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How to Knit an I-Cord Edge

January 13, 2022
Rockfall Sweater Pattern

An i-cord is a method for binding off that creates an attractive edge detail at the same time. This kind of edge is worked perpendicular to the final row of the work. Sometimes it’s used to finish a sweater neckline, shawl, or blanket – it can be used to finish any edge!

We also have a tutorial that covers how to work a standalone i-cord, and within our Beloved Bonnet tutorial, we included a description of how to work an i-cord edge alongside (parallel to) a piece of work.

Setting up for an i-cord edge

First you will need to add the number of stitches that you want your i-cord edge to be (in width). I would suggest two, three, or four stitches. More than that might be too many to form a tidy i-cord; however, it will really depend on the weight of the yarn you’re working with. For a thicker yarn, try fewer stitches, and for a thinner yarn, try more.

Create these extra i-cord stitches using either the knitted cast-on method (described below) or the backward loop cast-on to add extra stitches on to the LH (left-hand) needle. 

  1. Insert the RH (right-hand) needle into the first st on the LH needle ready to knit, and pull through a loop.
  2. Place this newly formed loop on the LH needle (one stitch cast-on).

Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you have cast on 2, 3, or 4 sts. You now have 2, 3 or 4 sts more than originally on your needles.

Working an i-cord edge

You are now ready to work the i-cord edge. For the purpose of clarity, I will assume you have cast on 3 additional stitches and are working a 3-stitch i-cord edge.

  1. k2, k2tog-tbl – With the working yarn and RH needle, knit the first two stitches on the LH needle. Then, using the last ‘extra’ stitch and one of the stitches from the edge, knit these two together through back loops (k2tog-tbl). You do this by inserting the RH needle tip into the backs of the two stitches, forming a loop aroung that RH needle tip with the working yarn, drawing that loop through, and then dropping the two stitches off the LH needle at once. This decreases a single stitch, resulting in one stitch ‘bound off’.
  2. slip 3 sts back to LH needle – Next, you will slip the 3 stitches now on the RH needle back onto the LH needle, one at a time, starting with the last (decrease) stitch, then the previous one, and then the first of the three. Slip them without twisting the stitch. You want to keep the ‘front’ leg of the stitch in the front, rather than twisting the stitches. Now all stitches are on the LH needle once more, and one stitch has been bound off.

Repeat steps 3 and 4, drawing the working yarn across the back of the two stitches each time; this forms the i-cord edge. Each time you repeat these steps, you decrease one of the live stitches, effectively binding off a single stitch.

Completing an i-cord edge 

Once you have worked your edge and bound off ALL the stitches originally on the LH needle, you will have just 3 stitches remaining on your RH needle. If you slip these back onto the LH needle tip, or along to the other tip of the RH needle, there are a couple of options for completing.

If you have worked in the round (for example, around a neckline or the edge of a centre-out blanket or shawl), you have a little cast-on edge where the i-cord began, and a little edge, with live stitches, where the i-cord ends, and a gap between these two that needs to be bridged.

There are a couple of options for bridging this gap.

The simplest option is to bind off the 3 live stitches, and then use the yarn tail to sew the ends of the i-cord together in a way that tidies up that join.

Another option is to break the yarn and use the yarn tail to ‘graft’ the two ends together in a method similar to grafting with a yarn needle. You would go through a stitch on the cast-on end, through the live stitches on the end of the i-cord, working back and forth until all the live stitches were tacked down and the gap is closed.

Tips and tricks for i-cord edging

Now that you’ve learned the basics, we have some options for adjusting this technique. We’re all looking for that PERFECT FIT, especially at a sweater neckline (which we write about in how to get the perfect neckline), so if you are working an i-cord neckline, here are some tricks for getting it ‘just right’.

Adjust the tension (and thus the length) of an i-cord edge

The precise tension at which you work an i-cord will have directly effect on how much that edge will stretch. This means that if you work an i-cord neckline and find it doesn’t quite fit comfortably over your head – or that it’s too sloppy and open – you can easily adjust it by pulling it out and re-working it.

  • Try using a different needle size (smaller needles make smaller stitches and a tighter bind-off and vice-versa).
  • Try relaxing your knitting style and allowing your tension to be looser as you work the edge. 

Bind off at a more rapid rate than one stitch per row to adjust the number of rows (and thus the length) of the i-cord edge

You can also decrease MORE stitches than one per row by, for example, knitting 3 stitches together through back loops, rather than just 2 (this would incorporate the last of the 3 i-cord stitches, plus 2 of the bind-off row stitches. You might want to do this every second or third repeat to sharpen the rate at which stitches are bound off in relationship to i-cord edge rows. Here’s an example:

Row 1: k2, k2tog-tbl, and then slip these 3 sts back to the LH needle [1 st bound off].
Row 2: k2, k3tog-tbl (working the last of the i-cord sts together with two of the live edge stitches) [2 sts bound off].
Repeat rows 1-2 until all stitches have been bound off. 

This will create two i-cord rows for every three stitches of the piece, creating a tighter / shorter edge.

Other i-cord techniques 

How to knit a standalone i-cord – an i-cord makes a great drawstring or tie for a hat!

How to knit an i-cord edge alongside your knit fabric, parallel to the knitted work – worked at the same time as you knit the piece, this creates a tidy and firm edge.

Knitted-on edging – A knitted-on edging is a wider strip of knitted fabric which is worked at 90 degrees along a bind-off edge. It typically binds off stitches at the end of each second row. It is worked in a very similar way to the i-cord edge described in this tutorial, but back and forth, rather than as a tiny tube.

Some TCK i-cord inspiration

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2022 6:00 am

    I forgot about I-cord necklines as an option! Thank you I think I feel one coming on…..

  2. January 13, 2022 6:06 am

    Quite helpful. Thank you

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