I recently completed a test-knit that called for a stretchy bind off at the bottom hem. [More on this test knit once it’s released–I can’t wait to share it with you!!] This was a top-down sweater with cables and the designer did a wonderful job of making sure there was no cable splay or cable squinch throughout the sweater’s transitional moments. . . and as part of this strategy, she suggested a stretchy bind off at the bottom just after a hem full of cables.
Weighing my options, I went for a super-stretchy sock bind off in which you knit into two stitches and then knit those stitches together through the back loop. This creates an amazing stretch–great for the tops of socks! and I have used modified versions of this bind off for the front bands of cardigans as well.
In the case of this sweater, the bind off created a bit more of a ruffled effect than I liked. And this was my own doing: the designer specified a stretchy bind off, NOT a super-stretchy, sock bind off! But I wanted to see this through, so I washed and blocked the sweater to the specified measurements. In its final form, I could see why a stretchy bind off was necessary–the cables do need room to grow! But . . . not THAT much room!
I had purposefully not woven in my bind off at the hem’s end. And, after waiting patiently for the sweater to completely dry, I decided to go in for some minor sweater surgery. I really wanted this sweater to look great and be within the designer’s specifications. I pulled out my super-stretchy bind off and went with another type of stretchy bind off: i.e. binding off in pattern. This meant knitting the knit stitches and purling the purls of the cabled hem. I LOVE the result: the cables have room to sit nicely and there is no more fluttery wave at the end of my sweater journey!
What I wanted to share with you is a photo of the leftover yarn: the second bind off used significantly less yarn and that’s a testament to just how super-stretchy the first bind off was! So, lesson of the day: if you need super stretch, go for it . . . but if you need stretch (on a cabled hem, for example), you can bind off in pattern and get all the stretch you need!
Now, you may be asking: is part of this equation the washing, blocking and re-binding off? The answer is YES. The cables had room to grow and be blocked to the right size before I bound off the second time . . . so more experimenting is needed to be sure. But I would encourage you to try different techniques even after your sweaters are “complete”! Wash, block, and if you’re not happy–get in there and make some modifications, even if it means minor sweater surgery!