I Invented the Three Needle Bind-Off


To go straight to the 3 needle bind-off video tutorial click here.

Well, I thought I did.

I was finishing up a baby vest and I had come to the shoulders. Previously, I would bind-off and then do a horizontal to horizontal seam. I only had to bind one shoulder together, the other would get a button placket to make it easier to go over baby’s head. I sat there looking at my stitches trying to think of how to just knit the two sides together instead, when Eureka! It came to me.

I already knew there was something called a three needle bind-off, but I had no idea it was for joining two edges, plus it sounded to complicated. Three needles?

So, I went about joining my seam, my method required only two needles, but it involved moving all the stiches to be knit from the front and back of the vest to one needle. I would slip one from the front, then one from the back onto a circular needle until all the stiches were on one cable like this: front stitch, back stitch, front stitch, back stitch, well you get the idea. Then, I pulled the cable needle through, so the stitches were on the working end. Next, I knit 2tog and bound off to the end. It was brilliant. I thought I was brilliant. I was going to tell everyone on the ravelry forums and change their lives. No more seaming!!



Thankfully, I had a bunch more finishing to do, and we were in the middle of a move, so I never did get around to telling my ravelers.

Later, I did learn the three needle bind off and realized that I had in fact invented nothing, except perhaps a new way to preform it.  Though in reality, my new way has probably been done by hundreds of others. I’m not likely the first to come up with it.

Elizabeth Zimmerman called this unventing.  She figured that after hundreds of years of knitters creating knitwear there was likely nothing that could be invented that had not been preformed by some knitter, at one time or another, regardless of whether the technique had been passed down to other generations. Patterns may indeed be unique, but the stitches we use to build them, and the shape of the garment likely is not. Most of what we do to knit anything is simply a repetition of what was once done by several other people at some point in history, or another. Isn’t that connection marvellous to think about?

I had unvented the the modified three needle bind off.  Now, this isn’t entirely unimpressive. It just goes to show that knitters, regardless of being taught a common technique, or not, can use his or her brain to find new ways to make it work for them.  Just think of how many ways people make a simple knit stitch differently:  pickers, throwers, flickers, yarn held left or right handed. It’s amazing, different techniques – same result.

The standard method of preforming the three needle bind off is shown here:

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  1. Fran Friel

    Everything old is new again. And this is new to me, so thank you for your marvelous re-invention!

    Happy New Year!

  2. Michele

    I love this bind off but I would like to use it to bind of the toe on my socks. The problem is that I have to wrong sides together and I am working on two circular needles knitting two socks at one time. Is there a way to bind off with wrong sides together?

    Thank you for this great idea.

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