Short-Tail or Long-Tail? The Fundamental Difference Between Cast-Ons
All the cast-ons in the world can be divided into two categories: short-tail cast-ons and long-tail cast-ons. In a long-tail cast-on, two strands of yarn are used: the working yarn and a long piece of tail yarn.
You can ONLY use a long-tail cast-on to START a knitting project, because when you're in the middle of a project, you only have one strand of yarn available to you.
If you need to cast on in the middle of a project, you can always do a short-tail cast-on, in other words, a cast-on that requires only one strand of yarn.
The "short tail" refers to the six-inch tail you leave hanging from the slipknot to be woven in later.
Which to choose?
Long-tail cast-ons are generally much faster to do, although until you get good at estimating how much tail you'll need, you might waste yarn if you estimate too much.
When you are casting on for the beginning of a project, you will generally be casting on a large amount of stitches, so choose a long-tail cast-on unless there is a short-tail cast-on whose edge you greatly prefer.
Popular long-tail cast-ons are:
- the Long-Tail cast-on,
- the Old Norwegian cast-on
- the Double-Start (Estonian) cast-on, and
- the Channel Island cast-on.
If you are in the middle of a project and your pattern calls for you to cast on more stitches, choose a short-tail cast-on.
Some of my favorite short-tail cast-ons are:
- the Cable cast-on,
- Tillybuddy's cast-on, and
- the Chinese Waitress cast-on.
Video explanations of all these cast-ons and more available in...
This lesson is a small part of the upcoming video knitting course, The KnitFreedom Video Guide To Cast-Ons, coming out in early May 2013. Watch your email inbox for updates!
KnitFreedom pattern that uses a short-tail cast-on to cast-on in the middle of a project: “It’s Time to Knit!” Leftover Sock Yarn Wall Clock Pattern
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Related Course: Guide to Cast-Ons
"If you're one of those knitters who likes to find out the best way to do things, this video series is definitely for you." -Sarah E. White, Editor of About.com Knitting
Learn 50 unique ways to start your knitted projects, using stretchy cast-ons, invisible cast-ons, center-start cast-ons, and more.