Sunday Stitch: How to Make I-cord, plus selvedge and bind off

The “I” is for idiot! 

I went on an I-cord binge for today’s Sunday Stitch. Included here are three ways to make I-cord:

  • as a cord,
  • as an edge on the side, and
  • as a bind off.

A little bit about I-Cord

Elizabeth Zimmermann says* we should never call it Idiot Cord. She thought the term was rude. It was called that (I guess) because before EZ, people made knitted cord with a spool that had nails hammered into it and then bent to catch the yarn, and any idiot could do it. You can buy the modern  version of that spool in most craft stores.

EZ developed a way to make I-cord without the spool using two double pointed needles. Then she developed many, many variations and nifty ways to use it in knitting. This is from her lovely and equally talented daughter, Meg Swanson:

Today, most of the I-Cord variations you see so commonly used are directly from EZ’s knitting brain: the list includes I-Cord Cast On and Cast Off, Built-In I-Cord for a lovely selvedge on garter-stitch, plus a series of ingenius (sic) and beautiful buttonholes…

I need to admit something first. I think making I-cord is so very, terribly, soul-crushingly dull and if I have access to a spool thingy, I use that instead. Making I-cord, (the traditional, just-plain-cord) is boring. When I have to make a few feet of it by hand the slooooooooow way, I’m just a teeny bit whiny. I even whine some in the video.

But… making I-cord edges is much more interesting. I like doing that, it makes me feel clever. No whining in this one, I promise.

Lastly, here is how to finish your work with an I-cord bind off. This is, in my opinion, the best variation EZ came up with. It makes for a nice, firm edge and if you work it in a different color of yarn, it will look like piping along the edge.  This technique can add a bit of something special  to whatever you’re knitting.

Moebius Ring WG28 by Elizabeth Zimmermann

* I say “Elizabeth Zimmermann says” a lot. A LOT. I’m sure its annoys the people around me. I should probably try to control myself. The problem is that EZ said and wrote so many witty, charming, super-smart things. and I’m just bursting to share them! So I’ll probably keep doing it.

Print Friendly

Related Content


"There is no failure. Only feedback." - Robert Allen

6 Comments on "Sunday Stitch: How to Make I-cord, plus selvedge and bind off"

Notify of
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted

Thanks for sharing this tutorial.. I’m wondering, when you want to use an I-cord selvedge, do you need to cast on extra stitches?


If its not called for in the pattern and you are adding it in, then yes. You’d have to cast on extra stitches for each side. It can be done with as few as two or as many as five stitches. I like three. 🙂


I was told it is called Idiot Cord because it was the cord that ran down the sleeves children’s winter coats and attached to the mittens. That way the little ones did not loose their mittens.


Are you saying all little children are idiots? lololol Maybe they are but at least they have a good chance of outgrowing their idiocy. And the little ones are so cute! Much cuter than the older idiots that I seem to run into all the time.


I abandoned knitting when I picked up crochet, and I had forgotten how to make I-cord – Until your videos! I also never knew you could use it for an edging – Thanks for the lesson! I gotta go dig my needles out now.
-Jenny from
P.S. Crocheted “I-cord” isn’t the same! Nothing beats the knitted version!


Oh good! I just wrote up a post about how I keep starting new projects and it makes me feel less foolish if you’re starting up new projects too. Maybe instead of learning self-control, or actually finishing stuff, I can just convince everyone else to start five new things. Then at least I have lots of company.