Thursday, February 15, 2007

Casting on from the middle--disappearing loop method

includes a how-to
For knitted objects started in the middle, (shawl, hat) choose the "disappearing loop" method to cast on. Unlike the famous "Emily Ocker's beginning" of which you may have heard, disappearing loop is superior because:
  • There is no slip knot, so there is no hard nub in the middle of your work.
  • The first stitches are not crocheted, so they are not larger and heavier than the rest of the work.
These advantages make disappearing loop the cast-on of choice for lace and the tops of hats, but any center-start knitting (even I-cord!) looks better with disappearing loop.


1. Make a loop over two fingers of the left hand, as shown. The tail end lies OVER the ball end. In your right hand, hold a double-pointed knitting needle several sizes smaller than you will use for the knitting. Make the first stitch (follow the red arrow) by reaching OVER (not through) the loop, and catching the standing yarn (standing yarn=yarn coming from the ball, also called the "ball end") "up from under" to form a stitch which lies over the needle.
click picture

step 1 disappearing loop
2. Make the second stitch (follow the red arrow) by reaching THROUGH the loop, catching the standing yarn "up from under" and drawing the standing yarn back out of the loop, to form a stitch which lays over the needle.
click picture

step 2 disappearing loop
3. Make the third stitch (follow the red arrow) as you made the first one: reach OVER (not through) the loop, and catch the standing yarn "up from under" to form a stitch which lies over the needle. Click here for an explanation of how each finger is deployed in the illustration below.
click picture
step 3 disappearing loop
4. Continue, making each odd stitch OVER the loop and each even stitch THROUGH the loop and until you have the EVEN number of stitches you need (if you need to cast on an odd numbers of stitches, see point 7, below)
click picture
step 4 finished produce disappearing loop
5. Distribute the stitches onto 3 or 4 dpn and join the work by using the standing yarn to knit through the first stitch cast on. Do not bcome discouraged if the needles drop out--which they WILL do several times, until you finally prevail. (HINT: try different needles until you find the ones which work best for you--bamboo needles are maybe easier for knitting with few stitches where needles are apt to fall out...)

6. After several rounds, tug on the tail end. Ta da! The original loop into which you were working will disappear, and your work will feature a beginning rosette of the even, attractive stitches you worked into that loop. (HINT: give the tail an experimental tug right away, after first joining the work just to be sure the loop CAN tighten and didn't get tangled while making the join. If the tail end did get tangled up, try, try again.)
click picture
finished product in the wool disappearing loop cast on
7. If, for some reason, you need an ODD number of stitches (a seven-section hat top?) make the loop with the BALL end on top, and make the first (and all odd) stitch(es) by going THROUGH the loop for the first stitch, then OVER the loop for the second (and all even) stitch(es). This way the odd stitch with which you want to end (the last stitch) is "held in" by having been made through the loop.

A final note: Does this sort of cast-on look familiar to you from another context? Perhaps you have used this technique in making a kind of provisional cast on called "invisible cast on." For invisible cast-on, instead of making a loop into which to work, you hold a length of scrap yarn along a straight knitting needle and conduct this same series of manuevers over and under the needle and the scrap yarn. You then withdraw the needle and leave the loops on the scrap yarn until you're ready to expose the stitches. When you withdraw the scrap yarn, you'll see live loops, waiting to be knitted up.

However, IMHO, there exists a far better provisional cast-on (illustrated here)
so I'd save this trick for working into a "disappearing loop" for center-started knitting.

ADDENDUM September 2009:  As beautiful as this cast-on is, some folks have been having a hard time following the diagrams.  In real life, you could learn this trick in 5 minutes, but it IS hard to learn from diagrams, no doubt about it.  At any rate, if you like the look of disappearing loop, but are having a hard time of it, then click over to this post: Knitting from the center--belly buttons and the umbilical waste cord method."  Although they do take a little longer, knitted belly buttons end up with the same structure and look as disappearing loop, and are easier to learn from diagrams. 


Kathy said...

Another winner. Maybe my next Dulaan hat will be a start-at-the-top one just so I can try this out.

christine said...

Very informative, as usual!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting this. I just started making some hexagons for a knit counterpane and have not been happy with the results using Emily's method. Now I have something new to try. I hope I have success with it as it's for a baby gift and I want it to be especially nice.

Luciana said...

Great tip!!

Lyndsey-Jane said...

look forward to trying this, I came from Ysolda's Otto bear pattern.

Anonymous said...

No one has been able to explain fully the expereince of the disappearing loop method, as clearly and simpley, and compehensively like you have done.
Please, leave this on your Blog?
I will be using the information and pictures until my fingers remember the steps. A million Thanks to you.

Dixie Ipsit said...

I understand this cast on! I practiced it over the week-end and it really works. But, now I have a question. I started out by casting on 8 stitches (in attempt to follow a top-down hat pattern), then I slipped 4 stitches to a second circular needle (I'm a "knit in the round with two circular needles" person). Here's the question - should I be knitting the first round as a regular knit or should I be using an increase like KFB? I could handle the regular knit as the first round, but the KFB was just too much for my brain to handle.

P.S. I didn't read the part about using a smaller needle for the actual cast on until after I had knit several rounds, then snugged up the top. Those stitches were MUCH bigger than the others. This taught me that I really need to read everything carefully!

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Dixie: Usually, it is best to knit one round plain. If you think this will make too many stitches at the top of the hat, simply cast on more stitches to start, which has the effect of eliminating one increase round altogether. When you draw up the loop, those stitches will lay tightly together at the top in an attractive rosette.

AuntieAnn said...

I just used this for a knit-in-the-round baby blanket -- awesomeness! Thank you!

Ashley said...

This is so easy to understand. At what point should I slip my stitches onto the dpn I plan to use for my project? After the cast on? Or after a few rows? Thanks!

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Ashley--sorry for the delay in answering--I didn't see your comment. You slip to the dpn's as soon as you can stand to--I do it after the stitches are formed, before knitting round 2. However, if you're afraid your needles are going to fall out of the work, then KNIT the stitches off onto dpn's for the second round, that usually holds better than slipping the first round. Remember, you can tighten up the loop after several rounds, so you can really spread it a bit apart to knit the first few rounda, and then tighten up the loop afterwards.

Thanks for writing, Best --TK

random-charm Cindy said...

This is the method I use which I stumbled on myself. I agree, it's so much simpler in real life. But I think you did a good job with the illustrations although I hold my work differently so at first I wasn't sure if it was the same method.
Thank you for taking so much time and effort to explain all these great tips and tricks. Your blog is a wealth of information!

Anonymous said...

I finally got it! It took me quite a while from the diagrams, but in reality is so much easier...would you consider making a video to show how this is done? Thanks so much for the great info.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. It took several times to get it (and I'm still tweaking) but it works beautifully. I think that the difficulty is in how to work the stitches once they've been slipped to dpn's. I can't always manage holding the tail and the loop properly without losing the first stitch. Thanks for all the great instructions on your blog. You're making me a better knitter!

Hélène Magnússon said...

I find easier to knit the first row as if to knit an I-cord (slide sts to the other end of left needle and knit), thus avoiding needles to keep falling off. The second row is knitted normally in the round.
It also makes it easier to work with any even or uneven number of sts.

redrumwriter63 said...

This is super handy! It took me awhile to figure it out from the illustrations, but I think I've got it now. I've started the base of an amigurumi toy and it is excellent, because it allows the base to be completely flat.

mel said...

This worked great! I'm trying to reinterpret a crochet pattern in knitting and wasn't sure I'd find a way to start from the middle like the magic ring or magic loop crochet method. The first time I did it I worked it as i-cord as well since there were only 6 sts I needed. The second time, instead of increasing immediately from those first 6 sts to 12, I knit each of the CO sts first. I'm not sure with just 6 sts it makes a difference.

Thanks for being/providing such a great resource! Your illustrations are simply amazing, actually.

XiaoMe said...

Now I can execute the cast-on no problem, but after I knit a couple of rounds, there is a huge hole from where the first cast-on stitch was. My yarn is exactly per the photo- what else could I be doing wrong?

TECHknitter said...

Hi XiaoMe: Have you tried pulling on the tail to snug up the hole? That should work. If it does not, write again, OK?

XiaoMi said...

I had a bit of a hiatus due to some travel- but it didn't help. When I pull the tail end the loop snugs up, but I still end up with holes. I think maybe it is a hole from joining? I have some photos but don't know how to send them to you.

Keli said...

I'm so grateful for this tutorial. The only thing I'm finding confusing is the white section of yarn (labeled "first stitch") in illustration 2. It appears to be going "over the top" instead of "up from under."

TECHknitter said...

Hi Keli--that IS confusing,but I'm not sure how else to say it? The terminology is supposed to refer to how the yarn lays over the needle, not how the loop lays! Hope that makes it clearer..

Best, TK

curlyjenny said...

Oh my goodness. such a great technique and instructions so easy to follow. thank you. you rock! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this! I tried to learn this method from two other websites and a youtube video before coming here on a friend's rec. Thank you for the incredibly clear instructions and awesome pictures. =)

Anonymous said...

I thought I invented this myself!! And short rows, too! Then I learn that not only have these techniques been around for a long time, but they have been illustrated, taught, and more elegantly refined!! Thanks for such a great graphic tutorial. I am a fan.

Katie C said...

I was also having trouble with losing the first stitch, until I figured out that the key is keeping the tail end on the WS as you work the first stitch. When you tug to tighten, the tail is on the inside of the round (rather than on the outside). Don't know why it makes a difference, but it does!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I've spent way too long trying to figure this out and every tutorial I saw was more confusing than the last. This worked perfectly.