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How To Cast On For Knitting - Three Ways!

Updated on January 12, 2015
Every knitting project must start with casting on.
Every knitting project must start with casting on. | Source

The first thing any knitter needs to learn is how to cast on stitches. There are many ways to do it, but these three are the most popular.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Start with a slip stitch.Next, insert the needle into the last stitch.Loop yarn over the back needle.Pull new stitch through the old one.Slip stitch onto the other needle.
Start with a slip stitch.
Start with a slip stitch. | Source
Next, insert the needle into the last stitch.
Next, insert the needle into the last stitch. | Source
Loop yarn over the back needle.
Loop yarn over the back needle. | Source
Pull new stitch through the old one.
Pull new stitch through the old one. | Source
Slip stitch onto the other needle.
Slip stitch onto the other needle. | Source

Knitting On

This is the first method I learned. When you’re mastering this technique, you’re also honing the most basic stitch of knitting - the knit stitch.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Tie the yarn in a slipknot and insert the needle into the loop.

2. Insert the tip of the other needle into the loop, so it rests behind the first needle.

3. Loop the yarn over the back needle.

4. Carefully draw the back needle with the yarn looped over it through the first stitch.

5. Slip the new stitch onto the first needle.

6. Repeat until you have the number of stitches called for on the pattern.

This type of stitch will give you a looser edge, and it’s very simple to learn. As mentioned earlier, it’s also handy way to practice your knit stitch.

However, it does take a little longer to do than other methods, and if they yarn is pulled too tightly, it can be very hard getting the needle through the stitches. Conversely, if it’s too loose, the yarn will fall from the needle before you can continue with your project.

Two Needle Cast On

Long Tail Cast On

Also known as Continental, Thumb Knit, or Double Cast on, Long Tail only requires one needle. Once you get the hang of it, it’s very easy to do.

Before you start your project, you may want to see how much yarn you’ll need for 10 stitches. I’d pull out at least five to ten inches from the ball of yarn, cast on 10 stitches, slip the needle out, and holding the yarn firmly on either end of the row, pull the stitches out. Then measure how much yarn you needed for that.

You can then divide that length by 10 to see how much you’ll need for 1 stitch, and then multiply that number by how many stitches the pattern calls for. That way, you’ll know how much yarn you’ll need to get the project started, and won’t end up wasting yarn in the process.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Hold the free end over your thumb, and the end going to the ball of yarn between your pointer and middle finger.The needle fits under the yarn between thumb and forefinger like this.It was rather hard to do this one handed, but my middle finger is holding the yarn on the needle in place. This is how you slip the needle under the yarn from your thumb.Once you loop the yarn from your pointer and draw the needle through the hoop still attached to your thumb, it will look like this.The first two stitches cast on.This is how you position the needle for the next stitch.Drawing the needle with the third stitch through the loop held by the thumb.The first three stitches.
Hold the free end over your thumb, and the end going to the ball of yarn between your pointer and middle finger.
Hold the free end over your thumb, and the end going to the ball of yarn between your pointer and middle finger. | Source
The needle fits under the yarn between thumb and forefinger like this.
The needle fits under the yarn between thumb and forefinger like this. | Source
It was rather hard to do this one handed, but my middle finger is holding the yarn on the needle in place. This is how you slip the needle under the yarn from your thumb.
It was rather hard to do this one handed, but my middle finger is holding the yarn on the needle in place. This is how you slip the needle under the yarn from your thumb. | Source
Once you loop the yarn from your pointer and draw the needle through the hoop still attached to your thumb, it will look like this.
Once you loop the yarn from your pointer and draw the needle through the hoop still attached to your thumb, it will look like this. | Source
The first two stitches cast on.
The first two stitches cast on. | Source
This is how you position the needle for the next stitch.
This is how you position the needle for the next stitch. | Source
Drawing the needle with the third stitch through the loop held by the thumb.
Drawing the needle with the third stitch through the loop held by the thumb. | Source
The first three stitches.
The first three stitches. | Source

This is what’s involved:

1. Pull out the amount of yarn you’ll need to cast on enough stitches.

2. You can start with a slip stitch, but you don’t necessarily need one. I don’t use one when I do this technique.

3. With your palm facing you, spread your fingers. Drape the yarn end over the outside of your thumb, and the tail leading to the yarn ball between your pointer and middle finger. Hold the yarn tails in place with the remaining fingers on that hand. Since I’m right handed, I use my left hand to hold the yarn.

4. Insert needle tip behind the yarn between your thumb and pointer. Hold it in place with the thumb or pointer finger of the hand holding the needle.

5. Keeping the yarn in place on the needle, down towards the pad of your thumb, and tuck the tip of the needle under the yarn at the outside of your thumb.

6. Draw the needle towards you again, so the yarn by the thumb is looped over the needle. Keep your thumb in the loop, too.

7. Tuck the needle tip under the yarn between your pointer and the needle. You’ll have another loop of yarn on the needle.

8. Draw the new loop through the one still hooked on your thumb.

9. Let the yarn drop from your thumb and pull the tails snug.

If you didn’t start with a slip stitch, you’ll have two new stitches on the needle at this point. To add more stitches, repeat steps 5 through 9 until you have enough for your pattern.

Once you get the hang of it, this casting on method can be extremely fast. You’ll also be knitting your first row, when you do this, so that’ll save you some knitting time. The resulting seam is stretchy, which is great for hats, socks and other snug fitting garments.

On the downside, it can be a bit difficult to estimate how long the tail will need to be, and you might end up either coming up short or having a very long tail on the project when you get done. It might also be a challenge to get used to, especially if you already have fine motor difficulties.

Although it can be handy having the first row done, this isn’t as much of an advantage if your pattern calls for ribbing from the start, since this will always result in a row of knit or purl stitches instead of the alternating stitches that ribbing calls for.

Long Tail Cast On

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Slip the needle between stitches from front to back for a knit stitch.Loop the yarn over the needle tip.Pull the loop through the stitches and transfer it to the other needle.A series of cast on knit stitches.This method may be called the "Cable Cast On", because it looks like a wound cable when finished.
Slip the needle between stitches from front to back for a knit stitch.
Slip the needle between stitches from front to back for a knit stitch. | Source
Loop the yarn over the needle tip.
Loop the yarn over the needle tip. | Source
Pull the loop through the stitches and transfer it to the other needle.
Pull the loop through the stitches and transfer it to the other needle. | Source
A series of cast on knit stitches.
A series of cast on knit stitches. | Source
This method may be called the "Cable Cast On", because it looks like a wound cable when finished.
This method may be called the "Cable Cast On", because it looks like a wound cable when finished. | Source

Cable Cast On

This method is also called Invisible Cast On, and requires a bit of familiarity with knit and purl stitches.

Here’s how it’s done:

1. Cast on two stitches using another method.

2. Insert needle between those two stitches, front to back if you’d like the next stitch to be

knit, or back to front if you’d like it to be purl.

3. Loop the yarn over the needle tip.

4. Draw yarn through the two stitches.

5. Slip the new stitch onto the other needle.

Repeat steps 2 through 5 until you have the amount of stitches needed for the pattern. If you need something like a rib stitch, alternate knits and purls according to what’s needed for the first row.

This method is sometimes called the Invisible Cast on, because once you get further on with the project, there’s no lip that other methods create. It can look factory made, if you keep your stitches even enough. This method also gives you a little more control over how stretchy that end will be.

This one is better for knitters who are already comfortable with the basic stitches in knitting. I’ve also found that it’s easier to split yarn than with other methods and be very tricky to do if the stitches are too tight.

Cable Cast On

Each of these methods are useful for various projects, and they’re worth learning. Although these three are the most popular, they’re not the only ones. Knitting has a long history around the world, and each culture has developed its own techniques.

In the end, it’s best to use whichever method is best for you, but these three offer a good start.

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    • ESPeck1919 profile image
      Author

      ESPeck1919 3 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Tirelesstraveler - Thank you!

      dearabbysmom - You're very welcome! :)

    • dearabbysmom profile image

      dearabbysmom 3 years ago from Indiana

      Thank you for the blog entry, that does help me have an idea of how to finish! Thanks for taking the time to help, I appreciate it :)

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      Haven't knit in awhile; this made a good refresher. Nicely presented.

    • ESPeck1919 profile image
      Author

      ESPeck1919 3 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Thanks so much! I'll definitely put a hub together about binding off projects.

      I actually posted a a blog entry about knitting double sided scarves and the like today, but the method I used to finish it can be used for regular knitting, too.

      http://randomandcrafty.blogspot.com/2014/03/how-to...

      The three pictures at the end might give you an idea about how to finish your scarf. The entry was written for more advanced knitters, so I'm not sure how much it will help you, but it might give you an idea of where to start.

    • dearabbysmom profile image

      dearabbysmom 3 years ago from Indiana

      I'm just learning to knit, so appreciate this information. Plus the video is very helpful. I can knit a scarf, but don't know how to finish the project...maybe you can write a hub about that? Voted up and useful.