What’s a three-needle bind-off?

A three-needle bind-off is a method for binding off stitches. The special thing about the three-needle bind-off is that you use it to bind-off and tie two pieces of knitting together at the same time. How clever is that?!

This method is a good way to work a secure seam that doesn’t get bulky. It’s more stable than the seam you get when using the Kitchener stitch, but it’s much neater than a seamed edge.

To be able to do this bind-off you need to have three needles, as the name implies.

Two needles to hold your knitted pieces and a third needle to bind off the stitches.

When is this method used?

I use this method for a few different things because I think it always tends to work out well. And it’s quite fast as I get both the bind-off and the seaming done simultaneously!

The shoulder seams on sweaters

I rarely knit sweaters bottom-up, because I don’t like seaming. But when I do I always use the three-needle bind-off for shoulder seams.

Brim on hats

I like the clean look and warmth of a double brim on a beanie. So when I knit a top-down hat I often make the brim twice as long as needed, fold it to the inside of the hat, pick up stitches and make a three-needle bind-off. This way I get a nice and clean seam.

Side note: to do this the other way around you can use a provisional cast-on, knit the brim twice as long as needed, fold it over and knit the two edges together with a third needle, skipping to pass a stitch over. And then continue to knit the hat with the stitches you have left. This way is faster because you don’t have to pick up the stitches.

Seam cowls with the three-needle bind-off

If you knit a cowl flat you can use the three-needle bind-off to knit seam the edges together to form a ring.

Use it for sock toes

This technique is great for finishing off the toe when you’re knitting socks. Just flip your knitting inside out and bind off your stitches with the three-needle bind-off.

How to do the three-needle bind-off

Start by holding your two knitted garments with the right sides against each other and the wrong sides out. Your needles should be parallel and held in your left hand with tips pointing to the right.

It’s like when you sew, if you place the fabric right sides out, your seam/bind-off edge will appear on the right side. If you place it wrong sides out, the seam will be on the wrong side.

About the third needle

It doesn’t matter what size of needle you use to hold the stitches. How tight the bind-off edge ends up is determined by the third needle, the one you’re going to pick your stitches with.

So, if you need your bind off to be looser, switch to a larger needle in your right hand. And if it gets to lose, you switch for a smaller size.

You hold the third needle in your right hand.

Let’s get started

I have knitted a little swatch just because I needed something to bind-off in this tutorial. I cast on with the provisional cast-on described in the video in this post and now I’m going to bind off the stitches in the provisional cast-on at the same time as the stitches I just knitted.

This will make a nice seam between the two edges. Since I bind off the two edges of the same piece here, I’m going to end up with a tube. But the procedure for doing this with two pieces of knitting is exactly the same!


Hold your knitting right sides together and the needles parallel.

Hold yarn as you like, I knit continental so I hold the yarn in my left hand.

Step 1:

Insert your third needle into the first stitches of both needles, wrap the yarn around your needle as to knit, and knit the two stitches together.

Do this two times the first time. Then only once.

Step 2:

When you have two stitches on your needle pass one stitch over the other and off the needle.

Repeat steps one and two until you’re out of stitches. Then cut your yarn and pull it through the last stitch to fasten it off.

This image shows how the three-needle bind-off looks when it’s done. The upper row shows the seam from the wrong side and the image below shows the seam from the right side. I have done the bind-off seam in blue color just to make it easy to see. Done in the same yarn as the knitting, as you would normally do will make it next into invisible.

Tips for a neat three-needle bind-off

  1. Check that you have an equal number of stitches on both needles.
  2. Be sure to have the right tension. If you bind off to tight your seam will pucker and look less neat. And your garment can feel awkward to wear.
  3. If it’s hard to get the yarn through both stitches, you can try to use a crochet hook instead of a third needle

Reading tips:
––> Learn more about binding off your knitting in this post!
––> Plan your knitting like a pro with these Knitting project sheets!