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7 Little-Known Cast-on Methods That Will Blow Your Mind

Need a stretchy cast-on? How about a cast-on for a moebius scarf? Or a cast-on method that will destroy Second Sock Syndrome? Check out these little-known cast-on methods

7 little-known cast-on methods

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Can a cast-on method change your life?

Oh, you’d better believe it can!

Once upon a time, I had a distressing problem knitting anything that came in twos (including both socks and mittens). I could never get the two to match.

No matter how carefully I counted rows/rounds or measured, one always turned out longer than the other.

Since mittens and socks are two of my favorite knitting projects, this issue drove me bonkers.

Enter Liat Gat’s fabulous two-at-a-time cast-on method…

What Every Knitting Project Has in Common

From the most basic dishcloth to the most complex sweater or pair of socks, every knitting project has one thing in common.

The cast-on.

It doesn’t matter what you do with your needles and yarn. You could knit every stitch, alternate between knit and purl stitches, or slip or cable or entrelac or mosaic or duplicate or double knit your stitches.

Regardless, somehow, you’ll have to start your project! You’ll need to cast on.

When I first started to knit, I used the knitted cast-on. I think almost everyone learns this method first! It’s perfect for brand-new knitters because you learn how to cast on and how to knit a stitch all at the same time.

Later, I learned the long-tail method. That is the method I used to use in almost every knitting project. Mainly because it’s fast! I love that all I have to do is swing around my needle a few times, and boom, I can start knitting!

(Okay, it’s a little more complex than that. But not much.)

I still use the long-tail cast-on when I want to whip up something really quickly. However, I have a new favorite. It’s the Chinese waitress cast-on, which you’ll find out about shortly!

A Few Alternatives to Long-Tail Cast-On

I had three exceptions to my long-tail cast-on. One: if I’m knitting toe-up socks, obviously the long-tail cast-on will do me no good. For this, I use Judy’s Magic Cast-On or the Turkish cast-on, which you’ll find a little later.

Two: if the pattern I’m knitting tells me to use a different cast-on. If a pattern says to use a particular cast-on method, it probably has a really good reason!

For instance, some patterns need a stretchy cast-on. Others require a very firm cast-on. Still others require flexible cast-ons for later added stitches.

Finally, my third exception is Liat Gat’s Limitless Cast-On for Two-At-A-Time-ANYTHING. This is another method you’ll learn about shortly!

Now then, you’ve waited long enough. Keep reading for several little-known cast-on methods you’ll find extremely useful. And for each method, you’ll find a video tutorial.

7 Little-Known Cast-on Methods

Chinese Waitress Cast-On: When I I discovered this method, I was utterly blown away by it. This method uses both a knitting needle and a crochet hook. Sounds bizarre, I know, but it’s actually quite simple.

To me it looks like a cross between a provisional and a knitted cast-on, with a dash of long-tail for speed. In addition to adding a fun factor, this method is a great way to cast-on stitches in the middle of a project.

You can actually use a knitting needle by itself for this cast-on. However, I’ve found using the crochet hook is easier.

And I know this looks completely insane! But when you try it yourself, you may be surprised at how easy it is to get into a nice rhythm.

What I love most about this method is that it offers the nicest-looking edge I’ve ever seen. That’s why I’ve taken to using it for most of my cast-ons, unless there’s a specific reason it won’t work.

Turkish Cast-On: This was the first toe-up cast-on I learned, and I can’t for the life of me remember why I abandoned it for Judy’s. (Probably because the sock patterns I used called for it.) This is a far easier method!

You will simply wrap yarn around your needles half as many times as the number of stitches to be cast on, and then you knit. The only tricky part here is to make sure your wraps don’t fall off your needle before you start knitting them.

If you want to cast on for toe-up socks with lightning speed, this is the method.you want. I use it all the time now when I knit socks toe-up.

Rib Cable or Alternating Cable Cast-On: This cast-on is very nearly identical to the cable cast-on, with one key difference: every other stitch is pulled from between the stitches in the opposite direction.

The result of this cast-on is a row of 1 x 1 ribbing that renders the cast-on completely invisible!

It creates an extremely stretchy edge ideal for sleeve cuffs, hat brims, sock cuffs, sweater necklines, and so on. (I can’t wait to try this one on my next hat project!)

Estonian Cast-On: Here’s another very stretchy cast-on that can be used for just about anything. It’s very much like the long-tail cast-on, but the second step is long-tail in reverse. In addition to the original version’s simplicity,

I also like the variation (showed here by Nancy Bush) that provides a more decorative element.

Crochet Cast-On: Most of us have heard of provisional cast-ons, using a crochet hook. But did you know that you can just as easily use the same movements to create a traditional cast-on?

Just use your working yarn as you normally would for a cast-on, and this will work just fine. If you’re an established crocheter new to knitting, this is the perfect method for you!

Moebius Cast-On: Let’s get this out of the way: this might be the funkiest cast-on I’ve ever seen.

When you see someone slide a slip knot onto a circular needle cable, and then bravely take a needle tip to it, your first reaction is, “Okay, there’s no way this is going to work.” (At least, that was my first reaction!)

In a way, it’s like a Turkish cast-on in that it involves simple yarn-overs. But in another way, it’s like the long-tail or Chinese waitress cast-on. That is, once you get the hang of it, you’ll get into a rhythm.

It really does work, and if you want to knit a moebius scarf (i.e., an infinity scarf with a twist in it), this is the only way to do so seamlessly. Note: you’ll definitely want to give yourself plenty of time and practice with this one!

The video also shows how to knit the first row of a moebius. Don’t skip this part! Also, I highly recommend viewing this video full-screen for full, glorious detail.

Liat’s Limitless Cast-on for Two-at-a-Time ANYTHING: Here it is: the cast-on that changed my life. Thanks to Liat’s method, I now knit everything that comes in pairs two-at-a-time. My mismatching days are over!

If you have the same problem as I do, or if you suffer the dreaded Second Sock (or Mitten, I suppose!) Syndrome, you really must try this method.

Did you learn a new technique out of these cast-on methods? Which one will you try in your next project? I want to try all of them… I’m even feeling inspired to try a moebius. 

I hope you’ve found a cast-on method that will change your life!

For more cast-on methods, check out this post on how to find the perfect cast-on for your project!

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49 Comments

  1. Well it’s definitely cool to see that Estonian cast-on made the list. Now I know what technique the old ladies that sell their socks at the market use. It’s always useful to “travel the world” to find out things about your own neighbourhood πŸ˜€
    This article has really widened my options, never knew there was such a variety of them! Definitely gonna try the last one and Turkish cast-on for socks.
    There’s one other thing (maybe you can enlighten me about that, too), I have been taught that when knitting the ball yarn runs over my left hand index finger, not the right one (so in knit stich there’s no extra move- you just put the needle through the stich, grab the ball yarn and pull it through). Only when I started watching knit tutorials on the internet did I find out that everyone’s doing it in reverse. Is that also something specific to the location or are there just different teachings and I haven’t encountered those similar to mine in videos?

    1. Hello Mareta! I gather from your comment that you live in Estonia — how delightful! I highly recommend the Turkish cast-on — it’s so easy and really does create a remarkably stable toe for socks. As for your question about cast-ons, I suspect it has to do with whether one is a so-called “English” or “Continental” knitter, also sometimes called a “thrower” or a “picker.” Basically an “English” knitter — a “thrower”– holds yarn in their right hand and “throws” the yarn around the right-hand needle. A “Continental” knitter — or “picker” holds yarn in their left hand and “picks” the yarn to create stitches. I’m guessing that the knitting tutorials you’ve seen are by “English throwers” and that’s why the yarn runs the way you have observed. I myself am a “Continental picker,” and I’m guessing you are as well. Some people are actually taught to “pick” or “throw” and stay that way. I started out as a “thrower” but then, quite randomly, one day began to “pick” instead and I’ve done it since. Sorry for the rambling answer, haha!

    1. Unfortunately, it looks to me like Grundl (the brand responsible for this line) has discontinued Melun. Sorry! πŸ˜• If anyone knows of a place that sells discontinued yarns please let us know!

  2. I have found that on the 2 at a time cast on I loosely tie my tails at the bottom together or use a stitch marker that you can open and pin the sides together so I don’t start back the wrong way if I don’t get a full row across, It also keeps the knitted fabric closer together with out fighting it.

  3. My fall-back cast on is the long tail method, because that’s what my grandmother taught me when I was six. (Not saying how many years ago that was.) When I have a large number of stitches and don’t want to run out of yarn I use two balls of yarn, or pull from the center and exterior of the ball. I make a slip knot with both yarns, put it on the needle, and cast away. Snip the non-working yarn after you’ve cast on,m leaving enough to weave in. Don’t count the slip knot in your cast on stitches, and when you work your way back to it, just slide it off the needle. Yes, you have two more ends to weave in, but no tears of frustration when you run low.

    1. What a great tip, Kim! Thanks for sharing! I’ll definitely try this the next time I have a ton of stitches to cast on.

  4. I have a simple way of starting a tip down mitten or sock that I’ve always wanted to share. Try it and tell me what you think. Cast on 8 stitches with a long tail. Then k1p1 across using the tail yarn for the knits and keeping the ball yarn in front for the purls. Knit another row back the same way, then slip the stitches off the needle. You will have a tiny square with 4 live stitches on each end. Just slip two needles in. I’ve never seen anyone else do this, but it’s so much easier than working a cast on over two needles.

    1. It’s a stock photo, but I did a little digging and I believe it’s Max Grundl’s Melun yarn. It’s a nylon/wool/acrylic bulky-weight yarn.

  5. I am doing the Chinese waitress cast on and I love it. I have 373 stitches to cast on and this is perfect for those large number of stitches. Also the finished line under the stitches is beautiful. Thank you for this post and these lovely options.

  6. Love the video for two at a time. I think it would be pretty easy to modify for 2 circs instead of magic loop, too. What I can’t figure out though is the Knitting in the back when continental Knitting. J agree that it is easier, but how does it not twist your stitches? Thanks for the videos and such good instructions. I’ll come back and review the others when I’m Knitting something other than socks!

    1. Hi Mary! I’m not sure I know what you mean by “knitting in the back when continental knitting.” Although I do frequently intentionally knit through the back loops after I cast on (for just about anything) just to make that first row more secure. It does twist the stitches, but to my eye it doesn’t look bad.

      If you meant something else, let me know! πŸ™‚

    2. It won’t twist if it’s the easiest way to enter the stitch, whether front or back. I know that sounds a bit confusing, but I have found that whichever way is the easiest when putting the needle into the stitch will prevent twisting. It’s not a rule that in continental that you enter into the stitch through the back; if the front of the stich loop is forward, knit into the front of the loop. If the back of the stich loop is forward (which would make it awkward to put the needle through the loop from the front), take the easier, non-awkward route, by knitting into the back. Hope that isn’t too confusing

  7. How fun Nicole! I started knitting a pair of socks recently (yes sometimes I do put my hook down and knit!!) and used the Old Norwegian Cast On instead of my go to cast on, The Long Tail Cast On, which I teach my students. I am very impressed with the Old Norwegian Cast On – it’s really stretchy.

  8. I love ‘Extra Stretchy Cast On for Ribbing’ by Lorraine L. Although it’s intended for rib, I use it for casting almost everything that doesn’t require a tight cast on.

  9. Your instructions for the Chinese Waitress Cast On are so clear and concise…you are a natural born teacher! It is the only one. Have watched thus far so I am eager to watch the rest when Tim e allows!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed that video, Laura! Would love to take credit for it, but it’s not my video. I wish it were, haha. I agree that it’s an incredibly clear and concise video, and I can’t wait to try out that cast-on!

  10. This is absolutely brilliant! Thank you SO much! Looking forward to using the Turkish cast on video for my next project. The YO increase and knitting through the back loop is so smart! I’m subscribing and looking forward to more of your videos. Cheers!

  11. These are really great! I have been a fan of the Chinese Waitress cast on for at least a year now. I learned how to do it from Mimi’s video. She’s a really awesome teacher. I despise long-tail cast on mainly because of two reasons. One, I never could figure out the right amount of yarn necessary. Either I didn’t have enough or too much yarn. Really annoying. Two, I have a tendency to knit tightly and the long-tail cast on was always extremely tight with no give at all. But the Chinese Waitress cast on solved both of those issues.

    Most of the rest of the cast on’s on your list I was not familiar with or have never tried. I’m looking forward to exploring. Thanks for the information!

    1. So sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to this — it got caught in my spam filter somehow! Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed the article! I tried out the alternating cable cast-on for a hat pattern I’m working on and boy, it looks fabulous with a ribbed edge. I really want to try the Chinese waitress cast-on soon myself. Thanks for commenting!

    2. I find that the length required for a longtail cast on can be estimated by wrapping the yarn around the needle about ten times, then unwrapping it to “measure” how much yarn that number of stitches takes. Then I just extend the tail by that amount for the required number of stitches and add a bit extra. Works really well.

      1. Great suggestion, will definitely try that the next time I use a long-tail cast-on. Thanks for sharing!

      2. For longtail cast-on I just make a slip knot, place on needle and cast on with one strand of yarn. No problems with measuring or guessing!

      1. EEK! Who knits s o c k s? Think you do in the US but not nearly so much in the UK! Buy em cheap, wear em out, throw em away…. But I love all the other tips, thank you. I wonder what my dear old nan and mum would have thought of it all. Lifetime knitters but within very narrow boundaries compared with today. And mum never succeeded in getting me hooked (sorry) on crochet. Erm, now I think of it though, guess they DID make socks!!!

        1. Lol, Marilyn, you might be surprised at the number of people who knit socks. I’m utterly hooked on them myself! You ought to try them sometime. They’re a lot of fun. 😁