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How to Cast-on Yarn Onto a Knitting Needle

Updated on January 14, 2014

Here are my step-by-step directions, with photos, on how to cast-on stitches to a knitting needle. I've used this simple method for decades and find I can now do it without even looking.

In childhood I learned to knit

It was after my Bluebird Group learned how to make a braided octopus bed decoration. We were all tweens and my mom led the group. She wasn't a regular knitter, but she was handy with the needles when the mood or necessity struck

Back in those days we wore handmade woolen mittens in Winter and as we grew the supply we had from our childhood in Alaska wore out, so Mom would make new ones. One year she taught me to knit and I never looked back.

Once I was capable of making my own mittens I could choose the color and the yarn and I thought it was fun after I learned to cast-on. At first it looked complicated. Mom's hands whirred along, whipping the strand of yarn around the needle so fast it was a blur.

Then she broke it down for me into a step-by-step format

like I show you here, and I began knitting hats and things, and it sure came in handy when I married and we moved across state to really cold weather country. I knitted a woolen baby bunting and little snowsuits and hats and mittens, and eventually graduated up to making sweaters.

Knitting has always been a fulfilling activity for me. It's a nice passage at the close of the active day, to sit and click the needles for a bit.

At the bottom of this page is a supply list. Because I use double pointed needles frequently I include little point protectors. They are marvelous and stay put at the end of the needle and keep the knitting where it belongs - on the needle. If you use regular needles then you don't need the little gizmos.

Now that you know how to cast-on here's my how-to knit a 50-Cent dishcloth tutorial with pictures.

Time required: twenty minutes to learn; one minute thereafter

Difficulty: easy

Cost: only cost is a scrap of yarn and knitting needle


  • worsted weight yarn


  • knitting needles


1. Wind end of yarn around left index finger from front to back.

Leave short tail end of yarn in front.

*For actual knitting projects I use a longer tail. For this tutorial only I use a short tail so you can see clearly where to hold it. For the washcloth project (link above) I use about a 20" tail for casting on.

2. Anchor first wind of yarn with left thumb on top of short free end of yarn on index finger.

Place yarn connected to ball or skein between left middle finger and third finger, holding so it will not slip

3. Use right hand and pull top wind of yarn under bottom wind, making a loop.

4. Yarn is removed from fingers to show the knot. It is possible to make the knot without using the technique above, but I prefer to do this as shown.

5. Insert needle tip into open end of knot, from back to front.

6. Use left hand index and middle fingers to hold yarns.

Use right hand to gently pull loop tight with the movement of the needle to the right.

7. Loop is gently tight on needle.

*You have now cast-on 1 stitch.

8. Position tail end of yarn around left thumb from back to front, hanging down in front of thumb.

Wrap body of yarn (end attached to ball or skein) from front to back over left index finger.

Hold it in place between left index finger and middle finger, bending index, middle, ring and little fingers over.

9. Holding right needle in a pencil grip, dip point to the front and under the yarn wrapped in front of the left thumb.

Right needle is now parallel to the thumb, under the yarn, pointing to the V between the left thumb and left index finger.

10. Point right needle over and back and under the back loop, drawing the loop forward and under the loop encircling the left thumb.

Pull left thumb towards your body and transfer loop to the right needle.

*You have just cast-on 2 sttiches.

11. Still holding left yarn tail in left hand, pull slightly on yarn ends, and stitch will remain on needle..

12. Apply pressure to yarn threads with left thumb and forefinger and pull needle to right and it will tighten up a bit.

13. Assure that you have tightened the yarn stitches uniformly by wrapping yarn around left thumb and index finger

14. This is what it looks like to have 2 stitches cast-on.

15. This is a repeat of Step 8:

Position tail end of yarn around left thumb from back to front, hanging down in front of thumb.

Wrap body of yarn (end attached to ball or skein) from front to back over left index finger.

Hold it in place between left index finger and middle finger, bending index, middle, ring and little fingers over.

Repeat Step 8 through Step 14 until you have as many stitches on right needle as called for in your pattern.

*Congratulations! you have cast on a row of stitches and you are ready to knit the next row using two needles.

You will soon memorize the steps and will be able to cast-on without looking.

This is a super easy process and will soon become automatic. Are you ready to try it yourself, or do you already have a favorite method of casting on yarn for knitting?


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    • profile image

      Baba 3 years ago

      [14]Yes, Liz you did a beautiful job. I saw some of the qiults and saw her joy in doing them. I am glad that I knew the Lady, Flora, personally. You see she was not only my friend but my 7th grade teacher. She had a love for Kentucky History about as much as qiults. She always took her class to Harodsburg in order for the children to further their education on KY. Her qiults were a joy to look at and all the town knew John Bill and Flora Allen. One daughter was a year ahead of me in school and the other 2 yrs behind. Berea was truly blessed to have such a fine family and Flora truly started a lot of quilters in this town. Thanks for sharing girls.[] Reply:October 14th, 2011 at 9:07 pmThank you Janet for sharing your story with me. It was really an honor to help tell her story. Sorry, it took me so long to reply- it's a new blog host, and I'm on a learning curve .[]

    • georgepmoola2 profile image

      georgepmoola2 4 years ago

      I have never been able to knit but your easy to follow guide makes it all clear. Now to work out how to scroll down through your lens with my hands full of wool and needles.

    • StephanieMangino profile image

      Stephanie Mangino 4 years ago

      Hi there! This is a WONDERFUL introduction to knitting. If you're interested in being our Knitting 101 contributor, please let me know at Thanks so much!

    • DownToEarthLiving profile image

      Evelyn 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I've been crocheting for over 50 years, but no one ever showed me how to knit. Thanks to your great, step-by-step tutorial, I might give it a try. I especially like the time you mentioned - 20 minutes to learn, 2 minute thereafter - works for me!

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      @sousababy: Thanks. It's pretty tricky to hold the yarn just-so when you're so used to going with the flow of the motion.

    • Jerzimom profile image

      Cheryl Fay Mikesell 4 years ago from Ladysmith, WI

      Very basic I like that! It will help learn to knit again. It's been ages!

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 4 years ago

      Excellent step-by-step photos Papier.

    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 4 years ago

      Ahh, you cast on like I do, very easy once you know how!

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      @jennabee25: Thanks and thank you for the reminder. I added the point that it takes a long tail to cast on for a project. I used the short one so readers could see where to place it in looping.

    • jennabee25 profile image

      Jenn Dixon 4 years ago from PA

      I'm a longtail cast on type of girl. You have an excellent tutorial here!