What is casting off?
Casting off is a technique which creates a selvedge on your knitted fabric, simultaneously securing your stitches and stopping them going any further. If you wish to add to your creation after casting off, you will have to re-create the loops you have lost by ‘picking up’ some more stitches along either the cast off selvedge or one of your other selvedges (your sides or cast on edge). Sometimes casting off also occurs over just a few stitches, when creating an armhole, or buttonhole for example.
How many different methods of casting off are there?
There are different methods for casting off, the choice of which can sometimes be determined by either the decorative effect desired or the practical need required. There are definitely less cast off methods than cast on methods however, and even fewer commonplace ones. So for casting off, I would recommend just one method for beginners. As for the cast on tutorial, if you are interested in learning more methods, then I can recommend the book ‘Cast On Bind Off’ by Leslie Ann Bestor.
Can I skip this step and just pull the loops off the needles?
No! Without securing your stitches in some way, your knitting will unravel.
What mistakes might I make while casting off?
Making a mistake while casting off is not any more drastic than making a mistake in your knitting. The most likely result of any mistake is that one or more stitches will unravel, or will need unravelling. Just tug the yarn gently (the end attached to your ball), and the stitch should come undone. Be careful not to pull too hard or you may undo more than one row. If you have managed to tie a knot that doesn’t respond to gentle tugging, or your stitch has dropped to the previous row, then you may need to unravel back to the previous row.
A common error is to make the stitches too tight or too loose, but usually too tight. Take a look at the photo of the finished cast on row, and try and copy the ‘look’. If the air pocket between your stitch and the needle is too big, your cast on edge will be baggy, if it is too small, your knitting will be pulled in at the top, and so the shape of your work will be compromised. It is important that your tension is even across the cast off row. Some people always swap to a bigger needle to cast off as then they don’t need to concentrate too hard not to do it too tightly. I would experiment before taking this step to see how your cast off turns out.
Once you have cast off, you are ready to sew up you seams and then you have completed your knitting.
Knit two stitches in the usual way.
Take hold of the first knitted stitch with your LH needle ready to pass it over the second knitted stitch.
And pass it over the second knitted stitch, making sure the second stitch stays on the RH needle.
Knit another stitch so that you have two stitches on the RH needle again.
And repeat steps 2 – 3.
Repeat across the row until you have one stitch left on the RH needle.
Enlarge the last stitch and cut the yarn. (Read the pattern carefully at this point as there may be instructions on how long to leave the end).
Thread the cut end through the stitch and pull gently until the stitch is the same size as the other cast off stitches.