Chinese Waitress Cast-On + Bind-Off
Stretchy Cast-On and Bind-Off for Garter Stitch + More
The Stretchy Cast-On You've Been Looking For All Your Life
Ordinary cast-ons are not reversible and don’t look great with every fabric. This tutorial teaches you how to correctly do the Chinese Waitress Cast-On so you can have a go-to stretchy, reversible cast-on that looks great on garter stitch, blankets, Brioche stitch, and more.
- What is the Chinese Waitress Cast-On?
- Surprise: You’ve Been Doing it Wrong
- How to Correctly Do the Chinese Waitress Cast-On
- Variations on the Chinese Waitress Cast-On
- The Perfect Cast-On for Garter Stitch
- Frequent Questions About the Chinese Waitress Cast-On
- Chinese Waitress Matching Bind-Off: The Double-Chain Cast-Off
- Suggested Patterns for Practice
- Leave a Comment
What Is the Chinese Waitress Cast-On?
The Chinese Waitress Cast-On is a stretchy, reversible short-tail cast-on published in Cap Sease’s incredible 2012 resource, Cast-On, Bind-Off, 211 Ways to Begin and End Your Knitting. It creates a beautiful, stretchy double chain of stitches along the cast-on edge.
It is useful and highly recommended for Garter stitch, any reversible project like scarves or blankets, and stretchy projects like Brioche.
It is not hard to do and, with a little practice, you can get very fast at doing it. Ready to learn? Jump straight into the Chinese Waitress Cast-On tutorial.
But first, you’re about to discover what every other online tutorial (including my own from 2013) has missed, until now. We’ve been doing the Chinese Waitress Cast-On wrong.
Surprise: You've Been Doing it Wrong
Amazingly, until now, 100% of video tutorials on the Internet (including my own previous tutorial) showed the Chinese Waitress Cast-On wrong.
Teachers missed the fact that you had to physically un-twist each stitch before re-inserting your needle. When you leave out the extra twist, the bind-off is tight, not as stretchy, and, most importantly, it’s hard to pull each stitch through, leading people to resort to using a crochet hook.
When I corresponded with Cap Sease earlier this month, I was shocked to learn that not only was I teaching it wrong, everyone else was, too!
You deserve accurate tutorials and guides. I’ve worked with author Cap Sease to confirm that the technique shown here is 100% accurate and corrects the problems that were wrong in all pre-existing videos.
To understand why it’s so important to do the Chinese Waitress Cast-On correctly:
- Watch the two videos below to discover what most people get wrong about the Chinese Waitress Cast-On and why it matters
- Grab some needles and scrap yarn
- Try the correct version and see how much better it is
What Most People Get Wrong About the Chinese Waitress Cast-On
Most tutorials don’t teach you how to un-twist each Chinese Waitress Cast-On stitch correctly, which leads to a twisted and less-stretchy cast-on. This video shows you how to do it the right way so that your Chinese Waitress Cast-On is 100% as stretchy as it should be.
Most tutorials online (including my original Chinese Waitress Cast-On tutorial) teach that as you create each new stitch, you remove the right needle and re-insert it into the stitch from front to back. This is wrong or at best incomplete.
The right way to do it is to remove the right needle and use your fingers to un-twist the stitch. You should give the stitch a 180-degree turn towards you. You’ll know you’ve done it right if the right leg of the stitch moves when you pull on the working yarn. Now you can re-insert the right needle and continue with the Chinese Waitress cast-on.
The Difference Between the Chinese Waitress Cast-On Edge - Right and Wrong Way
The Chinese Waitress Cast-On done the way you normally see it taught leaves a twisted, less-stretchy edge than the author intended. This video shows the difference between the Chinese Cast-On edge when done the right way and the wrong way so that you can know why it’s important to knit it the right way.
When done the wrong way (the way you normally see it taught), the Chinese-Waitress Cast-On edge is made of twisted stitches and it does not stretch as much as when it is done the right way. It also lays flat and reveals more of its underside edge.
The Chinese Waitress Cast-On done correctly has an even, stretchy edge that curls up slightly on Stockinette stitch. It makes two chains of perfectly straight stitches that show prominently on the edge of the knit fabric.
How to Correctly Do the Chinese Waitress Cast-On
Most tutorials teach the Chinese Waitress Cast-On wrong. This officially sanctioned video shows the correct technique so you can create a beautiful, reversible, stretchy cast-on.
The Chinese Waitress Cast-On Shortcut
Un-twisting each stitch on the Chinese Waitress Cast-On takes time. This video shows how to twist the needle so you can continue casting on without having to remove it and un-twist each stitch with your fingers.
To do this Chinese Waitress Cast-On shortcut, after you bring each stitch through, twist the needle to the left, away from you, and bring it back up to cross under the left needle.
Check to make sure you’ve done it right by pulling the working yarn. It should be the right leg of the stitch. Thanks to KnitFreedom reader Sherry of The Dabbler’s Creations for suggesting this shortcut!
Chinese Waitress Cast-On: Written Instructions
To do the Chinese Waitress Cast-On:
Place a slipknot on the left-hand needle. Leave a short tail (6″). The slipknot does not count as a cast-on stitch and will be removed later.
Cross the right-hand needle behind the left-hand needle, to the right of the slipknot.
Tension the yarn in your right hand.
Bring the yarn up and over the left-hand needle, then around the back of the right-hand needle in a figure-8 motion.
Pull the stitch on the right-hand needle through the two loops on the left-hand needle.
6. Twist the right needle down and to the left, away from you, and then bring it back up to cross under the left needle.
**REGULAR VERSION (NON SHORTCUT)**
6. Remove the right-hand needle from the stitch.
7. With your fingers, un-twist the stitch towards you so that the right side of the loop is the one coming from the working yarn.
8. Re-insert the right needle into the stitch from front to back, crossing it behind the left-hand needle.
9. Bring the yarn up and over the left-hand needle, then around the back of the right-hand needle in a figure-8 motion (this is the same as step 4).
10. Pull the stitch you just made between the two loops on the left-hand needle and, in the same movement, through the stitch already on the right-hand needle.
11. Repeat steps 6-10 until you have cast on one less than the number of stitches required for your project, not counting the slipknot.
12. Slip the stitch that is on the right-hand needle to the left-hand needle. The left needle should go in from front-to-back. This is your last cast-on stitch.
13. You have completed the cast-on. When you knit the first row and come to the slipknot, remove it from the left-hand needle and give the tail yarn a tug. The slipknot will undo.
Variations on the Chinese Waitress Cast-On
You can customize the way you do the Chinese Waitress Cast-On to fit your project and your preferences. Here are two variations of the cast-on and two different ways to use it on your projects:
The Chinese Waitress Cast-On With a Crochet Hook
Most crochet hook tutorials for the Chinese Waitress Cast-On result in a twisted cast-on which is not as stretchy as the real thing. This video shows you how to correctly wrap your yarn around the crochet hook and how to twist the crochet hook under the needle with each stitch so you don’t have to remove it from the stitch and un-twist it with your fingers.
When doing the Chinese Waitress Cast-On with a crochet hook, make sure to wrap the yarn around the back of the crochet hook in a figure-8 motion. Then, when you pull the stitch through, twist the crochet hook down and to the left, away from you, and then back up to cross under the left needle. This will un-twist the stitch and get you ready for the next stitch without having to remove the crochet hook.
The Chinese Waitress Cast-On Continental Style
When you do the Chinese Waitress Cast-On Continental-style, the stitches can tend to slip off your needles. This video shows you how to stabilize your stitches so that you can do the Chinese Waitress Cast-On without having to tension the yarn in your right hand.
Adding Stitches in the Middle of a Project Using The Chinese Waitress Cast-On
Casting on more stitches in the middle of a project can feel strange if you’ve never done it before. This video shows you how to cast on extra stitches using the Chinese Waitress cast-on so you can have a stretchy, reversible edge in the middle of your project.
Using the Chinese Waitress Cast-On When Knitting in the Round
If you’re new to Magic Loop, doing the Chinese Waitress Cast-On in the round can seem overwhelming. This video shows you every step so you can cast on for your next hat with confidence.
Chinese Waitress: The Perfect Cast-On for Garter Stitch
When knitting samples for this post, I was delighted to discover that the Chinese Waitress Cast-On looks amazing and is super-stretchy on Garter stitch. It makes a strong, solid edge that looks great and does justice to this simple but beautiful fabric. I highly recommend you use the Chinese Waitress Cast-On as your go-to cast-on for Garter stitch.
In the video below I show you a comparison of Garter stitch knit with the Long-Tail Cast-On and the Standard Bind-Off vs. the Chinese Waitress Cast-On and Chinese Waitress Bind-Off. I think you’ll agree that the Chinese Waitress versions are far better.
Ordinary cast-ons are not reversible and don’t look amazing on Garter stitch. The video above compares the Chinese Waitress Cast-On and the Long-Tail Cast-On on Garter stitch so you can see why the former should be your go-to cast-on for Garter stitch.
Frequent Questions About the Chinese Waitress Cast-On
1. How stretchy is the Chinese Waitress Cast-On?
The Chinese Waitress Cast-On is a medium-stretchy cast-on. It has about 40% stretch. For comparison, the Long-Tail cast-on has 25% stretch.
2. What is the stretchiest cast-on?
3. What cast-ons do you recommend for ribbing?
4. What is the Chinese Waitress Cast-On good for?
The Chinese Waitress Cast-On is fantastic for fabrics like Garter stitch, reversible projects like scarves, cowls, and blankets, and Brioche stich, which is reversible and stretchy. I suggest some projects here.
The Chinese Waitress Cast-On is also perfect for projects where the cast-on and bind-off edges are visible at the same time and you want them to match. See below for the matching bind-off.
5. Why is it called the Chinese Waitress Cast-On?
Cast-On, Bind-Off author Cap Sease’s Chinese-American friend, Mary Hu, was in a Hong Kong restaurant when a waitress there showed her this ingenious cast-on. The cast-on is named for for the Chinese waitress who first taught it.
6. Isn’t saying “Chinese Waitress” racist?
Some knitters have taken offense to the name of this cast-on and feel that it is racist. Author Cap Sease explains in her book that the cast-on was taught to her friend, who herself is Chinese-American, by a Chinese waitress in a Hong Kong restaurant. Since racism is defined as prejudice against a person based on their belonging to a particular racial or ethnic group, I would argue that there is no racism involved here, just the facts.
7. When doing the Chinese Waitress Cast-On, it’s hard for me to pull each stitch through the one on the needle. Do you have any tips?
Yes. I’ve found that it helps to make each stitch a little bigger as you pull the stitch through the one on the needle. Just pull the needle a bit more to make the stitch larger. When you un-twist the stitch and re-insert the needle, don’t pull the working yarn very tight or snug up the new stitch very much on the needle.
These two tips should help you create stitches that are not too tight, allowing you to easily pull each new stitch through the previous one.
Also, make sure to pull each stitch through the one on the needle in one smooth motion.
8. What is the matching bind-off to the Chinese Waitress Cast-On?
9. Are there other cast-ons that have matching bind-offs?
Yes! Here is a list of matching cast-ons and bind-offs that you can refer to to create your perfectly-matching edges. At the time of this writing, some of the linked tutorials are restricted to those who have purchased our Bind-Off and Cast-On libraries.
The Matching Chinese Waitress (Double-Chain) Cast-Off
Now you’re in for a treat. Not only is the Chinese Waitress Cast-On stretchy, reversible, and perfect for Garter stitch, it also has a fantastically stretchy and identical-looking matching cast-off: the Double-Chain cast-off. The video below demonstrates how to do it.
When you do the Chinese Waitress Cast-On on a reversible project, a standard bind-off doesn’t quite match and certainly isn’t as stretchy. The double-chain cast-off creates an edge identical to the Chinese Waitress Cast-On so that you can enjoy the way your starting and finishing edges look when next to each other.
Many thanks to Ann Kingstone and her original post on the Chinese Waitress Bind-Off she invented.
Matching Chinese Waitress (Double-Chain) Cast-Off: Written Instructions
To do the Chinese Waitress (Double-Chain) Cast-Off:
1. Purl the first stitch, wrapping the yarn clockwise around the needle (this is opposite to the way you normally do).
3. Purl the next stitch, again wrapping the yarn clockwise.
4. Pass the yarnover over the first stitch on the right-hand needle.
5. Pass the second stitch over the first stitch on the right-hand needle.
6. Repeat steps 2-5 until all stitches are bound off.
7. Cut the yarn, leaving a 6-inch tail for weaving in. Pull through last stitch.
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Patterns for Practicing The Chinese Waitress Cast-On
Brioche projects are reversible and stretchy and their cast-ons should be, too. This easy basic two-color Brioche hat from KnitFreedom shows off the contrasting color Chinese-Waitress cast-on to perfection.
Are You Going to Try This Cast-On? Leave a Comment
Are you going to try the updated, corrected version of the Chinese Waitress Cast-On presented here? Have you had any frustrations with the Chinese Waitress Cast-On? I’d love to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment and let me know!