Down the Bind Off Rabbit Hole

Finishing is at the top of my make it or break it list.  You can knit the more gorgeous sweater from the most luxurious yarn and ruin it with sloppy finishing.  I’m not a perfectionist anywhere else, stitch count is irrelevant to me.  Sometimes I row out working stockinette flat, whatever.  It’ll block out.  (no it won’t.  don’t care.)

My approach to finishing is much different.  It’s really important.  Tiny details matter.  So today, we’re going to scrutinize the most minute details of decrease bind offs.

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In reading the bind off chapter of my new, used copy of Principles of Knitting, I discovered the heading of ‘Decrease Bind Offs’.  Duh…makes complete sense, if there’s a K2Tog tbl bind off, why wouldn’t there be an SSK bind off.  Brilliant!  I love it!

And, much to my surprise, the SSK bind off is praised for being superior to the ‘other’ decrease bind off.  The K2Tog tbl is really just a footnote to explain why you probably don’t want to use it.  It’s the tbl, through back loop, that kills it.   Working the stitches through the back loop twists them.  June Hemmons Hiatt asserts that maybe you want that, if your fabric incorporates twisted stitches but probably not.  You want the SSK bind off.

The SSK bind off is entirely new to me, so I’ve got four possibilities to examine today… textbook versions and modified versions of SSK and K2Tog.


K2Tog Bind Offs

k2tog-bind-off-experiment

Right: K2Tog tbl, textbook execution

Left: Modified K2Tog.  I’m a lazy knitter, that’s the origin of this mod.  You should be twisting your stitch when you put it back on the left needle.  That gives you the proper orientation to knit through the back loop.  I don’t bother, it seems like an extra step to me.  I just throw the stitch back on the left needle, path of least resistance means I’m actually putting my front loop to the back.  When I knit through the back for the next stitch, I’m actually knitting through the front of the first stitch and the back of the second stitch.  The result…I don’t introduce the same twist into my bind off.

If you look closely, you’ll see, the bind off on the right hand side is twisted. Looking at the base of the V, you see the bottom leg of the V slips under the top leg.  That’s the twist.

Now look at the base of the Vs on the left side.  Those legs rest side by side, no twist.  In this case, it’s a lazy knitter win!

I’ve never liked the traditional K2Tog tbl.  I much prefer ignoring the tbl.  Not only do I prefer the modified execution and aesthetics but it’s not dense the way the classic K2Tog tbl bind off is.  Don’t get too attached to this method though.  Remember it’s the footnote.


SSK Bind Offs

Why would I want to modify a bind off I’ve never even heard of before?  Because it’s an SSK and that should be synonymous with modification by now.  If you aren’t familiar with the SSK modification, I highly suggest you give it a try!  You create a neater, flatter stitch by slipping the first stitch knitwise (standard) and then slipping the second stitch purlwise (the modification).

Naturally, as soon as I learned the SSK Bind Off was a thing, I wonder if the modification applied here as well.

ssk-bind-off-decrease-bind-off

Left:  Standard SSK bind off.  Knit the first stitch, slip the next stitch knitwise, knit the two stitches on the right hand needle together, slip the next stitch knitwise, knit the two stitches on the right hand needle together, etc, etc.

Right:  Modified SSK bind off.  Knit the first stitch, slip the next stitch purlwise, knit the two stitches on the right hand needle together, slip the next stitch purlwise, knit the two stitches on the right hand needle together, etc, etc.

They’re about the same for me.  I don’t think I have a preference one way or the other.  I did find the SSK superior to the K2Tog though.


K2Tog vs SSK Bind Off

decrease-bind-offs-compared-ssk-bind-off-k2tog-bind-off

Left:  textbook K2Tog tbl bind off

Right:  textbook SSK bind off

Without a doubt, I prefer the SSK bind off.  It looks nice.  I like the balance of it.  It’s a minor detail but that twist in the K2Tog bind off skews the bind off to one side.  I like the execution of the SSK better as well.  The back and forth nature of the K2Tog makes it a bit clunky.  With the SSK stitches move to the right and stay there, it develops a lovely rhythm.

I’ll definitely be considering the SSK bind off in the future!


If you made it this far, pat yourself on the back!  It’s a lot of technical jargon.  I tried to warn you.  If you’re sick of this nonsense, never fear.  I got another book at the used book sale.

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Tomorrow’s agenda is all flowers!!

9 thoughts on “Down the Bind Off Rabbit Hole

  1. I like the look of the SKK in the last picture; it appears neater. I wonder if that’s because of extra effort on your part since it is a new bind off technique and you are slowing down to execute it? I will have to do my own experiments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a challenge to not whip through the ssk bind off. It’s set up to be quite speedy! I think the that helps me with consistency, when I’m in a good rhythm, everything is even and lovely.

      Definitely give it a try! I bet you like it :)

      Like

  2. I should not even confuse the issue with this info: I wrap ALL of my stitches backwards. I am a lefty, a righty grandma did what she could to teach me. I remember deciding (at about age 10) that wrapping them the other way made it much easier to get my too tight stitch up and over and onto the other needle, because I could hang on to the yarn and help it all happen. About ten years later someone mentioned to me that all my stitches were twisted, without either of us knowing why. I looked at them, figured that I was knitting through the wrong leg and adapted me knitting to accommodate that. This was back in the 80’s when there was no ravelry, no you tube, no internet. It worked.
    Fast forward a few years, and I am making more complicated things, and people are talking about left and right leaning increases and decreases. Mine seemed to be doing the opposite thing. I figured it out fast. And adapted. And so now when it says “SSK” I just knit 2 together through the back loop, which is easy because I always knit through the back loop. When it says k2tog, I have to switch the stitches around to face the other way, then knit through the front loop.

    Why is she sharing all this with me, you are asking. BECAUSE – another lightbulb moment here! What you call SSK bindoff is what I have always done when I thought I was doing the k2tog bind off!

    Here’s the thing. Unless you watch me knit, you can not tell from my finished garments that I do absolutely everything backwards, and as I have been doing it that way for 40 years, I am unlikely to switch, but I love that there are other bind offs I could try. If I can figure out which leg should really be in front…

    And all of this is why I will never teach anyone to knit. I will help them get better and try new things, but I wait until they have mastered the basic knit and purl stitches to help so I don’t perpetuate my backwards knitting. Even though I think it is easier. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I know the manipulations of which you speak. When I knit english, I do the eastern purl (aka a twisted purl) so I’ve done those k2tog reversals lots.

      It did get to be a pain, when I switched to continental, I made sure to adopt ‘proper’ form to avoid those issues. But that’s the beauty of knitting, whatever works for you :)

      Liked by 1 person

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