How to Knit a Three-Needle Bind Off

An easy way to get live stitches off of two needles at once

How to work the three-needle bind off

Sarah E. White

The three-needle bind off is a handy way to get live stitches off two needles at once, making an edge that's automatically stitched together. It's a great choice for the toes of socks, the tops of hats, the top of a doll's head, or anywhere else you would like to create a seam.

You can use the three-needle bind off in place of Kitchener stitch (aka grafting) if that's a technique that you don't enjoy. The closure will be bulkier than grafting, and you'll have to work from the underside so that the seam is on the inside of the sock. Remember, whichever side of the project you work the three-needle bind off from is the side where the seam will show. Sometimes you may want to see the seam, and other times you'll want to hide the closure, so keep that in mind as you prepare to bind off.

How to Work the Three-Needle Bind Off

To successfully complete a three-needle bind off, first you need to confirm that there are the same number of stitches on each of the two double-pointed or circular needles. Then you're ready to begin the process:

  1. Place the needles with the stitches, one in front of the other, with the needle you would work with next if you were still knitting in the round on the top.
  2. Slide your empty needle (the third needle) through the first stitch on the front needle, and the first stitch on the back needle, as if preparing to knit.
  3. Knit the stitch through both of these stitches, so there is now one stitch on the third needle and one fewer stitch than you started with on each of the other two needles.
  4. Do the same thing again, knitting what's now the first stitch on both needles into one stitch.
  5. Lift the first stitch on the third needle over the second stitch and over the top of the needle, just as you do in a normal bind off method.
  6. Continue in this manner until you're down to one loop on the third needle and no loops on the other needles. Cut your yarn, slide the last loop off the needle and put the yarn through the loop. Pull tight and you're done!

More Uses for the Three-Needle Bind Off

Three-needle bind off is great for joining shoulder seams because it's quite strong and can hold the weight of the garment without sagging. It can also be used when joining two pieces of knitting at the center, which is common when making a cowl scarf or headband. Another approach to this type of binding off is doing a provisional cast on at the beginning, make those stitches live again when you're done and then work a normal three-needle bind off. A similar move is used when you knit in a hem on a garment, but the difference is that no actual binding off occurs.