Casting on is to knitting what laying a foundation is to building a house. A good cast-on can make all the difference to your knitting project. In layman’s terms, casting on is nothing more than putting on the first row of stitches on your needle before you start knitting, but please always ALWAYS remember that the cast-on row is actually not the first row when we speak in terms of a pattern. In (almost) all cases, the casting-on row is just the foundation row on which you build your knitting.
There are many blogs and Youtube videos which can teach you 40 and more, different ways to cast-on and yes, if you are an advanced knitter, those are techniques you should definitely pick up. But if like me, you like to first perfect your basics, I suggest you stick to the three easiest cast-ons. Obviously, each cast-on comes with its own pros and cons, like some are too tight, some are stretchy, some look neater than others, some are provisional and allow you to pick up stitches later. But right now lets not get into all of that.
Everyone has their own style of casting on. My mother uses a style I still haven’t figured out. I have three that are my go-to styles. I usually don’t stray far from these. So I’m going to try to show you my favourite cast-ons through a series of photographs. I beg you, however, to excuse my chubby fingers and poor technical skills.
It all starts with a slip knot which in most types of cast-ons is considered the first stitch. Make sure you leave a 6 inch tail when you make a slip knot to weave-in once your project is over. This is how you make a slip knot.
I’m not sure what the official name of this cast-on is. I call it the Pistol cast-on because that is the shape your hand needs to form in order to do this cast-on. First I put my slip knot on the needle. I hold the needle in my right hand since I am right handed and form my left hand into a pistol. Then I put the index finger of my left hand under the yarn and twist the yarn around it. Once I have a loop around my finger, I pick up that loop from the left side of my finger with my needle and tighten it. This constitutes the second stitch. Have a look
You can cast on as many stitches as you like in this manner. Once you’re done, you turn the needle and begin knitting.
Long Tail cast on
This name I have not made up. The Long Tail cast-on has to be one of the most commonly used cast-ons and is the one most likely to be recommended in most patterns.
The reason it’s called so is because it requires you to leave a long tail of yarn before you start casting on stitches. Let us assume you need 30 stitches on your needle, you need to make sure you leave a long enough tail of yarn to ensure it can accommodate 30 stitches since this cast-on uses the tail end of the yarn for the cast-on stitches unlike other cast-ons. What I usually do is, I wrap my yarn around my needle 30 times, which gives me a fair idea of how much yarn tail to leave and then make a stitch knot at that position. This how I do it
Wrapping the yarn around your needle seems like a tedious process and you may end up wasting yarn since this doesn’t lead to accurate measurements. However, I would still encourage you to use the Long Tail cast-on since it is one of the fastest ways of casting on. Once you get the hang of it, you can cast on 200 plus stitches in not more than 10 mins. But I wouldn’t want you to waste any of your precious yarn, that is why for projects which have a high stitch count, I will tell you about an alternate way to do the Long Tail cast-on.
So lets begin – once your slip knot is in place, hold the needle in your right hand (if you’re right-handed and vice versa). Keep the end of the yarn attached to the ball away from you and the tail end towards you. Place the index finger of your right hand on your slip knot to ensure it doesn’t slip off the needle. Separate the two strands coming out of your slip knot with the thumb and index finger of your left hand. Hold both strands in the palm of your left hand and pull away from the needle making a sling shot (make sure to hold on to your slip knot). Scoop up the left strand of the yarn on your thumb by inserting the tip of your needle from the left side of the strand. This will form the 1st loop on the needle. Without taking off the 1st loop from the needle, scoop up the left strand on your index finger by inserting the tip of your needle from the right side of the strand. This will form the 2nd loop on the needle. Pull the 2nd loop through the 1st loop and tighten the loop remaining on the needle by pulling at both the strands in your palm. You have your second stitch now. Have a look
Cast on the required number of stitches, making sure to leave at least 6 inches of yarn tail. Then turn the needle and start your project.
Knitted cast on
This is actually a great cast-on for beginners since it uses the basic knit stitch to cast on stitches. This is a stretchy cast on so it’s great for sweaters and caps. It is also a great cast-on for when you need a few additional stitches in the middle of your project (don’t sound aghast, it is not as scary as it sounds!).
This cast-on actually uses both the needles. Hold the needle with the slip knot in your left hand (if you’re right-handed and vice versa). Now place your right needle inside the slip knot from front to back as if to knit, loop the yarn attached to the ball around the inserted needle counter clockwise, and pull the looped yarn through the slip knot on the left needle as you would if you were making a knit stitch, but do not slip the stitch off the left needle yet. Instead, pull the right needle outward a bit, use the left needle to scoop up the loop on the right needle and place it on your left needle while tightening the stitch. This is your second stitch. Have a look
Keep adding stitches this way. Please note that the knitted cast-on is different from the other two cast-ons since it does not require you to turn the needle to start knitting your project. Once you’re done casting on, you start knitting from the same side.
I know that the instructions above may sound like Greek to most of you and the photographs may not make things much clearer, but don’t let that discourage you. I’m always here to help or answer any questions, so ask away. If you want your query to be private, email me directly and I would be happy to write back to you. Also, I would love to know your favourite cast-ons so put them up in the comments section or on the Facebook page.
Till then, practice, practice and practice some more my friends because it is only beyond the cast-on that true knitting glory lies.
P.S. This post would not have been possible without the help of my partner, Nikhil, who painstakingly took these photographs from all sorts of angles, even though we were both convinced that they didn’t make it any easier to understand the techniques. Still we tried and will keep trying, until someone feels bad for us and decides to help us with videography. Till then you’re stuck with us!