The 3 needle bind-off seams two sets of live stitches together, all while binding them off!
It’s a handy technique that’s often used at the shoulder seams of garments. It creates a firm and tidy finish, and can be worked on your knitting needles; so it doesn’t really even feel like you’re seaming!
How to Bind Off and Seam using the Three Needle Bind Off Method
Begin with two sets of live stitches, each on a needle (that’s 2 needles). Hold these needles next to each other, in your left hand.
Use a third needle (this is why it’s named ‘3-needle bind off’), and working yarn, to bind off and seam as follows:
- Setup: Insert the right hand needle tip through the first stitch on the front needle AND the first stitch on the back needle, at the same time. Wrap the working yarn around at the back, then knit these two stitches together, slipping each of them off their left hand needle tip. One stitch is now on the right hand needle.
- Step 1: Insert the right hand needle tip through the next stitch on the front needle AND the next stitch on the back needle. Knit these two stitches together, slipping both of them off the left hand needles. Two stitches are now on the right hand needle.
- Step 2: Use your fingers, or one of the left hand needle tips, to lift the first stitch on the right hand needle over the second stitch, and drop it off the needle. One stitch has been bound off. One stitch remains on the right hand needle.
- Repeat steps 1-2 until all the stitches on both needles have been bound off. One stitch remains on the right hand needle. Break the working yarn, and draw the end through the final live stitch, tightening it up. Weave end ends.
Typically, you’ll work the 3-needle bind off over the exact same number of live stitches on both pieces (front and back). However, it’s possible to have more stitches on one side, and to work a decrease (knit 2 sts together) through more than one on the front, and a single stitch on the back, or vice versa, in order for the stitches to ‘line up’.
The seam that results with this method is quite tidy, so we usually place the wrong-sides of the work together, and work this as an exposed seam. But it can be worked by placing right-sides of the work together, working the bind off, and then turning the work right-sides out, such that the seam is hidden.
Three Needle Bind Off with Wrong Sides Together Creates an Exposed Seam
When you hold the wrong sides (insides) of the two pieces together while seaming, this method creates an exposed seam, with a little row of bind-off stitches laying flat across the top of the work. It’s obvious that the seam is there, creating a line, but it’s tidy and attractive.
Three Needle Bind-Off with Right Sides Together Creates a Hidden Seam
When you hold the right sides (outsides) of the two pieces together while working this bind-off seam, then turn the piece inside-out, the seam will be hidden inside. As you can see from the photo below, this creates a little valley shape at the finished seam-line.
Using a Crochet Hook to Work the Three Needle Bind-off
While I work this technique using a knitting needle in my right hand, some find it tricky. Alternatively, you can form the stitches with a crochet hook, if you find that makes it easier to draw the loop of yarn through.
If you find the finished seam is too loose or long, try ripping it out and working it over again using a tighter tension as you bind off each stitch. This will create a shorter and firmer bind-off seam-line. How firm you might want your bind-off will depend on what you are seaming.