cast off with darning needle
basic techniques,  machine knitting

Casting Off: Using a Darning/Tapestry Needle

This is a quick and easy way of casting off (also known as binding off). Method 1 is quick and gives a loose edge that can be gathered whereas Method 2 takes longer but gives a nice firmer edge.

Method 1 (running stitch)

I use this method when making swatches and tension squares.

  • Pro: The method is quick and easy. You can stretch or draw up your hem to the size you want. Good for pieces of a garment that need to be gathered to fit e.g. sleeves and bodices..
  • Con: The edge is a bit ragged and is a bit fragile. If the main thread breaks the stitches may come undone.

Method 1 is a match for casting off with weaving brushes as they both look and behave similar


You will need a darning or tapestry needle. This is a blunt ended needle and you can usually buy these in a multi-sized pack so that you find the best one for your yarn thickness.

different types of needle
different types of needle

These blunt ended needles come in different sizes to suit different thicknesses of yarn. On the left are the typical darning needles and I use these to sew up my knitted garments and backstitch on standard gauge machine. The needles in the middle are tapestry needles and these tend to be smaller and thinner. These needles are ideal for sewing finer yarns on my machine. You can also get larger plastic needles that are great for using with double knit and thicker yarns.

ready to cast off
ready to cast off

Do you knitting and when you are ready to cast off make sure that the carriage ends on the right side of the machine if you are right-handed (or left if you are left-handed).

Take the yarn out of the machine and pull out enough yarn to sew up the top of your knitting and a bit left over. (I often leave quite a bit of yarn if I want to use this yarn later to sew up a seam).

Now thread your darning needle with the yarn.

thread through stitches
thread through stitches

Then thread the needle through the stitches. (MB: The yellow needle is too big to do this, but is more visible on the image) You can use a running stitch where you go up and down through each stitch or you can just go up through the back of each stitch. Find the way that is easiest for you.

Continue to the end where you can leave it free if you want to gather or fasten off.

Take off the weights and then move the empty carriage across the needles to release the knitting. Grab it as it falls.

darning method1
darning method 1

The cast off edge appears a little uneven but this is very similar to the weaving cast on.

darning needles cast off
darning needles cast off

You can gather up both if you wish

Method 2 (backstitch)

This method does give a nice edge but it not as quick as method 1.

  • Pro: This produces a nice neat edge. You can sew more tightly if you want a tighter edge. This is a good cast off when you are knitting slip stitch or tuck stitch.
  • Con: The method takes more time than method 1.

Method 2 is a good alternative if you wish to have a neat edge for your swatches, tension squares or knitted items.


Follow instructions for method 1 but this time instead of just moving our needle in and out of the loops you need to do a back stitch.

backstitch cast off
back stitch cast off

You do a back stitch by going DOWN through the first stitch (furthest on the right), BEHIND the next stitch to the left and UP through the next stitch to the left. Pull needle and thread all the way until all slack has gone.

Then go DOWN through the 2nd stitch (the one that you went behind previously), BEHIND the next stitch (the one you came up through previously) and UP through the next stitch.

back stitch cast off diagrams
back stitch cast off diagrams

These diagrams show how to do the backstitch.

Keep doing this to the end, where you can go through the last stitch and fasten off.

Take off the weights and then move the empty carriage across the needles to release the knitting. Grab it as it falls.

backstitch cast off edge
backstitch cast off edge

The finished edge is definitely neater than method 1, but takes more time. It is a good choice when you are knitting a pattern like slip stitch or tuck stitch and you want the pattern to go right to the edge.

So you have two ways of casting off using a darning or tapestry needle. Have a go at both ways and see if you like them

Happy Knitting!


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