There are literally hundreds of ways to cast on. It takes time to learn how to know which way is the best way for you and for your particular project. But if you are a beginning knitter there is no need to worry about all those hundreds of ways – just relax! Here is the most basic way to cast on – step by step.
Cable cast on
The cable cast on is what I teach brand-new knitters because it employs the same motions and movements that you make when you knit.
This cast on would be perfect for the bottom of a hat that you want to be a bit stretchy, so it will go on over your big noggin – but not so stretchy that it looses it’s shape and gets larger with time and then falls off your big noggin. It would also work well at the bottom of a sweater or at the cuffs because it will stretch a little but will keep it’s shape over time.
This method is not hard to do, although it might seem a bit complicated at first. Once you have done it a few times it will get much easier. Get a piece of scrap yarn and give it a try.
Twist the yarn around the needle so it created a CLOSED loop over the needle. You don’t need to twist it more than once, just once is enough. (You can use a slip knot here if you wish, but if you don’t know how to make a slip knot this works beautifully.)
Put your right needle into the loop, below the needle, pointing away from you.
Wind your working yarn, not your end (which should be about 7 inches long), around the point of the right hand needle with is pointing away from you. Wind the yarn under then over the point and then toward the right. In the picture the yarn is wound very loosely to show you where it is going, in real life you will want to pull the yarn taut (Not tight, no death-grips, just snug and taut.)
The yarn that you have wound around the point of your right hand needle and pulled snug is the new stitch that you are starting to make. To finish making it you need to pull it through the loop on the left hand needle, do that by pulling to towards you through the loop so it looks like this:
You don’t have to worry about the size of either of the loops, you will be pulling the yarn taut later, right now it’s just important that you get the new stitch through the loop.
Now you have one loop (which is actually your first stitch) on the left hand needle and one loop (which is about to become your second stitch) on the right hand needle. So the next step is to put the new loop onto the left hand needle next to the loop that is already there. To do that pull the new stitch out so it’s big, it can be REALLY big if you want, just pull it out….
Then loop it over the left hand needle like this:
Once it’s on the needle you can pull your working yarn taut so it’s snug. (NOT tight, snug!) And you are done. You just cast on a new stitch. Now go back to step two and repeat Steps 2-5 to create your next new stitch. Continue until you have the number of stitches the pattern calls for.
There is another way to do a cable cast on that is ALMOST exactly the same, but it makes a neater edge.
Follow the directions above steps 1-5. When you want to cast on your third stitch (or any after that) instead of putting your needle into the loop on the left hand needle put the point of your needle between the loops of the last two stitches:
Then continue with Steps 3-5. The only thing different about doing it this way is that it creates a more intricate edge to the cast on.
Tips and Tricks
1. You never want to pull the yarn TIGHT. (This is true for all knitting, not just when you are casting on.) Pulling the yarn tight serves no good purpose it will either loosen up on it’s own and you will be frustrated, or it will stay tight and then when you try to knit the next row you can’t get your needle in between the yarn and the needle and you will be frustrated. (Do you see a trend there?) You want snug, taut pressure not TIGHT.
2. Always leave between 7-10 inches of yarn as a tail when you cast on. This will make your weaving in much less difficult. If you know that you will be sewing a seam from this end then leave a longer tail (12-24 inches) so you will already have yarn ready to sew up the seam. Make sure you don’t knit with this yarn though!! )
3. It is a good idea to cast on with needles that are TWO TIMES bigger than the needle you need to knit the garment. This ensures that the edge is not too tight. The trick is to REMEMBER that you need to stop using the larger needles when you finish casting on and change to the smaller needles the pattern recommends.