Tips + Tricks: Channel Island Cast-On and Bind-Off

The Fisherman Gansey is a classic garment with a rich and varied history. Two excellent books on the subject, The Complete Book of Traditional Guernsey and Jersey Knitting by Rae Compton, and Knitting Ganseys by Beth Brown-Reinsel, are ones we have in our office library and turn to often. 

The Seascale sweater featured in the Cumbria Collection is a pullover inspired by traditional Ganseys and features both the Channel Island cast-on and a bind-off method "unvented" by Courtney in 2009. They are techniques that are incredibly lovely when done correctly, but are not intuitive, so I put together a tutorial for both. - KGO

CHANNEL ISLAND CAST ON
 

The Channel Island cast-on is traditionally used on the hem of Gansey fisherman sweaters of the British Isles. The cast-on creates a subtle picot edge and is most often followed by a band of garter stitch. It is a nice alternative to a ribbed hem, and I think has a more feminine look to it.

Practically, the bands were knit separately and were then joined for working the body in the round, maximizing movement and breathability for the wearer. The cast-on is elastic, yet firm, and along with the picots, it is both decorative and hard wearing. 

KW Tips + Tricks: Channel Island Cast On

SET UP 1 / For this sample, I am casting on 15 stitches, so the end I measured is 30" long. 
A / tail folded in half
B / slip knot on right hand needle
C / open end of folded tail
D / working yarn attached to ball

KW Tips + Tricks: Channel Island Cast On

SET UP 2 / 
A / The doubled tail wrapped counter clockwise twice around my left thumb
B / The strand attached to the ball placed over the index finger
C / the short tail hanging free

KW Tips + Tricks: Channel Island Cast On

STEP 1 / Make sure you wrap the yarn front to back to create the yarn over. 
A / Single strand wrapped over the needle.

KW Tips + Tricks: Channel Island Cast On

STEP 2 / Make sure to put the needle through both wraps and both strands when picking up the stitch of the single strand. 

KW Tips + Tricks: Channel Island Cast On

STEP 3 / 
A: The yarn over from Step 1
B: The single strand picked up from Step 2

KW Tips + Tricks: Channel Island Cast On

CHANNEL ISLAND BIND OFF

When putting together the tutorial for the Bind-Off, I asked Courtney for a little bit of information about her process when figuring out the bind-off on the neck and sleeves of her Gansey. This is what she said:

"In a traditional Gansey, like Seascale, you work the body from the bottom up in the round, divide the work and work back and forth for the yoke on the front and back, join the shoulder seams, and then pick up stitches around the armhole and knit the sleeves from the top down. When I got to the point where I had to bind off the cuffs of the sleeves I realized that the bind-off and the cast-on edges wouldn't match. I did a little research to see if I could find a bind-off that would look similar to the Channel Island cast-on, and I couldn't find a thing. So I started fiddling around with a few different picot bind-offs. These were all a bit too "picot-y" for my purposes.

In the end, I merged two different bind-offs; the Icelandic bind-off and a picot bind-off. The Icelandic bind-off is worked by inserting the left hand needle through the first stitch on the right hand needle and pulling the second stitch through the first. You then knit this stitch and pull both stitches off the left hand needle, place the single stitch back on the right hand needle, and repeat. This creates a very firm bind off, which I liked. By working the second stitch a few extra times, I got the added benefit of a picot look which was also worked very firmly so it didn't dangle too much, and the end result is what you see below."

KW Tips + Tricks: Channel Island Bind Off
KW Tips + Tricks: Channel Island Bind Off

STEP 1 / 
1a: The right hand needle has been inserted into the first stitch on the left hand needle as if to purl.
1b: While the right hand needle is through the first stitch, the second stitch will be pulled through the first stitch. The stitches have switch places on the needle.

KW Tips + Tricks: Channel Island Bind Off

STEP 2 / Knit this stitch as you normally would.

KW Tips + Tricks: Channel Island Bind Off

STEP 3a: / Return the just knit stitch on your right hand needle back onto the left hand needle. knit this stitch again, creating the appearance of a chain.

KW Tips + Tricks: Channel Island Bind Off

STEP 3b: / Once you have knit the first stitch a second time, leave it on your right hand needle. Then, knit the next two stitches on the left hand needle together. You have just decreased 3 stitches down to two. 

KW Tips + Tricks: Channel Island Bind Off

STEP 4 / This step is worked in the exact same manner as a "typical" bind off. 

KW Tips + Tricks: Channel Island Bind Off

STEP 5 / Returning the stitch to the left hand needle is critical: if the stitch is not returned, you will amass a large quantity of stitches that are still "live" on the right hand needle.

Repeat Steps 1-5 for the desired number of stitches, or until all your stitches have been bound off. 

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As always, these and our other ever-expanding collection of Tips + Tricks can be found here. Have a knitting or crochet technique or topic you would love to see covered? Let us know! - KGO