The three-needle bind off is a handy way to get live stitches off of 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 have stitches on two needles and want to bind off and seam the edge at the same time.
You can use it in place of Kitchener Stitch (aka grafting) if that's a move you don't like to do, but the closure will be bulkier, and you'll have to work from the inside out so that the seam is on the inside of the sock rather than being visible on the outside.
Whichever side of the work you work the three-needle bind off from is the side where the seam will show, which sometimes you may want and sometimes you will not so think about that before you get started.
For the three-needle bind off to work, you have to have the same number of stitches on each of two double-pointed or circular needles.
- Place the needles with the stitches on them 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.
- Slide your empty needle (that would be the third needle that gives 3-needle bind off its name) through the first stitch on the front needle, and the first stitch on the back needle, as if to knit.
- 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.
- Do the same thing again, knitting what's now the first stitch on both needles into one stitch.
- 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.
- 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 kind of bulky and can hold the weight of the garment well without sagging. I've also used it when joining two pieces of knitting at the center, such as a scarf or headband worked separately from each end to the center, where the two pieces can be joined with a three-needle bind off.
Something sort of like a three-needle bind off can be done to join the cast on row together with the live stitches as you bind off, as I describe in my Moss Stitch Headband pattern. Alternatively, you could do 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 no actual binding off is happening.