How to Knit the I-Cord

It’s easier than you think!

I have not thoroughly researched this, but I’ve heard that the i-cord got its name from Elizabeth Zimmerman who said that it’s short for idiot cord because any idiot could do it! 🙂

I-cords are great for making purse handles, adding decoration to garments, and in the case of A Project in Sheep’s Clothing, a drawstring.

In this video, I show you how to knit an i-cord: 

Steps for Knitting an I-cord

  1. Using double pointed or circular needles, cast on the specified number of stitches.
  2. Slide your stitches to the other end of the needle
  3. Knit across your stitches
  4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 until you i-cord is as long as you want it
  5. Bind of like normal OR use a darning needle to pass the tail through the live stitches and pull tight.

If you drop your stitches, pick them up starting or ending with the working yarn. If the working yarn is at the top, slide them to the other end of the needle and continue knitting.

In theory, you can do an i-cord with any number of stitches, though it is limited by the fact that you are stranding the yarn from the last stitch to the first stitch and if you have a lot of stitches that strand would be long.  Therefore, most i-cords are 3 or 4 stitches.

Variations in the I-Cord

There are several ways to do an i-cord and it’s adaptations (the applied i-cord, the i-cord bind off, and the i-cord cast on). The 2 main variations are:

  • How you start a new row. There are two methods. When you finish a row you can either:
    1. Transfer the stitches back to your other needle to knit the next row. This is the best method to use when doing the i-cord bind off.
    2. Slide the stitches to the other end of your needle to start the next row. I prefer this method for the regular i-cord and the applied i-cord, because it’s faster than the first method.

  • The decrease. (This is not used in a regular i-cord, but it is worth mentioning here.) For an i-cord bind off or applied i-cord, it is necessary to do a decrease. The decrease is used to knit one i-cord stitch with a stitch from your main piece in order to connect them. The most common decreases used in i-cords are:
    1. Slip slip knit (SSK). This is the decrease I prefer. 
    2. Knit 2 together through the back loop (k2tog tbl). The difference between SSK & k2tog tbl is that k2tog tbl will twist that stitch, whereas SSK will not. You can’t tell the difference unless you very closely inspect it. 
    3. SKP (slip, knit, pass the slip stitch over).  

Don’t let these variations in method confuse you. They are interchangeable. If a pattern specifies a method that you don’t like, feel free to use the one you do!

A Project in Sheep’s Clothing would be a great project for practicing i-cords. And this pattern is felted, so even if you make mistake, the felting process will hide it. 🙂

Purchase the pattern on Ravelry or on our A Project in Sheep’s Clothing Knit Along page, where we guide you through each step of the pattern with detailed online lessons. Check out all our knit alongs at

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