I-Cord Bind Off

I really think that ribbing is often over-used and not always appropriate for the garment in question. I understand that once people invest in a ribber, they want to make use of it, but ribbers are capable of much more interesting things than just bands at hip and cuff. And, surely there are edgings and bands more suitable to delicate lace knitting than an inch and a half of 1 x 1 ribbing. For me, the answer is often the I-Cord Bind Off.

This is a fabulous edging that can be worked on any machine (even simple ones like the LK-150) and it produces a beautiful, hand-crafted edge every time.

This is the edging I was working on in the tutorial. Isn't it a b beautiful way to finish all the edges?
This is the edging I was working on in the tutorial. Isn’t it a beautiful way to finish all the edges?

You are probably familiar with I-cord knitting, where you set the carriage to knit in one direction and slip in the other (doesn’t matter which is which). The yarn that floats across the back of the 3 (or 4) cord stitches when the carriage slips actually gets absorbed into the other stitches as you pull down on the knitting, forming a perfectly round cord. The float disappears and because its length is absorbed by the other stitches, it is usually a good idea to knit I-cord with a slightly smaller stitch size than you might use for stockinette so that the cord stitches are not big and sloppy.

The I-Cord Bind Off is worked exactly the same way except that all of the garment edge stitches (or the picked up selvage edge) are also on the machine, but in holding position. By transferring the nearest stitch from holding position to the adjacent working needle, one stitch is bound off as you work two passes (1 actual row) of the I-cord.

The cord seems to join the fabric more neatly if it is worked with the right side of the fabric facing you. If the purl side is the right side, you don’t need to do anything. If, However, the knit side is supposed to be the right side, scrap off  or use a garter bar and re-hang with the knit side facing you.

You do need to keep moving the 3 (or 4) I-cord stitches over closer to the needles in hold and although most people do this with every transfer, I often do it every two transfers as shown in the tutorial because it is faster.

When working the cord around corners, you might want to make a decrease and then 4 passes of the carriage (2 actual rows) for the last repeat on one edge and the first on the next. This will ensure that the corner doesn’t flatten out.

All the edges – and the shoulder tucks – of this simple cardigan are finished with I-cords. The pattern is one of the free downloads available at www.guagliumi.com.

To work an I-cord edging all around – including the cast-on edge – begin and end on waste yarn so that you can rehang live stitches, rather than a cast-on or bound-off edge. It will be neater and if the yarn is very soft or stretchy, you may also want to double a couple of stitches as you re-hang them to keep the work from spreading sideways.

When picking up side (selvage) edges, try to always pick up either a full stitch (my preference) or a half stitch (if you prefer) throughout. Also, just pick up 3 of every 4 stitches along the edge to make sure you don’t stretch and elongate the edge.

There are three rows of I-cord edging along the bottom and the front edges (where I have also included buttonholes) of this cardigan. For more information about this sweater, check the free downloads at my web site.

In addition to working a single cord around the edge of a garment, you can work multiple rows of I-cord by picking up and re-hanging the previous I-cord on the needles as I did in the photo at left.

This cardigan is one of the garment patterns from More Hand-Manipulated Stitches. It features a double I-cord application all around and...
This cardigan is one of the garment patterns from More Hand-Manipulated Stitches. It features a double I-cord application all around and…

 

 

 

I-cord is also a great way to seam garments (or afghans!) if you re-hang the two garment pieces with their wrong sides together as I did in the beige cardigan at left. Just make sure that both sleeves are rehung the same way because there is a definite right and wrong side to the way the cord adjoins the garment. That is, if you re-hang the first side with the back shoulder first and the front on top of it, make sure the second shoulder is re-hung the same way.

 

 

...shoulder seams joined with I-cord and....
…shoulder seams joined with I-cord and….
Bridged slits for I-cord ties.
Bridged slits for I-cord ties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are detailed directions for working this bind-off in both More Hand-Manipulated Stitches and Hand Knits by Machine

Streamlined Incs and Decs

Even though I really, truly love hand manipulated stitches, I don’t like taking longer than necessary to get things done and usually find myself thinking of ways to streamline various motions so I get a better “economy of motion” out of them.

I can assure you I am not the only one who works full fashioned increases and decreases as I’ve shown in the video, but I thought it was worth showing for all the new knitters out there who are working on their own and don’t have many opportunities to watch experienced knitters work at a machine. If you are an experienced knitter and find yourself thinking “I know this stuff already”, bear with me and take pity on the newbies!

Full fashioned increases will look exactly the same on the knit side whether you work them with a 2-prong tool and then pick up the purl bar to fill the empty needle – or you work them as I do with a 3-prong tool. In this case, it isn’t about the way things look. Rather,the smoothest, fastest way of dispensing with those increases as you work your way up a sleeve.

This edge was shaped with standard full fashioned decreases, using a 3-prong tool
This edge was shaped with standard full fashioned decreases, using a 3-prong tool

The decrease that I show on the video is an important one to understand and not the way full fashioned decreases are shown in any knitting machine manual I’ve ever seen. They usually just show a 1-step decrease where 3 stitches are removed and shifted one needle to the left (or right) to make the decrease.

 

 

 

This edge was shaped with 2-step decreases, using a 3-prong tool
This edge was shaped with 2-step decreases, using a 3-prong tool

The 2-step decrease always maintains the same stitch on the front of the fabric which creates a strong decrease line along the edge of the fabric. If this 2-step method is also used when making transfers for lace designs, for example, it produces a totally different effect on the knit side of the fabric than does a 1-step decrease. This one-versus-two step decrease is the main thing that defines machine knitted lace and accounts for the difference between hand and machine knitted lace patterns.

Lace carriages always do a 1-step decrease because they are not generally capable of transferring two stitches at the same time, as they would need to do for a 2 step decrease. And, quite frankly, the hand knit equivalent of a 2-step decrease is very common in hand knitting patterns. You can, however, work 2-step decreases into hand-manipulated lace (and other transfer) patterns.

Compare the two photos above. The decreases on both samples were worked with a 3-prong tool. You should notice right away that the 2-step decreases formed a sharp line along the edge of the fabric, while the standard method produced a sort of “feathered” line. Also, there are just 2 stitches between the standard decs and the edge of the  fabric; there are 3 stitches between the 2-step decs and the edge of the fabric. This would account for the decreases being spaced a little further from, say, a raglan seam.

 

Latching Up Stitches

This is the first of a series of short “How-To” lessons I plan to post here on the blog. While the information is old hat to a lot of you, there are so many new knitters out there (working on used machines all by themselves) that I figured I would start with some basics and then get progressively more involved and creative as time rolls on.

I think the important thing for new knitters to know about handling the latch tool is that slower, smoother motions ultimately end up being a lot faster than having to re-do the same thing over and over. Speed comes with experience so don’t rush it!

When I latch up a stitch, I concentrate on making sure that the old stitch slides smoothly over the latch to open it before I catch the next ladder bar in the open hook. Then just pull back enough for the old stitch to close the latch and slide over it. The fabric itself should hardly move – let the tool do the work.

When reforming stitches from the purl side, I always insert my tool into the bottom stitch in the column then release the stitch from its needle and let the stitch drop back to the tool. Dropping first means you would have to poke around to insert the tool through the stitch and sometimes that isn’t as easy as it looks. Doing it first is much safer and a whole lot easier.

I really love the way a tuck stitch looks along side cables and in addition to looking a bit more open than a reformed knit stitch (purl on the other side), tuck has the added advantage of returning a little width to the fabric. Lots of cables can cause a fabric to become narrower so using a tuck at each side of a cable actually returns that width to the fabric. With very large sizes, it could mean the difference between having enough needles – or not – to knit your garment!