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5 Long-tail Cast-ons for Knitting [Tutorial]



Let's continue the series on knitting tutorials and go back to the very beginning: how to cast on in knitting.


These five cast-on methods are all based on the same technique of holding yarn in your right hand in a slingshot position and casting on with the needle in your left. Learn the first method first — the rest build on the regular long-tail cast-on. The hand movements can look quite complex at first but take it slow the first few times (and you can slow down the videos, too). Soon you'll be longtailing like nobody's business!


1. Long-tail Cast-on

This is the cast-on method most of us knitters learn first. It is a great all-rounder — sturdy yet stretchy — and can be used in most situations or projects. This cast-on method creates a smooth, neat edge that looks great in any type of project, especially in stockinette stitch.


It's a little tricky to guess how long of a tail to leave... and nothing worse than running out of tail mid cast-on! That's why long-tail cast-on is best used when you only have to cast on a few stitches or a few dozen at max, such as for the cuff of a sock or mitten. For bottom-up sweaters, shawls, or any other large projects, check out the next cast-on method.


When to use

  • any time you want a robust yet stretchy edge

  • for a project in stockinette

  • when you don't have to cast on hundreds of stitches


2. Long-tail Cast-on with Two Strands

But what if you're starting a sweater and the pattern tells you to cast on 300 stitches? Use this variation.


Instead of making a slipknot within the yarn, take two balls (or two ends of the same ball) of yarn and slipknot them together. Cast-on as you would normally except now one strand of yarn makes the stitches that go over the needle while the other forms the bottom edge. Once the cast-on is done, just cut off the bottom one (leave a tail you can weave in).


Don't count the first slipknot as a stitch. Instead when you come to it, drop it off the needle and pull to unravel it.


You can even use two different colors of yarn for the two-strand cast-on. This makes a fun-looking edge that could be used to add an interesting contrast to your project.

When to use

  • when you have to cast on lots of stitches

  • for a decorative two-color edge

  • when you want to unravel the cast-on later to work in the opposite direction (also known as provisional cast-on)


3. Twisted German Cast-on (a.k.a. the Old Norwegian)

Watch the hand movements carefully in the video above. Compared with the regular long-tail cast-on, there's a little twist you make with the needle (hence the name Twisted German Cast-on). This little extra twist makes the cast-on method very elastic.


The bottom edge of the Twisted German Cast-on looks bumpier compared to the regular long-tail cast-on which is why it blends in very well if your project is worked in garter stitch.


When to use

  • when you want a stretchy cast-on edge, such as for hats or cuffs

  • for a project in garter stitch



4. Italian Tubular Cast-on

This cast-on method creates an edging that's perfectly invisible in K1, P1 ribbing. The odd-numbered stitches (the knit stitches) are cast on in a very similar way as in the long-tail cast-on method. The even-numbered stitches are cast on in the opposite direction to form a purl bump on the needle.


Instead of starting the ribbing on the next row after the cast-on, work two stabilizing rows first as (K1, sl1 wyif).


When to use

  • when you want a very stretchy cast-on edge

  • for a project in 1x1 ribbing or brioche

  • when you want to have a completely invisible cast-on edge


5. Alternating Long-tail Cast-on

What if your project is worked in K2, P2 ribbing? Or in K3, P1? Use this cast-on method instead.


The video above shows the cast-on in 1x1 rib but the same method can be used to cast on in pattern for any type of rib configuration. Knit stitches are cast on with regular long-tail. Purl stitches are cast on in the opposite direction, grabbing first the yarn that's looped around the index finger.


When to use

  • when you want a very stretchy cast-on edge

  • for a project in any type of ribbing



Have you tried any of these cast-on methods? Let me know in the comments!


I plan to post a knitting tutorial once a month. Next time let's take a closer look at ways you can cast on in the middle of a row in knitting. In the mean time, vote what knitting tutorials you'd like to see in the future.


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Susanna Winter is a knitwear designer, creating timeless and elegant pieces with clean lines. She has been knitting for over 20 years, knit blogging since 2007, and designing knitting patterns professionally since 2016.

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