For many knitters, binding off, or casting off (as most Commonwealth country knitters call it), is one of the favorite parts of the project. Not all of us love binding off itself though, particularly when it seems to pucker the top edge, or cause it to flare, because one’s tension has to be “just so”. But we do like binding off because it signals that we’re almost done the project! What would you think about binding off mid row though?
So a while back, I was thinking about how to incorporate crochet in my knitting—I like to do some “lateral thinking,” it really helps my design process—and the result was these horizontal ridges across the fabric. Generally speaking, one doesn’t see horizontal chains across the middle of knit fabric. Diagonals yes, easily achieved with decreases or crossed stitches, and vertical chains are simply flanked by purl stitches, or slipped or twisted to make them stand out a bit more.
How does a mid-row bind off connect at all to crochet?
If you know any crochet stitches, the half double stitch (or half treble in UK terms) consists of an extra yarn over added to the stitch which helps create a horizontal chain across the fabric (see half-double crochet photo above).
To achieve this in knit fabric, the technique is quite similar. To make the chain ridge appear on the right side of the fabric, the mid row bind off is worked on the wrong side.
The first stage is to wrap the yarn around the needle ending with the yarn forward. Then the next stitch is purled. And finally the yarn over and the previous stitch are passed over the just purled stitch.
I was thoroughly pleased to discover that my mid row bind off is actually a purl-side version of Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off.
The next problem I needed to solve with the mid row bind off was to figure out how to get the stitches back on the needles. I fiddled around with several different approaches, but settled with picking up stitches in the extra strands formed by those yarn overs worked in the bind off.
To pick up and knit stitches in these strands, you need to look over the bound-off stitches as if you were looking over a banister. Then just under the ridge on the wrong side you’ll see a horizontal strand in which to insert the right needle, transfer the strand to the left needle and knit.
My first design with the mid row bind off was the short-row shawl pattern published in the 2015 edition of Noro Lace, (see short row shawl photo). I worked the bind off across the different sections of the shawl to enhance the boundaries between the lace panels and the stockinette sections.
I’ve continued to play around with the mid row bind off to see what other textured knit fabric would result. The stair-step pattern is pictured above and a lacy version is below. The stair-step pattern is created by working stacked mid row bind offs and every other column is offset by half the number of rows between motifs. This would be a fun texture for a cowl or even a sweater. The lacy versions involve yarn overs and picking up some of the extra strands in the back of the bound off stitches.
The chart below is for the stair-step textured knit. If you use a yarn that helps textured stitches stand out you’ll be the happiest, so fuzzy yarns are out. This swatch is worked in Bernat’s Canadiana in Aran and its sheen and twist help the mid-row bind off stitches pop.
These are the text instructions for the same start-step textured knit (refer to the stitch key above for an explanation of the abbreviations).
Cast on a multiple of 3 sts.
Row 1: Knit.
Row 2: P1, [p3, sspbo 3 times] across to last 2 sts, p2.
Row 3: [K2, s1, pkxstr 3 times] across to last 3 sts, k3.
Row 4: Purl.
Row 5: K8, [s1, k5] across to last st, k1.
Row 6: P7, [sspbo 3 times, p3] across to last 2 sts, p2.
Row 7: K3, [k2, s1, pkxstr 3 times] across to last 6 sts, k6.
Row 8: Purl
Row 9: [K5, s1] across to last 9 sts, k9.
Rep Rows 2–9 for pattern.
The lace motif is a bit “raw” yet. Once I’ve had time to polish it up a bit, I’ll be writing a shawl pattern with it, but I need to come up with a better name for it than the “Mid-row Bind-off Lace Shawl”. Maybe “Cat paws”?
In tomorrow’s blog post, we’ll explore how to knit the wrapped stitch and the knot stitch. Both stitches that will add lovely texture to your knitting, in a different way than how we achieved texture with the mid-row bind off.