Casting On

I learned to cast on using the long tail method (needle through loop on left thumb, wrap yarn, lift loop over needle), however I've never cared for the edge it creates on a ribbed piece such as a hat, sock or cuff.  I've spent some time trying to learn other methods of casting on but haven't found any good discussion of when to choose which one, and none of my swatches seems clearly superior to the others.  Which method do you prefer for a visible ribbed edge that is stretchy but not too loose and has a nice appearance and feel.  Or is the secret not in the method of casting on but rather in using a different size needle or in working the first round a certain way?
I'd appreciate hearing any tips about what has worked for you.

kiwiknitter's picture

 A couple of new comments


A couple of new comments for this posting.  1. I wanted to give the Mary English Morrison cast-on method a try however, I found the directions for the rib cast-on a bit vague, maybe incomplete [?] but I think I've worked my way through it.  I knitted a sample and I didn't like the result at all.  I may not have done it correctly so if anyone has any comments about this method (I read JPaul's) I'd appreciate it.  2. I looked up rib edge cast-on in the Vogue Knitting Book called "Alternate Cable Cast-On" and it is described as a "firm edge".  I tried it and it was too tight to be acceptable in my opinion.  The interesting thing is that these directions call to knit into the back of the knit cast-on stitches in the first row only.  That corresponds with the directions in the old war knitting pattern book.  


I've got knitting fever in the worsted way.

Hey Jesse,I also spent some

Hey Jesse,

I also spent some time deciphering MEM's method after JPaul posted about it--difficult for me because I don't knit with the yarn wrapped all around my fingers like the models they use for those photos.  What I realized was that the cast-on stitch she calls "knit" was what I was already doing, only that I make it in a way that doesn't look anything like the pictures, and that using only the knit stitch was distorting my work much like inserting an all-knit round into a ribbing pattern.  I've used the "cast on in pattern" technique on a couple of small projects and generally like the result.  While it isn't super stretchy, it isn't rigid either, but what I like best is that it allows the edge to contract with the ribbing and assume its shape.  I just need to practice the "purl" stitch until I can produce it without having to think about what I'm doing.

I also did some experiments with the methods that involve knitting into the stitches or into the spaces between them, but I'm less pleased with them, mostly because they leave little "knots" (actually little purl bumps) all along the cast-on edge.  The MEM method basically eliminates the knots, leaving just elongated loops.  I tend to knit snug (as opposed to tight), so maybe someone whose tension is generally looser would achieve better results.  For me, however, the MEM technique is a good compromise that gives me an acceptable edge in both ribbed and flat work.


kiwiknitter's picture

Stuart,  Congratulations on

Stuart,  Congratulations on being  cleverer than I am!  I, too, cast-on the knit stitches in the same fashion as MEM but I can't seem to get the purl cast-on correct.  I know what you mean about holding the wool differently than she does in the pics.  I can follow the instructions up to wrapping the wool around the needle as if to purl and then I don't know what the next step is.  I can't seem to suss it out from the directions.  Maybe you can assist me?  Feel free to send a PM if you wish.  I think that I'd like the neatness and elasticity of casting-on in rib as I know that casting-off in rib (in pattern) makes for a better edge. 

I know what you mean about the little bumps that result from casting-on by knitting in-between the stitches.  Like you, I was not pleased with the result and  found that method completely unsatisfactory.



I've got knitting fever in the worsted way.

Jesse, I think that's a


 I think that's a type of twisted stitch ribbing. The older guernseys used to use that stitch once in a while. It made for a stiffer rib that was very tough and long-wearing. But the resulting sweater was so harsh that the wearer often had to pad the neck and cuffs to protect the skin from abrasion.

Anyone else have any ideas? I'm not sure if I am right or not on this one.

Have fun,


kiwiknitter's picture

Randal,  I have no idea and

Randal,  I have no idea and this sounds logical.  However, it seems to me that the pattern is calling to knit in the back on the cast-on row only.  I wondered if that would alter the edge enough to give it some added flexibility (?).  Jesse

I've got knitting fever in the worsted way.

kiwiknitter's picture

Just for fun, let me throw

Just for fun, let me throw this in for good measure.  Last evening I was reading a British pattern book of clothes for service men and women from WWII.  The rib pattern for the jersey said to knit in the back the cast-on stitches.  Has anyone heard of this before and/or have a comment about the technique?


I've got knitting fever in the worsted way.

JPaul's picture

I also like the twisted

I also like the twisted german cast-on that Randal mentioned.  I used it for my first pair of socks and it's very stretchy and has a nice finished look even in 1x1 ribbing.  I agree that the popular long-tail cast-on isn't ideal for ribbing, so I've been trying different methods.

Mary English Morrison has a tutorial for casting on in pattern stitch on her blog, The Little Yarn Shoppe of Horrors.  I used it on my current pair of socks, but I'm not sure I would use it again.  It doesn't seem any more elastic than the twisted german cast-on and looks a bit rippled (at least before it's first trip through the washer).  It could definitely be me, too.  I'll amend my opinion if it shapes up in the laundry.

June Hemmons Hiatt wrote a great article in Threads magazine (#48) on double-knit ribbing that included a cast-on for 1x1 ribbing.  It's a variation on the long-tail cast-on as well, but makes a really neat looking edge that's very stretchy.  I'll see if I can find it on line or perhaps describe it in a later posting.  You can also find it Colorful Knitwear Design, which is a collection of articles from Threads magazine.

I cast on with a needle two

I cast on with a needle two sizes larger than the main needle and use a twisted german cast on. It is very similar to the longtail caston but gives a thicker, more interesting edge. There are several descriptions on the Web and at least one video showing how, so I'll leave the research to those interested.

As for the first round (or rounds), usually I knit the first round, making sure I don't twist the stitches. Then start the ribbing on the second round.

 But, whatever works for you -- experiment and see what you like.

Have fun,


Bill's picture

for ribbing... I use a

for ribbing... I use a larger needle for the cast on...then switch to a smaller needle for the it has good stretch... if I use the small needle to cast may be too tight to stretch. Bill

hermit71's picture

For projects like socks and

For projects like socks and caps that I want a stretchier edge when finished, I prefer the cable cast on.




Hello ZigZag, I use a long

Hello ZigZag, I use a long tail cast on that I picked up from the web site.  The technique is shown in video and she demonstrates several different techniques depending on the desired edge.  When I first started, I cast on a size larger needle than I was going to continue with because I had a tendency to cast on to tightly, but it sounds like you don't have that problem.  Check out the site if you haven't already.  It has helped me through lots of sticky situations.


There several of casting on

There several of casting on and the results can look quite different.  The main thing to consider is the purpose of the cast on and this includes the finished look, elasticity, durability and so on.  I would suggest getting a good illustrated book on techniques as descriptions alone can be difficult to visualise.

A good book that I think has recently been updated is Montse Stanley's book - Knitter's Handbook-  I found that very useful.

Practice, of course, is essential with any technique but I agree with Martin that cast on and ribbing generally is usually done with needles two sizes smaller.  However, If you're a tight knitter this may be wrong for you or unnecessary as in the case of socks.

I seen suggested using a

I seen suggested using a size smaller to cast on for ribbing then after ribbing is finished move up to bigger size.

I use the knit cast on & that works for me edge wise. 

Knit away, knit away

charmingbilly's picture

hi there.i'm sorta new and

hi there.

i'm sorta new and haven't explored too many different methods of casting on but the crochet cast on from the Sally Melville books to me seems to make a more "finished" looking edge.  the german lady that is helping me learn knitting recommended i cast on and do the set up row for ribbing with a size larger needle, too.  hope this is helpful.