Welcome to another of our Midweek Masterclasses! When we first started knitting, most of us learnt one method for casting on, and stuck with it. I remember being utterly amazed to discover that you could cast on in more than one way, and from that point on I have been fascinated with the different methods available.
Once you’ve been knitting for some time, the chances are that you’ll have discovered a few ways of casting on. Perhaps a pattern called for a different method, and you tried it out. Or maybe your normal cast-on wasn’t suitable for a particular project, and you asked around at your knitting group or searched online for another way. None of the possible ways to cast on is suitable for every single situation, so it is well worth having a few options at your fingertips.
Here’s a quick reminder of some of the most common methods, and the situations to which they are most suited.
One of the best all-round stretchy cast-on methods is the long-tail method. This is many people’s method of choice for cuff-down socks and hat brims, where you want a stretchy edge that won’t go floppy and will hold its shape. This method involves making a loop and then knitting it, so you may wish to start your project with a wrong-side row following the long-tail cast-on, to avoid purl bumps on the right side of your cast-on edge. The long-tail method is relatively well known and there are a few ways of achieving the same finished edge. Here are two of the most popular methods.
Long-tail cast-on: Continental method
1. Measure a tail of yarn approximately three times the width of your piece of knitting (or wrap the yarn around your needle the same number of times as your desired number of stitches, with a few extras).
2. The long-tail method may be started with a slipknot, or the yarn may simply be held over the needle, thus creating the first stitch. Ensure that your yarn tail is closest to you, with the end attached to the ball on the far side. (1)
3. Hold both the ends of yarn in your left hand, leaving your thumb and index finger free. Place your thumb and index finger between the two strands of yarn and open them. (2)
4. Angle your fingers up or move your right hand down, so that you create a Y shape with the yarns coming over your thumb and index finger and the needle. (3)
5. Place the needle under the strand of yarn between the thumb and your fingers holding the tail. This creates a loop of yarn on your thumb. (4)
6. Pull the strand of yarn that runs over your index finger to the needle, from right to left through the loop on your thumb. (5)
7. Continue to hold the two strands of yarn with your left hand, but release the loop from your thumb and tighten the new stitch on your needle. (6)
8. Repeat from step 3, until you have cast on sufficient stitches.
This cast-on method is ideal if you want a stretchy edge that won’t go floppy, such as for socks!
Long-tail cast-on: English method
Work steps 1 and 2 as for the Continental method (see above).
3. Hold the tail of the yarn in your left hand, leaving your thumb and index finger free. From the needle, the tail yarn goes between the index finger and thumb, round the back of the thumb, and down
to be held in the remaining fingers of the left hand. (7)
4. Place the needle under the strand of
yarn between the thumb and your fingers holding the tail. This creates a loop of yarn on your thumb. (8)
5. Use your right hand to wrap the yarn attached to the ball around the needle as
if to knit. (9)
6. Pull the thumb loop over and off the needle. Tighten the new stitch on your needle. (10)
7. Repeat from step 3 until you have cast on sufficient stitches.
About our expert
Jen Arnall-Culliford is a technical knitting editor and knitwear designer with an encyclopaedic knowledge of knitting techniques.
For more Midweek Masterclasses click here and remember to check back here this time next week for Part 2 of our great cast-ons masterclass!