Guide to Cast-Ons
Introduction to Cast-Ons
I learned so much about cast-ons while recording this video guide. I know that every time I start a project from now on, I’m going to pick a new cast-on from among these techniques. I hope you are as inspired as I was by all these options. Happy knitting!
There are some basics in this section and the next that you should review before you start exploring the cast-ons in this course.
Important Concepts (below):
- What is a cast-on?
- Choosing the right cast-on
- Understanding the difference between short- and long-tail cast-ons
Basic Techniques (next section):
- Estimating how much tail you’ll need
- Making a slipknot
- Putting your hands in the “slingshot” position
Ready to cast on? Let’s get started.
What Is a Cast-On?
Casting on is what you do when you put stitches on the needle at the beginning of your project so that you can start to knit. Most knitters know one cast-on: the one they were taught when they first learned how to knit.
If this is the case with you, know that there’s no reason to limit yourself to a few basic cast-ons.
Regardless of which cast-on you learned when you first started knitting, there is probably a cast-on out there that is faster, easier, prettier or more interesting, or just better suited to your project – and that’s where this book comes in.
So dive in and enjoy the variety of cast-ons available to you. I’ll guide you through choosing the right cast-on in the sections below.
Short-Tail or Long-Tail? The Two Types of Cast-Ons
There are two types of cast-ons out there: 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 another 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 (the yarn coming off the ball, i.e. the working yarn).
Long-tail cast-ons are generally fast and recommended. The only challenge is estimating exactly how much tail you’ll need: you might waste a little yarn if you estimate too much or have to get creative if you estimate too little.
When you are casting on for the beginning of a project, where you will generally be casting on a large amount of stitches, choose a long-tail cast-on unless there is a short-tail cast-on whose edge you greatly prefer.
A short-tail cast-on can be used anywhere in your project. 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.
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.
You can also use a short-tail cast-on at the beginning of your project, especially if you prefer the way it looks. Many knitters love to start their reversible projects (baby blankets, scarves, etc.), with the Chinese-Waitress Cast-On, a famous and interesting short-tail cast-on.
The cast-ons in this guide are divided into long-tail cast-ons and short-tail cast-ons, so it will be easy for you to pick one.
Choosing The Right Cast-On
The easiest way to choose a cast-on is to do whichever one your pattern calls for. You can find it by scanning the list of cast-ons by name in the sidebar menu of this page.
However, many patterns just say “Cast on xyz number of stitches” – they don’t specify which kind of cast-on to use. If that’s the case, you have to use your best judgment and pick one.
The most common, all-purpose cast-on for starting a project is the Long-Tail Cast-On. It’s fast and easy and you can use it to begin any project.
Soon, however, you’ll be ready to branch out and, instead of using a basic, catch-all cast-on, you’ll feel like choosing one that is ideally suited to your project.
First you’ll need to decide whether you need a long-tail cast-on or a short-tail cast-on (see above).
Once you decide on a long-tail or short-tail cast-on, read through the cast-ons in that category and choose one that looks the way you want (there are close-up photos of each cast-on by its entry) and has the characteristics that you need (stretchy, invisible, reversible, fast, etc.).
There’s no “wrong” cast-on to use, so don’t be afraid to try a new one.
You’ll learn as you go which ones work well with certain types of projects and fabrics. I also mention as much as possible in this guide which cast-ons are suited for which types of projects.
List of Matching Bind-Offs and Cast-Ons
Many knitters like to have a bind-off that matches their cast-on perfectly. With the table below, you can plan your project perfectly from the get-go.
Here are all the cast-ons in this course that have matching bind-offs (links go to videos in the I Love Bind-Offs course)