Monday December 17th 2018

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Japanese Three Needle Bind-Off

The 3 Needle Bind-Off is a very neat, strong way of making a firm, stable bind-off and seam that will keep the seam from stretching out too much. (It’s ideal for shoulder seams.) If yours is coming out a bit bulkier than you like, though, you might want to give the Japanese 3 Needle Bind Off a go.

I couldn’t find an already-written tutorial for this bind off — drat! — so I’ve had to get off my lazy butt and do one for you.

Like the three needle bind off, this takes two needles of live stitches, right sides together, wrong sides facing out, forms a seam and binds off.

With the 3 Needle Bind Off, you knit two stitches together, one off each needle, knit the next 2 stitches together, then bind off the first stitch. With the Japanese 3 Needle Bind Off, you pull the stitches off one needle through the stitches of the other needle, and you bind off. So in the former, there’s another stitch formed and therefore there’s more yarn in the seam.

So here we go:

Our starting point

If necessary, re-position your stitches on one of the needles so you may have the knitting right sides together and the wrong sides facing the outsides. (If you leave the end with the working yarn to the end of the needle, rather than off the point, you’ll be able to skip moving your stitches around later.)


Align your knitting as you would for any 3-needle BO, with public sides together. Now, here’s something to keep in mind: you aren’t going to use any new working yarn on this next step. Got that? ‘Kay.

3needle4 3needle5

Insert the point of a third needle or crochet hook (depending on how many stitches you’re doing, mainly) knitwise into the first stitch on the front needle. Then insert the needle or hook purlwise into the first stitch on the back needle. Slip both stitches off the needles and pull the back stitch through the front stitch. Notice that you didn’t use any working wool at all. Repeat across all stitches.


Now all your stitches should be on one needle with the working yarn dangling off the first stitch of the needle. (If you used a crochet hook as here, then simply decant, as it were, the stitches back onto a needle with the working yarn off the point of the needle rather than the end of the needle.) Bind off.

3needle8 3needle7

If you prefer, you can do this as you do a regular 3 Needle Bind Off and bind off as you go. Simply proceed as normal through the first two stitches, then bind off the first stitch before pulling the third stitch through.

The Japanese 3 Needle Bind Off is perfect for colorwork, because there’s only that one little bar of yarn running between the stitches, so you can get a much cleaner edge at the seam if you have two different colors between pieces. Compare the Japanese 3 Needle Bind Off (left) with the regular 3 Needle Bind Off (right).

3needle7 3nbo

The trade off is that the Japanese 3 NBO is cleaner. The 3NBO is a touch messier, but sturdier and more stable a seam. You get to choose which to use depending on the needs of your project!

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11 Responses to “Japanese Three Needle Bind-Off”

  1. Crochet Chic says:

    You are a very smart person!

  2. Claire Pope says:

    I am making the Capelet by Tanis Grey on the cover of Vogue Spring and Summer. I have been told the bind of 3Needle leaves a ridge. The pattern calls for this but I would like to see the reverse side of the JNB

  3. Colleen says:

    Excellent tutorial. Where did you learn it? I have also heard it called the invisible 3needle BO variation. But I don’t think it is a variation…I think it Is the original, because it is the version used on any number of 18th C artifacts, stocking toes and heels and baby waistcoat (cardigan) shoulders, made in Brtain and the Colonies, in 1750-1810 (I haven’t looked at artifacts outside that time period)

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