The stretchiest cast-ons in knitting

A massive list with more than 10 stretchy cast-on techniques for your next project

No matter if you want to knit traditional socks cuff down, start a beautiful hat, or knit gloves, the lynchpin is always the cast-on. Typically you want and need a lot of extra give but you don’t want the edge to flare or wear out either. This resource aims to compare stretchy cast-on techniques so you can find the right method for your next project.

The following list will start with the least stretchy cast-on and ends with the stretchiest cast-on technique. I will compare all swatches with a standard long-tail cast-on for your convenience. Please know that your individual tension and the knitting needle size you used will also play a role. All my swatches were knitted with the exact same needle size and are 15 stitches wide.

#1 The cable cast-on (+/- 0%)

close-up of a swatch started with the cable cast-on

In my experience, the most solid/rigid cast-on method is the so-called cable cast-on. It creates a lovely clean edge for stockinette stitch that doesn’t curl in overly much. There is even a purlwise version of the cable cast-on, in case your project starts on the wrong side or you want to alternate stitches for ribbing.

>> Read my cable cast-on tutorial here

comparing the longtail cast-on vs the cable cast-on on a blocking board
Top (yellow yarn): cable cast-on | Bottom (blue yarn): longtail cast-on

#2 Alternating cast-on – knitwise and purlwise (+/- 1-2%)

Most beginners, and even some advanced knitters, are not aware that almost all cast-on techniques can be done purlwise as well. This can help you to create lovely in-pattern edges for ribbing. However, in terms of stretchiness, you typically don’t gain anything.

stretchiness of a normal edge compared with an in-pattern edge
Top: Alternating longtail cast-on | Bottom: normal longtail cast-on

Some people have a different knit and purl tension and this can result in an ever so slightly stretchier edge for an alternating cast-on as a by-product. Inherently and technically speaking, the edge will be just as stretchy as a normal longtail cast-on.

>> Read my tutorial on the longtail cast-on purlwise here

#3 German twisted cast-on (+5%)

close-up for a swatch started with the German twisted cast-on

A very popular cast-on is the German twisted cast-on. Sometimes it’s also called “Old Norwegian cast-on”. Despite its name, it does not create twisted stitches but an edge with a first row of balanced stitches in the same breath. The twisting refers to the rather complex casting-on process itself.

stretchiness of the german twisted cast-on compared to the longtail cast-on
Top (yellow yarn): German twisted cast-on | Bottom (blue yarn): longtail cast-on

The edge itself is typically only a fraction stretchier than a normal longtail cast-on. I attribute this to the fact that the latter actually does create twisted stitches and those can be a bit less stretchy. Overall the effect is minor and I would pick this German twisted or the German twisted cast-on purlwise only for purely decorative reasons.

>> Read my tutorial on the German twisted cast-on here

#4 Casting on around two needles (+15-20%)

close-up of a swatch started with a longtail cast-on around two needles at the same time

A super easy way to add more stretchiness to almost ANY cast-on is simply using a bigger needle to create your edge. Frugal knitters of the past soon discovered that you could hold both of your needles together to create a bigger diameter for the same effect.

This will be a lot more effective for any cast-on technique that does not create the first row in the same breath. Why? Well, if you do the longtail cast-on or the German twisted cast-on, the actual edge you create will never really get in contact with the knitting needles. The loops you string around the thumb are, more or less, defined by how far or close you space them (but not the barrel of your knitting needle).

a swatch started with the longtail cast-on around two needles all stretched out
Top (yellow yarn): longtail cast-on around two needle | Bottom (blue yarn): normal longtail cast-on

Still, it typically still has a significant effect because the first row will be stretchier and the e-loops of those cast-ons are typically restricted by that rather tight first row and not so much the slack that is stored in between them. I find this solution is super easy for beginners. Plus it creates the exact same-looking edge.

>> Here’s how to cast-on around two needles

#6 Twisted chain cast-on (+18-20)

close-up of a knitted swatch started with the chinese waitress cast-on

The twisted chain cast-on, sometimes ill-called “Chinese waitress cast-on” is a simple variation of the crochet cast-on and it’s typically done with a crochet hook as well. Since it relies on twisting the stitches around the crochet hook, you add more slack and it can be bit more stretchy. The edge looks fantastic regardless.

stretching out the chinese waitress cast-on to the max
Top (yellow yarn): Twisted chain cast-on | Bottom (blue yarn): longtail cast-on

With a bit of practice, it’s incredibly easy and fast to do. On the negative side, it does exaggerate curling on pure stockinette stitch. The beautiful braided edge typically protrudes a bit toward the front.

>> Here’s my full tutorial on the twisted chain cast-on

#8 Slipknot cast-on (+18-20%)

close-up of a swatch started with the slipknot cast-on

If you are looking for a very clean edge for stockinette stitch that does not flare out and still adds sufficient ease to a cuff or hem, then the slipknot cast-on could be your next best friend.

a swatch knitted with the slipknot cast-on all stretched out to the max
Top (yellow yarn): slipknot cast-on | Bottom (blue yarn): longtail cast-on

It’s admittedly not as smooth and almost a bit awkward to knit but the results can be well worth it for the right project. You are basically chaining loose slipknots next to each other. It sounds like it couldn’t possibly be stretchy but it is! It takes quite a bit of practise to get it too look consistent and neat, though.

#7 Knitted cast-on (+20-23%)

close-up of a swatch started with the knitted cast-on

The possibly simplest way to add more give to your edge is using the knitted cast-on. It’s incredibly easy to knit, does not require a tail, and can look rather striking. Of course, there is also a purl version of the knitted cast-on that is just as easy to do.

comparing the stretchiness of the knitted cast-on with the longtail cast-on
Top: knitted cast-on | Bottom: longtail cast-on

On the negative side, this technique tends to enhance curling a little bit for stockinette stitch and you will notice little eyelets in between the different edge stitches. This is where all that stretchiness is stored.

>> Read my full tutorial on the knitted cast-on here

#11 Alternating cast-ons (+25-30%)

close-up of a knitted swatch in 1x1 ribbing started with an alternating cast-on

Just like you can alternate between casting on purlwise and knitwise, you can also mix different cast-ons. For example, you could cast on two stitches with the knitted cast-on followed by two with a cable cast-on. You could do one or both purlwise, and you could slip the resulting stitch to the knitting needle twisted or point to point.

showing the stretchiness of an alternating cast-on
Top: alternating cast-on | Bottom: longtail cast-on

There are too many permutations to list them all here. One popular variation was popularized by Tillybuddy on youtube. It’s a simple variation of the cable cast-on paired with a reverse single cast-on. The resulting edge can look quite lovely for a 1×1 rib stitch.

It’s less stretchy than the Italian cast-on (see below) but sometimes that is exactly what you need – especially as it flares out a bit less as well.

#10 Italian & tubular cast-on (+35-40%)

close-up of a swatch in 1x1 ribbing and the italian cast-on

One of the stretchiest AND most invisible ways to cast-on for a 1×1 rib is certainly the Italian cast-on. Structurally, it doesn’t actually create a stable edge. It’s just adding two rows of interlocking wefts to your knitting needle that could unravel at any time.

If you proceed to knit in both directions, this technique is often called magic cast-on, if you join the two wefts and add two rows of double stockinette stitch, it’s known as the tubular cast-on, and if you do it in two colors, people will call it double knitting cast-on. You can even use it as a provision cast-on. The possibilities are virtually endless but the basic technique remains the same.

showing just how stretchy the italian cast-on is (compared to the longtail cast-on)
Top: Italian cast-on | Bottom: longtail cast-on

Note: Often, the Italian/tubular cast-on is too stretchy and most people will actually use a needle size smaller to avoid an edge that flares out too much.

>> Read my tutorial on the Italian cast-on here

#11 Two-needle cast-on (+35+40%)

close-up of a swatch started with the 2-needle cast-on

Advanced knitters may know that you can create the structurally same edge as a longtail cast-on by starting with a single cast-on and then purling across one row through the back loop. The so-called 2-needle cast-on uses that knowledge, deconstructs the standard technique, and splits it between two needles.

This solves the old dilemma that the underlying loops of the single cast-on do not benefit overly much from picking a bigger needle size. The resulting edge is dramatically more stretchy – even if you use the same needle size. And if you decide to pick a bigger needle, it can be as stretchy as you want. Or go down a needle size if you don’t need all that much give.

a swatch knitted with the 2-needle cast-on all stretched out to the max
Top: 2-needle cast-on | Bottom: longtail cast-on

Note: Please be aware that the resulting edge will look rather sloppy in its unstretched state. Again, it’s structurally a simple longtail cast-on – just with a lot more slack.

>> Read my tutorial on the two-needle cast-on here

Anyway, that was my ranked list of the stretchiest cast-ons in knitting. Comment below if you have any questions.

the stretchiest cast-ons in knitting - image for pinterest

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