A few years ago, I was working in a yarn shop when one of our most frequent customers came in with a pattern question. She was an excellent knitter and had tackled lots of challenging projects, but her question that day was a very simple one.
She pulled out an almost-completed sweater worked from the top-down, along with her knitting pattern. “I’m all ready to start binding off, but I’ve never encountered this particular phrase before,” she said, pointing to the last line. I took a closer look at the pattern and saw the words, “bind off in pattern.”
Unless otherwise stated, most patterns work on the assumption that you will bind off in the normal way, where you knit two stitches, then pass the first stitch over the second stitch and off the needle, and repeat. This works great for lots of stitch patterns, especially stockinette. However, with stitch patterns that incorporate a mix of knit and purl stitches, it can look a little bit disjointed. For example, take a look at the photo below. Here, I used Maya to knit a swatch with a knit 2, purl 2 rib and worked the standard bind off:
If I bind off in rib, instead of knitting every bind off stitch, the bind off will more closely match the stitch pattern. So, for binding off a knit 2 purl 2 rib, you would work each as if you were still ribbing. You would knit the first two stitches, pass the first stitch over the second stitch and off the needle, then purl the next stitch instead of knitting it. By continuing to purl the purl stitches from the rib, and knit the knits, the bind off will blend in more easily with the rest of the ribbing:
In most cases, it ultimately boils down to personal preference. Depending on the pattern, you may end up preferring the look of a standard bind off versus binding off in pattern. Don’t be afraid to try both and see which one you like better. It’s nice to have options!