How to knit the Italian cast-on

A step-by-step tutorial on the Italian tubular cast-on method including a slow-motion video

Are you looking for a super neat and stretchy cast-on for your ribbings? Well, then the Italian cast-on method might just be what you are looking for. It’s super simple to knit and will create a particularly well-balanced and almost invisible edge when you pair it with a 1×1 rib stitch.

close-up of the invisible edge created by an italian cast-on in knitting

In fact, I believe there’s probably no better way to cast on ribbings for beginners. The repeat is just so simple and you will quickly fall into a rhythm that you may even forget you are actually casting on here. And the results obviously speak for themselves. The edge is just so crisp and invisible.

the italian tubular cast-on shown with a swatch in blue cotton yarn

Anyway, let’s dive right into it. Oh, and don’t forget to check out my tutorial on casting on for beginners if you are looking for alternatives that are just as easy.

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Instructions: How to knit the Italian cast-on

someone holding up a swatch in 1x1 rib stitch knitted with an italian cast on

The Italian cast-on is well suited for 1x1 rib stitches and looks best when knitted with a relatively small needle size compared to your yarn weight. It makes use of a tail that should be roughly 3 times as long as your project should be wide.

Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Instructions

  1. Bring the yarn into the slingshot position the way you would hold it for a longtail cast-on. So the sizeable tail is wrapped around your thumb and the working yarn around your index finger.

    brining the yarn and hands into a sling shot position
  2. Start the Italian cast-on with a simple twisted loop.

    creating a simple twisted loop around the needle to start the italian cast on
  3. Bring the needle around the yarn connected to your index finger coming from above & behind.

    going around the yarn toward the index finger from behind and above
  4. Grab the yarn towards your thumb from above.

    grabbing the yarn towards the thumb coming from behind and above
  5. Get out the way you came and tighten up. This will create a (pseudo) purl stitch with a visible little bump around its base.

    getting out the way one came and tightening up
  6. Bring the needle around the yarn connected to your thumb coming from above & behind.

    going under the yarn around the thumb
  7. Grab the yarn towards your index finger coming from above.

    grabbing the yarn towards the index finger coming from above and behind
  8. Get out the way you came and tighten up. This will create a (pseudo) knit stitch.

    getting out the way one came and tightening up
  9. Repeat steps 3-8 until you cast on the desired number of stitches.

    repeating steps 3-8 over and over again for the italian cast-on
  10. Turn your work around clockwise with the yarn held below the needles.

    turning the work around clockwise with the yarn held below

    Technically speaking, this step finishes the Italian cast-on. But since you need to pay attention in the first row, I listed one more step.
  11. Knit one row of *ktbl, p1*.

    knitting across in twisted ribbing for the first row

    This cast-on will create twisted knit stitches and you need to untwist them in the first row. After this first row, you can continue knitting across in the regular 1x1 rib stitch repeat.

Notes

If you don't want to knit the first round with twisted knit stitches, then yo have to change the way you cast on the purl stitches. In this case, you have to grab the yarn connected to your index thumb (step 4) coming from below. The result will be an almost similar edge but maybe slightly less invisible and neat.

different versions of the italian cast on side by side
Top: Casting on purl stitches by going underneath the thumb | Bottom: Casting on purl stitches by grabbing the yarn from above and then knitting them through back loop in first row | Arrow indicates the difference.

The Italian cast-on in the round

You can, of course, also use the Italian cast-on for projects knit in the round – either on double-pointed needles or using circular needles and the magic loop technique. In this case, I urge you to follow the exact same steps I showed you above and only join in the round after you finished the first row flat.

Why? Unlike the German twisted cast-on or, say, the knitted cast-on, the Italian cast-on doesn’t create a very stable first row. So, when you want to join things in the round, it can be extremely difficult to avoid your edge getting all twisted. And the worst part, since you just wove the yarn around its axis, if you twist things, you will actually unravel stitches.

So, for the sake of your sanity, cast on, knit one row flat, and then join in the round. Later on, you simply have to graft one stitch to bridge the gap. In my tutorial for the tubular cast-on (which is actually a variation of this technique), I show you how to do this.

Anyway, that’s how to knit the Italian tubular cast-on. Comment below in case you need any help.

how to knit the italian cast on step by step for beginners. complete tutorial

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