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Invisible Cast-on for Toe-up Socks [TUTORIAL]

The Willowbug MKAL started on Monday so I thought I'd share my new favorite method for casting on toe-up socks.

When I wrote my previous post on toe-up sock cast-ons (Toes First! 5 Ways to Cast on Toe-up Socks) I hadn't even heard of this method. If I had, it would definitely be on the list! The invisible cast-on is quick to do, easy to remember, and doesn't result in those sloppy first two rows you sometimes get with Turkish or Figure 8 cast-ons. It has that same mind-bendy element of knitting into the base of the stitch as Aggie's Simple Cast-on and, best of all, it can also be used for TAAT magic loop knitting. But there is one quirk that needs to be taken care of: re-mounting stitches (twice).

What is the Invisible Cast-on?

The invisible cast-on is a type of closed cast-on that can be used on any project in which you need a seamless, closed beginning. That could be any object that has a closed, bag-shaped bottom, such as pouches, pillow cases, top-down mittens or — what I'm demonstrating in this post — toe-up socks.

I learnt the invisible cast-on on the 10 Rows a Day YouTube channel which is packed full of superb video tutorials for a range of knitting techniques. I've tried to look for it on other sources but haven't been able to find it. It isn't included either in Leslie Ann Bestor's nor in Cap Sease's Cast On, Bind Off, for instance. (Yes, there really are two books with the same title!) Maryna of 10 Rows of Days says they saw it first in a tutorial for toe-up socks but unfortunately doesn't remember the author.

The invisible cast-on is a close relative to (or the secret lovechild of?) two other cast-on techniques: the closed-toe cast-on and Rita Buchanan’s moebius cast-on. I've known the first cast-on method as Aggie's Simple Cast-on but in Cap Sease's book it's attributed to Janet Rehfeldt, the author of Toe-Up Techniques for Hand-Knit Socks and Terrific Toe-Up Socks. Whereas Aggie's/Janet's method is based on the long-tail cast-on, the invisible cast-on uses backwards loop instead.

Rita Buchanan’s moebius cast-on (also featured in Cap Sease's book) is based on the forward loop (e-loop) cast-on, is done alternating knits and purls, and — as the name suggests — is used to cast on a true moebius instead of a closed bottom.

Combine aspects of the two and you've got the invisible cast-on. Here's how it goes!

How to Work the Invisible Cast-on

The invisible cast-on is best done on a circular needle. There's a step in the cast-on process in which you'll need the bendiness of a flexible cable. If you're casting on a just a small number of stitches, it can also be done on double-pointed needles but beware that things can get a bit tricky.

Casting on

Step 1. Make a slipknot and cast on stitches using the backwards loop cast-on.

1. Make a slipknot. Holding the needle in your right hand and using the backwards loop cast-on, cast on half the number of stitches required. The working yarn comes between the stitches from back to front to the ball.

Slipknot + 12 stitches cast on using the backwards loop method.

Don't count the slipknot – it'll be dropped later. Here I've cast on 12 stitches to make a 24-stitch toe.

Step 2. Turn the work and slide stitches to the other end of the cable.

2. Turn the work as if you're about to start the first row (but don't do it just yet). Slide the stitches to the other end of the needle but leave them on the cable portion of the circular. This gives a bit of extra flexibility that's needed in step 4.

Step 3. Rotate the work, working yarn comes from top right.

3. Rotate the stitches upside down so that the working yarn is coming off the top right.

Step 4. Knit into top bar between each stitch.

4. With the right needle tip, knit into the top bar between each stitch. Make sure to start with the very first one that's right next to the working yarn. (If you're using DPNs, this step might be a bit tight. Use a second needle to knit into the top bar.)

12 stitches on top needle; 12 stitches + slipknot on bottom needle.

You should now have n stitches on the top needle and n+1 on the bottom needle, the "plus one" being the slipknot made in the beginning of step 1.

Working the First Round

Now you've cast on the stitches but there's still a couple of more tricks to do before everything's sorted out.

Step 5. Drop and undo the slipknot.

5. Rotate your work so that you're again in the beginning of the round; needle tips point to the right. Drop the slipknot off the top needle and tug the tail to undo the knot. Hold onto both yarns to prevent the stitches from unraveling!

Step 6. Remount and knit all the stitches on the top needle through the back loop.

6. The stitches on the first half of the round are mounted in such a way that, if knit straight up, would end up doubly twisted. To remount a stitch, poke the working needle tip into it from back to front and slip it off. Place the stitch back on the holding needle, now with the left leg in front of the needle (reverse mount). That's one twist straightened out.

7. To straighten the second twist, knit the stitch through the back loop. (You could also re-orient the stitch a second time, then knit through the front loop… but that's a bit of unnecessary work.) Do this re-orientation rigmarole for all the stitches on the top needle. You've now worked the first half of the first round.

8. The second half is much easier: just knit all stitches normally! They're already in Western mount with the right leg in front of the needle so no re-orientation is needed.

You've now cast on stitches using the invisible cast-on method, worked the first round, and are ready to start toe increases.

As a Provisional Cast-on

Like all closed cast-ons, the invisible cast-on can also be used as a provisional cast-on method. To do this, work all the casting-on steps 1 through 4 like above.

Next, you'll need to remount the stitches on the top needle. Instead of knitting them, they'll be slipped to the working needle, then transferred onto a holder. For a small amount of stitches I like to use a safety pin or a locking stitch marker.

Step 5B. Slip the slipknot.

5B. First, slip the slipknot — don't drop it this time!

Step 6B. Remount each stitch twice and slip them on the working needle.

6B. Remount each stitch twice: slip the stitch from back to front, then place it back on the holding needle in its new orientation. Slip from back to front again and now leave the stitch on the working needle after slipping.

Step 7B. Place remounted stitches on a holder.

7B. You've now changed the orientation of the stitches on the top needle. Slide them all onto a holder, including the slipknot.

Step 8B. Work back and forth on live stitches.

8B. Turn your work and start working back and forth on the live stitches. The stitches on holder are secured away until you next need them. When it's time to work the stitches from the provisional cast-on edge, you can drop and unravel the slipknot.

Here I've used the invisible cast-on as a provisional cast-on and worked a few rows back and forth – the beginnings of a garter-tab cast-on.


Pin this post!

Try the invisible cast-on for toe-up socks with this step-by-step photo tutorial! The invisible cast-on is a type of closed cast-on that can be used on any project that's closed at the bottom, such as pouches, bags, pillow cases, top-down mittens or — what's demonstrated in this post — toe-up socks. The invisible cast-on is quick to do, easy to remember, doesn't result in sloppy first rows, and can also be used for two-at-a-time magic loop knitting. #knitting #knit #caston #toeup #sockknitting

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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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