Finding the right cast on

A visitor to the UK Hand Knitting stand at a recent craft show asked what the best cast on to use is.

This is something that instantly starts a lot of debate because there are so many ways to start knitting, and many of us have a favourite cast on we will usually choose. And some knitters get better results from one approach and others from another.

So the answer to our visitor’s question is probably: “One that you get consistent results from and which gives you an edge you like.”

However, it is useful to know about more than one cast on, so with this in mind here is a quick look at some common types.

Knit on cast on


knitted cast on

This is a cast on that you may have been introduced to when you were learning to knit because it uses the same actions as the knit stitch up to the last step, which means a very new knitter has less to get to grips with.

It is a very quick cast on but it can be a little loose, as above where the bottom of the swatch flares a little. This means it can be useful for starting projects where you need some extra give such as a shawl.

Cable cast on

cable cast on knitting

In the cable cast on, stitches are created by inserting the right hand needle behind the last stitch on the left hand one. It gives a firmer edge than the knitted on version and is quite elastic, making it a good choice for lots of projects, especially if you like the look of the edging.

Long-tail cast-on

long tal cast on knitting

When you see the long tail cast on being worked for the first time, it can look quite complicated and you will come across variations of the technique. But it is worth trying out. It gives a very good edge for ribbing in particular and is very useful for socks for example

If you only use one type of cast on at the moment, why not click on the headings above to learn a new one. Until you are confident using it on a full project, you could practice by casting on tension squares and see how your new cast on behaves in different yarns.

Once you have mastered a few different cast ons, you can try some of the more unusual and decorative versions. For example the one pictured below uses four strands of yarn.

cast on 4

What cast on do you prefer? Tell us below



Your knitting tips

We recently asked our Facebook followers if they had any handy hints or tips to share with their fellow yarnies and collected some great ideas for you. We want to regularly share great ideas like this so please add your own tips in the comments or share them on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Victoria Harvey: Learn another way of holding the yarn, i.e. continental style if you are a “traditional English style” knitter. As well as making colourwork a doddle, if you get sore hands you can swap for a while thus having a rest without having to stop.

continental knitting

Nici Patchett: Having arthritis in my wrists, if I’ve got a lot of stitches to cast off it can really hurt! So I use a crochet hook instead. Knit my stitches on the hook, then pull through instead of constantly hurting my wrist to pass over stitches.

crochet cast off


Highgate Knitters’ Group: When you are casting on a lot of stitches it can be difficult to keep count. Make some loops of contrasting scrap yarn and slip one on to the needle every 20 cast on stitches. That way you only have to count back to the last marker loop, rather than count from the start all the time. When you knit the first row you just remove the temporary markers as you go.

casting on tips

And one from the UKHKA team. Bronagh says: “If you have a large pattern stash, it is a good idea to sort though them from time to time – perhaps rearrange your shelves. I did it last week and found the perfect baby present pattern – something I wouldn’t have remembered or thought of.”