarn through.

Long Tail Bind Off tutorial | Holli Yeoh

Step 2. Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the first stitch and pull the yarn through. Drop the first stitch off the knitting needle. Take care not to pull too tightly—this is how you control the tension of your bound-off edge.

Repeat the last two steps until you’ve bound off all your stitches.

Long Tail Bind Off tutorial | Holli Yeoh

Long Tail Bind Off tutorial | Holli Yeoh

These two photos compare both the cast-on (smaller swatch) and bound-off edges on both sides of the work. They look the same.

Tangled Yoke sleeves showing matching CO and BO edges

The sleeve for my cardigan is now finished, using this bind off method. Can you tell which sleeve has the cast on  edge and which has the bind off edge? I would consider the surgery an unqualified success!

11 thoughts on ““Long Tail” Bind Off”

  1. I was a little confused by this one. When you say, “Pull the yarn through,” do you mean:
    1. Pull it forward like a knitting stitch, a loop? or
    2. Pull it through like sewing, where the needle passes from one side of the fabric to the other, pulling the rest of the yarn behind it?

    I think it must be the second one, but it might be helpful to others (non-pros, like me) to add a word or two to clear that up. Thanks so much! I love long-tail cast-on, and this will be a great matching finish.

    1. Good question. It’s option #2. Pull the whole length of the yarn through the stitch as if you’re sewing. You don’t want to end up with a loop like a knitted stitch.

  2. I am SO glad I came across your site this is exactly what I was looking for to finish the baby blanket I am working on… Thank you very much and I will be bookmarking your site to catch up on any other knitting tips you have 🙂

  3. Holli
    Thanks so much
    I posted a question on Instagram to ask if anyone knew how to cast off to give the same appearance as long tail cast on – no one knew! I love how you have gifted it to everyone. So I’m using this method and telling everyday one about your link. I have a whopping blanket I’ve knitted in Old Shale for my daughter and so needed the right cast off method to make the appearance as pretty as the cast on edge. So thank you so much. 490 cast on stitches, X 12 X 14 X 4!!!! Lots of work that has to have a good finish!
    Love Niki

  4. Hi Holli,
    I am trying to find a bind-off to match an Alternating Longtail Cast on for a scarf with an 180-stitch, 8-knit, 8-purl rib edging (Fan Neckwarmer). The rib edge looks very clean with this cast on. The sewn bind off method here looks absolutely perfect for the knit portions, but do you have any suggestions about how to adjust the method to do the purl portions?

    Thanks so much! This has been making me crazy!

    1. Initially I “reverse engineered” the long tail cast on to figure out a bind off that would look the same. First I created a swatch with a long tail cast on where the tail was a contrasting colour (so it was easier to see it). After I had a few rows, I began picking the cast on apart. I carefully unraveled the tail (contrasting colour) out of the cast on and examined the path it took. You should be able to do the same thing with purl portions of your alternating long tail cast on. Good luck!

  5. Best explanation of this bind-off that I’ve seen. I love that you reverse-engineered it to make sure it was right.

    Thank you!

  6. Wow. That saves me a lot of time to figure out how a bind off similar to the cast on works by myself. I have searched for that so many times but did not end up what I was looking for. Thank you so much for your work on that one. That will make my “Seelenwärmer” (I do not know what it is called in English) look just perfect!

      1. It’s a cosy hybrid of a jacket or cardigan and a blanket. Knitted as a rectangle, then sewn with two seams at either side leaving two holes for the arms.

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