Working With Non-Stretchy Yarns

Knitted Swatch

I’ve been working on a long-sleeved version of my Arabesque Metallic Sweater pattern.  Since Paton’s Metallic Yarn is 90% tencil and, therefore, not stretchy, casting on and binding off has some challenges.  I think this issue exists for any plant-based fiber yarn.

Knitting on stitches to cast onI already knew a great method for casting on to make a stretchy edge – the knitted cast-on.  While this takes a little time to essentially knit on every stitch of the cast-on row, it is well worth the time to provide a cast on that stretches in your project.  What I wasn’t sure of was a good bind-off.  Well, I think I finally found one.

I don’t have a name for this type of bind-off, but you end up knitting into each stitch twice.  I guess you could call it a knitted bind-off.  The steps are pretty easy…

Knit the first 2 stitches individually.  Then slip these stitches back on the left-hand needle and knit the 2 stitches together through the back loop.  Now you have 1 stitch on your right-hand needle.  *Knit the next stitch on the left-hand needle.  Slip these 2 stitches back onto the left-hand needle and knit the 2 stitches together through the back loop.*  You repeat this (* to*) all the way down the row.  What you end up with is a nice, even, and stretchy cast-off that has an even chain flowing down the edge.  This bind-off also works well if you’re binding off on a purl-side row.

I was originally taught to use this bind-off method when using thick and thin yarns, singles yarns without much twist, or roving to provide a strong bind-off edge.  Since the thin part of thick and thin yarns may be very thin and may break if you put too much tension on them, this cast-off provides extra strength on the cast-off row.  Same reason for roving yarns which can separate under tension.

However, I think this bind-off works very well with plant-based yarns that don’t have a lot of (or any!) stretch in the yarn fiber itself.  In stockinette stitch, the knitted fabric of plant-based yarns stretches just fine due to the nature of the stitch itself, but my cast-off always seemed too tight with a basic bind-off.

I used to bind off using a bigger needle size to build in some stretch.  I think this is now my go-to bind-off for yarns without much give in the fiber itself as it’s a much easier, and stronger, cast-off method.  Try it yourself and tell me what you think!

I hope you’re having a great day!  Happy knitting!

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