How to knit the twisted chain cast-on

A step-by-step tutorial on knitting a stretchy cast-on using a crochet hook (formerly known as Chinese waitress cast-on)

Are you looking for a medium stretchy cast-on technique that creates a lovely braided edge and is super easy to knit? Then look no further, the twisted chain cast-on could be just perfect for your next project. All you need is a crochet hook and you can start chaining!

a swatch started with the chinese waitress cast-on

Note: This cast-on was formerly known as the “Chinese Waitress cast-on” because the woman who popularized it allegedly learned it from a waitress. Please consider not using this term anymore. First of all, if we applied the same standards, then this Asian waitress would deserve a name just like Judy for Judy’s Magic cast-on or Elizabeth Zimmerman for her famous sewn bind-off.

close-up of the edge the chinese waitress cast-on creates in knitting

And secondly, I’d argue that given names have no place in naming knitting techniques. In 100 years, nobody will know who Judy, Jenny, or Tillybuddy were – especially if the names weren’t awarded from the community but rather used as a claim on a technique. For now, I will continue adding the name because people are still searching for it. Change will be slow and you can help to make it faster.

wrong side of a swatch with the chinese waitress cast-on
The wrong side of the twisted chain cast-on

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Instructions: How to knit the twisted chain cast-on

someone showing how to do the chinese waitress cast-on

The twisted chain cast-on is incredibly fast and easy to knit. While you can also do it on your knitting needles, it's so much easier using a crochet hook in the same size.

Active Time 2 minutes
Total Time 2 minutes

Tools

Instructions

  1. Start with a slip knot on your knitting needle.

    starting the twisted chain cast-on with a slip knot
  2. Place your crochet hook behind the knitting needle. It helps to pin it down with your middle finger.

    placing the hook behind the knitting needle
  3. Bring the working yarn around the back of the crochet hook and all the way around the tip of your knitting needle.

    bringing the working yarn around the crochet hook and the tip of the knitting needle with the thumb
  4. Add a yarnover to your crochet hook.


    creating a yarn over around the crochet hook
  5. Pull the working yarn through the loop.


    pulling the yarn all the way through
  6. Twist the stitch by turning it around by 180° clockwise. The loop on your knitting needle should appear to be balanced now.

    turn the hook half clockwise
  7. Place the crochet hook behind your knitting needle again.

    placing the hook behind the knitting needle again
  8. Wrap the yarn around the back of the crochet hook and the tip of the knitting needle, and add a yarn over - just like before.

    wrapping the yarn around the needle and adding a yarn over
  9. Pull the working yarn through the loop at the back of your knitting needle and the previous stitch.

    pulling the yarn through the loop
  10. Twist the crochet hook around clockwise again to visually balance the loop out.

    twisting the loop clockwise once
  11. Repeat steps 7-10 until you've cast on the required number of stitches.

    repeating these steps for the twisted chain cast-on
  12. When you come across the slipknot at the start of your cast-on edge, you may opt to drop it. Don't be afraid, your cast-on will not unravel.

    undoing the slipknot after the cast-on

Understanding the twisted chain cast-on

At first glance, this method seems to be incredibly unique. It’s definitely a bit harder to understand. However, if you analyze things under magnification, this cast-on will definitely be able to reveal it’s secret.

The twisted chain cast-on is nothing else but a twisted variation of the popular crochet cast-on. This in turn, is nothing else but picking up stitches from a chain of crochet chain stitches. Let’s take a look.

A) So, a normal crochet cast-on is essentially nothing else but a simple chain stitch.

a simple crochet chain stitch
A simple crochet chain stitch

B) And then you pick up the back bump of this chain stitch from behind with a knitting needle.

picking up the back bars from behind

B) This will create a balanced row of stitches on your knitting needle with the leading leg in front. The braid underneath the knitting needle that will form the actual cast-on edge appears to be twisted.

the resulting braided edge of the crochet cast-on

The twisted chain cast-on does three things differently.

A) First, the chain stitch is done by faking a double chain stitch with the working yarn. So there are two yarn over on the needle but they are not stable. They simply add more slack and one counter-twist to the stack.

faking a double chain stitch around the crochet hook with the help of the left hand

B) Now these two yarnovers would cancel themselves out if you simply pulled out the stack right now.

pulling the loop out to show it's not actually twisted

C) Since we want a twisted stitch on the knitting needle, you balance the stitch out by adding one counter-clockwise twist at the end (note: with a normal chain stitch you add a half-twist clockwise after each chain)

adding twist to the loop

D) This will create a slightly twisted chain stitch with visible bars on the back between the links of the chain.

a twisted crochet chain stitch with visible twisted bars

E) Then, you pick up these twisted bars with your knitting needle (either through the leading leg or the back leg, depending on the knitting pattern).

picking up the twisted bars between the chain stitches

And that’s your twisted chain cast-on. But please, do it around the knitting needle. It’s easier and will look neater. This was just to illustrate what you are actually doing. It might also help you understand why some call it “double chain cast-on”. You are not actually adding a double chain stitch but I understand how some might think you did.

Fun fact: If you always pick up the back loop of a chain stitch from behind, the result would be the knitted cast-on.

Anyway, that’s how to knit the twisted chain cast-on. Comment below if you have any questions.

twisted chain cast-on pinterest image

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