How to knit the longtail purl cast on

How to cast on purl sittches with the longtail cast on. A step by step tutorial with close-up pictures and a video.

Have you ever looked very closely at your longtail cast on? It’s a great cast on technique. But if you look very closely at the first row of stitches you are creating, then they appear like knit stitches. The problem: When you turn the needles around to knit your first row, these will appear like purl stitches. So, when you knit across, you will be creating a garter stitch edge.

A longtail purl cast on on the needles

This can be nice because it prevents curling in stockinette stitch (a bit at least), but it doesn’t look as neat and seamless. And when it comes to ribbings, it is suddenly not as perfect anymore. So, in this tutorial, I am going to show you how to do the longtail cast on purlwise to fix these problems.

a swatch with the longtail purl cast-on in blue yarn
A swatch in reverse stockinette stitch started with a longtail purl cast-on

When you alternate this new technique with the standard way, you get the basis for the perfect ribbings.

Tip: Looking for more variations of the long tail cast on? Try the 2-needle cast on for an even stretchier edge. Or the German twisted purl cast on for another in pattern option!

Note: I earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this article.

Instructions: How to do the long tail purl cast-on

someone holding up knitting needles with a longtail purl cast-on

You start the longtail purl cast-on in the exact same position as the standard version with the working yarn connected to the ball on your left and a sizeable tail on the right. I am casting on around two needles for a stretchier edge.

Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Tools

  • [Any type of needle. I am using the Prym bamboo needles]

Instructions

  1. Start with a simple slip knot.
    A slip knot on the needles
  2. Bring your fingers into the "slingshot" position.

    Bringing needle and hands into a sling shot kind of position
  3. Insert the needle into the loop around your index finger from above and behind.
    insert the needle from above and behind
  4. Insert the needle into the loop around your thumb coming in from below.

    grab the yarn around the thumb from below
  5. Grab the yarn and pull it through the loop around your index finger.
    pull the yarn through the loop
  6. Remove your index finger from the loop and tighten it up by spreading your thumb and index finger.
    Removing the index finger and tightening up the loop
  7. Pull the needle towards you to create another "slingshot" and repeat steps 2-6 until you cast-on the desired number of stitches
    create a second slingshot

Notes

Beginners will often struggle with the yarn requirements and run out of yarn before they cast on all stitches. Here's a tutorial that shows you how to calculate or estimate how much yarn you need for a longtail cast-on.

Also know, the kind of cast-on stitch your pattern requires also depends on if you are knitting flat or in the round. Remember, when you are knitting flat, you are turning the project around. So, for a knit stitch in the first row, you will need to cast on a purl stitch and vice versa. For knitting in the round, this distinction is not required.

Further tips & tricks for the longtail purl cast-on

the longtail purl cast-on as seen from the right side
The right side of a swatch started with a longtail purl cast-on

Also, here’s one more important thing to consider. If you are knitting stockinette stitch, by that logic, you would have to actually cast on purlwise to get an edge that reflects the pattern. In reality, you can also use the standard long-tail cast on and start with a purl row. This would mean you start on the wrong side (a fact you will be able to ignore after that initial row) like this:

  • CO: Cast on all stitchs purlwise
  • Row 1: purl across
  • Row 2: knit across
  • repeat rows 1+2 until you reached the desired length.

This obviously doesn’t really work for knitting in the round. Here you really need to cast on purlwise if you need purl stitches – at least if you want an in-pattern edge. If you need an edge that is less stretchy, you might want to check out the cable cast-on purlwise as an alternative.

alternating longtail cast on with the purlwise version for ribbing
A swatch in a 2×2 rib stitch where I alternated between normal and purlwise cast-on stitches

And then, of course, you can use the longtail purl cast-on for an in-pattern edge for ribbings, in these cases, you have to follow the repeat of the stitch pattern with your cast-on stitches. Here’s how I do it for a 2×2 ribbing.

  • CO: Start with a slip knot, then cast one stitch using the normal longtail cast-on, then 2 long tail purl cast-on stitches, followed by 2 normal long tail cast-on stitches, followed by 2 purlwise, followed by 2 normal, etc….ending with 2 purlwise
  • Row 1: *k2, p2*
  • Row 2: continue the 2×2 rib stitches from here as normal.

There are, of course, many other ways to create an in-pattern edge for ribbings, but this a somewhat easy version that isn’t too complicated and still looks relatively neat.

Anyway, That’s how to cast on purlwise. Leave a comment in case you have any questions.

how to knit the longtail purl cast on

4 thoughts on “How to knit the longtail purl cast on”

  1. Thank you so much for this! I have always wondered how to do a purl cast on and had begun to wonder if such a thing even existed! Thank you for your usual super clear, thorough instructions! (All my books – except for Principles of Knitting – have now arrived, so I’m going to have a great Christmas reading up on everything you’ve suggested. Hope you have a good Christmastime, and keep well.) All good wishes.

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