How to do the knitted cast on

A step by step tutorial on the knitted cast on and everything you need to know about it

The knitted cast on is perhaps the most versatile cast on technique in knitting. You can not only use it to begin your project, you can also use it to increase the stitch count at the beginning of a row mid-project. A lot of bind off techniques, like the i-cord or the picot bind off, also make use of it.

a close up of the edge of a knitted cast on

In this tutorial, I want to show you how to knit the knitted cast on step by step. I will also show you some fun variations, like the knitted cast on purlwise, and how to calculate yarn requirements.

A swatch with a knitted cast on in a blue cotton yarn
A swatch with a knitted cast on (cotton yarn)

This technique creates a somewhat looser edge that, depending on the yarn, tends to form little ornamental holes. For some patterns, this can look awesome, while for others a longtail cast on might be a bit better.

So, let’s dive right into it, eh?

Instructions

A knitted cast on on the needles as seen from above

The best part about the knitted cast on is that it’s super easy and great for beginners. It basically boils down to knitting a knit stitch without dropping it and slipping the knitted stitch back on the left needle over and over again. Here are the step by step instructions:

Step 1: You begin with a simple slip knot.

a single slip knot on a knitting needle

Step 2: Then, you insert your right needle into the slip knot from left to right and hold the working yarn in the back.

Inserting the right needle from left to right as if to knit

Step 3: Wrap the working yarn around the right needle counter-clockwise.

wrapping the yarn around the right needle

Step 4: Pull the yarn through the loop.

pulling the yarn through the loop for the first cast on stitch

Step 5: Now, don’t drop the slip knot loop as you would when knitting a normal knit stitch. Instead, keep it on the needle and slip the just knitted stitch back on the left needle.

Lift the knitted stitch on the left needle

Important: Make sure to slip the stitch beyond the taper/tip of the needle and don’t just keep it on the taper. Because then you will tighten up the stitch too much as you continue and will have troubles knitting the next row, or even pushing the cast on stitches further down the needle.

Step 6: Insert the right needle into the slipped stitch from left to right, and repeat steps 2-5 until you got the desired amount of stitches on your needle.

Step 6. insert the needle from left to right once again

Note: The resulting knitted cast on will be moderaratly stretchy. If you want a slightly stretchier edge, then consider using a needle size bigger for just the cast on. This, however, will also create bigger holes in the first row.

The big advantage of the knitted cast-on is the fact that you don’t need to figure out how much yarn you need (like you always have to do for a long tail cast on) as all stitches are directly cast on from the working yarn. So, if you are struggling with the latter, then this could be a very viable option for you. Another advantage is that you end up with the yarn on the right side. You don’t need to turn your project to start the first row, and all stitches will appear just the way you cast them on.

Still, how much yarn do you need for a knitted cast on?

measuring out the yarn requirements for a knitted cast on
The actual amount of wraps I needed for 30 cast on stitches (needle size 4.5 mm; cotton yarn)

You can calculate the yarn you need for a knitted cast on with one easy formula. Wrap the yarn around your knitting needle. You will 2 wraps per stitch. So, if you want to cast on 30 stitches, you would need 60 wraps.

Casting on stitches in the middle of a project

Just like the backward loop increase you can use the knitted cast on to cast on stitches in the middle of a project. Whereas the former only works on the left end of a row, the latter can be used at the very beginning of a row.

In this case, you can skip the slip knot (step 1 above).

Step 1: Knit one stitch as normal, but don’t drop the stitch.

casting on in the middle of a project

Step 2: Instead, lift the stitch back on the left needle.

lifting the knitted stitch back on the left needle

.Step 3: Knit another stitch into the slipped stitch.

doing a knitted cast on in the middle of a project

Continue repeating steps 1-3 until you got the desired amount of stitches on your left needle

You can use the same technique to cast on stitches in the middle of a row as well. This will create a visible hole and will bunch out the fabric a bit. For some stitches (like bobbles) this can be the desired effect.

Knitted cast on purlwise

A knitted cast on purlwise on a knitting needle

The fun thing about the knitted cast on is, like I already said its versatility. You can use it anywhere in your project. On top of that, you can use the underlying principle (so knitting a stitch and slipping it back on the left needle to knit into it again) and combine it with any other basic knit stitch – like the classic purl stitch.

close up of the edge of a knitted cast on purlwise
The edge of a swatch with a knitted cast on purlwise

The best part about the knitted cast on purlwise? It’s actually faster than the regular version, as your needle is already in the right position to purl as you slip the stitch. But let’s have a look.

Step 1: Create a slip knot.

a slip knot on the knitting needles with yarn in front

Step 2: Insert the left needle into the loop from right to left and hold the yarn in front.

Insert the right needle into the slip knot as if to purl

Step 3: And purl one stitch (here’s how to knit the purl stitch in case you need to catch up).

Pull the yarn through the loop like a regular purl stitch

Step 4: Slip the purl stitch back onto the left needle.

slip the purled stitch back on the left needle

Step 5: Your needle is already in the correct position to purl another stitch.

step 5 insert needle again for another purlwise cast on

Repeat steps 2-4 as you see fit

Naturally, you can also do the knitted cast on purlwise in the middle of a project. In this case, you can skip step 1 and purl directly into the first stitch of a row.

A knitted cast on purlwise in the middle of a project
purlwise cast on in the middle of a project

So, where’s the difference? Well, obviously this cast on creates purl stitches and you can use it for patterns that require purl stitches on the right side. In fact, if you are knitting something like a moss stitch (or any other pattern that alternates knit and purls), you can cast on alternating knit stitches and purl stitches as well.

Other variations

showing the difference between a knitted cast on purlwise and purlwise through the back loop
I cast on purlwise the standard way on the left side, the right side was cast on (and purled) through the back loop

You might have already guessed it. You can also do the knitted cast with a ktbl (knit through the back loop) or a ptbl (purl through the back loop). In this case, you’ll have to knit, quite obviously, through the back loop, but the rest remains the same.

Stitch wise, the edge will look a bit more rounded and actually a bit neater (there will still be small holes, though smaller). The big difference lies in the stretchiness. Do note, however, that those back loop stitches will be considerably less stretchy.

So, that’s it. That’s how you do the knitted cast on and all its variations. I hope I was able to show you this technique and everything you need to know. Feel free to ask your questions and troubles in the comments below.

how to knit the knitted cast on

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