Friday, December 1, 2006

Casting on by the "knitting on" method (also called "cable" or "chain" cast on)

(includes a four-part how-to)
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line drawing of the knitting-on process
"Knitting on" is an excellent cast-on method. The edge is created from a doubled yarn, which makes it durable. The method is easy, the tension not difficult to adjust. Also, unlike long-tail casting on, there's no annoying long tail to position and fool with. This method is also called "cable" or "chain" cast on.

Knitting-on is actually a form of crochet. It is made by drawing new loops with your right needle through a previous set of loops on your left needle, to make a foundation row for knitting. Some instructions will tell you to draw the new loop actually through the previous loop, and that does work. However, a more flexible edge arises by drawing the new loop through the space BETWEEN the previous two loops.

Obviously, in order to draw a new loop through the space between two already-existing loops, you have to have two loops already on your needle. Here's a trick to making the---


Many knitters start knitting-on with a slip knot. In the last post it was stated that slip knots are not an optimal way to start a cast on because they leave a hard knot in one corner of the knitting.

Slip knots are especially easy to avoid in knitting-on, and here's how: start by making 2 slip knots. ('ll all come clear, keep reading...) These first two loops are provisional loops.

Next, cast on the number of stitches you actually want to have. In other words, cast on the number wanted, not counting the first two provisional stitches.

When you're done --ta da!--pull out the two provisional stitches. All you have left on your needle now are actual knit-on stitches, there's no slip knot left in your fabric to contend with, and all the stitches in the foundation row look and act the same.


You can probably figure out how to knit-on based on the first illustration, but here it is again, one more time, slower, with explanations:

* * *
First step
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knitting on--step 1Two provisional stitches (slip knots) have been made in the tail end of the yarn, and placed on the left needle. Insert the right needle into the space BETWEEN the provisional stitches. With the right needle, catch the ball end of the yarn "up from under." This wrap around the right needle will become the first "real" knit-on foundation loop.
* * *
Second step
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knitting on--step 2Using the right needle, draw the loop through the space between the two provisional stitches.
* * *
Third step
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Transfer the loop (drawn up large) from the right needle to the left needle. Be careful not to twist the loop.
* * *
Fourth step
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Snug up the transferred loop. Insert the right needle into the space between the two previous stitches, catch the ball end of the yarn and repeat steps two through four until you've cast on the correct number of stitches. At the end of the process, don't forget to unravel the two provisional stitches.

* * *
Two final notes:

1) The very first illustration at the top of this post shows what the knitting-on will look like after the two provisional loops have been taken off.

2) If you're wondering about the double pointed needles, here's the deal--knitting-on to double pointed needles makes it much easier to drop the two provisional stitches off the left tip of the left needle BEFORE you accidentally knit into them. If using single pointed needles, remember to unravel the two provisional stitches when you get to them in the first row of knitting.

You have been reading TECHknitting on cable cast on, also called chain cast on


Penny said...

this makes a lot more sense than my mother-in-law!


Anonymous said...

I use "knit through the loop" rather than between for a lacier edge. It's also good when teaching beginning knitters. It's the same action as regular knitting, so they don't get confused.

Anonymous said...

Some pictures of how to properly undo the provisional stitches would be helpful. Maybe I'm just very inept, but I screwed it up...

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--the two provisional stitches aren't actually part of the actual cable cast on--they are temporary "helper" stitches, put in just to get the action started. If knitting with double pointed needles, you would drop those two stitches right off the end they're near, before starting the first row after the cast on. If knitting with single-pointed (knob) needles, you simply ignore them or un-knot them when you come to them. As to how to unknot them, usually, simply pulling on the end of the tail-yarn does the trick--the two provisional stitches are actually slip stitches. Write again if this isn't clear, OK? Best, TK

Anonymous said...

I started a project using this method of casting on, but now it's time to finish it. What bind off method would I use to make a matching edge? I feel like it would be obvious, but I can't find anything on the subject!

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--I, personally, am not aware of a cast on which matches a cable cast on. However, you may well find an answer at this authoritative site:

For the future, perhaps you will find this post helpful--it is about TECHknitting methods of matching cast on and bind off...

Best regards, TK

Beth Salloway said...

Hi. I don't understand why you put the loop on without twisting it. Aren't you creating a twisted stitch to knit into? I am a beginning knitter and trying to understand more subtleties.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Beth--I think youa re asking me about stitch orientation--that is, which arm of the stitch lies forward? In traditional western style orientation, the R arm of the stitch lies forward. With the cable cast on, as illustrated, the cast on stitches will lie R arm forward, so there will be no twisting. However, if you desire a twisted look you can either knit into the back of the cast on stitch, or you can twist the loop as you place it on the needle.