Following the idea that it is the little details which make the difference between "home made" and "handmade," here is a little "unvention:"* the TKIO, pronounced "Tik-ee-o." It's the TechKnitting way of making a little I-cord "O," a cute loop to begin a center-start hat, or a knitted ornament, or an egg cozy, or a potholder, or any other object made in the round. (Click pictures for close-ups.)
Really, you can make this little dingus any way you want to: at its heart, it is nothing but a short length of I-cord, with live stitches at both ends, doubled over and the stitches distributed onto double pointed needles (dpn's). If you already have a favorite method for getting live stitches on both ends of something, just skip to the photos in steps 5 and 6 below to get the idea, and then do it your way.
The rest of this post is about how I cast on TKIOs. If you're still with me, here's the--
click picture(Above) Cast four stitches on a double pointed needle by the backwards loop method. DOUBLE TWIST the first stitch (the double twist holds it on better for what follows).
click picture(Above) Slide the 4 stitches to the right tip of the CO needle, and bring the standing yarn behind the work. Insert a second needle into the space between the first 2 backwards loops and draw up a loop of the standing yarn (standing yarn=yarn coming from the ball). In other words, reach through the space between the first and second backwards loops, draw up a loop of standing yarn, and keep it on the second needle.
click picture(Above) Repeat this loop-drawing up manuever between the 2nd and 3rd CO stitch, and again between the 3rd and 4th CO stitch. You will have 7 stitches on two needles--4 on the top needle, 3 on the bottom needle. Push the first stitch cast on--the double twisted one--off the right tip of the top needle. Now you will have 6 stitches--3 on top, 3 on the bottom.
click picture(Above) Knit a short length of I-cord on the TOP set of stitches, as illustrated, leaving the lower stitches ON THE LOWER NEEDLE.(TIP: If your lower 3 stitches seem to be very loose --AS ILLUSTRATED IN PICTURE 5-- catch the tail end together with the standing yarn and knit them together for the first stitch of the I-cord. On the next row of the I-cord, don't be confused that there are 4 stitches on your needle--remember to knit these two overlapped stiches as if they were one. Snug up the tail end and the bottom three stitches will stay tight.)
click picture(Left) The short I-cord on the needles. (See notes to step 4 regarding the loose stitches on the bottom needle.)
click picture(Right) When the I-cord is as long as you want it, push the three top stitches to the left tip of the top needle. Hold the right tip of the bottom needle to the left of the 3 stitches on the top needle and join by knitting 2 of the bottom stitches off onto a third needle. The result: the TKIO's six stitches (3 from the I-cord top, and the 3 from the lower needle) will be distributed in pairs onto 3 double pointed needles (dpn's) ready to knit further in any center-started pattern which needs a cute little hanging loop. (Tip: when joining, keep the "inside in." I-cord has a beautiful side--the front--and a less-beautiful side--the back, which often features the ladder-ish gap which formed between stitches 3 and 1. Hide this gap on the inside of the loop when you double it over.)
ADDENDUM October 2009: I went and knitted with a bunch of knitters in Utrecht, Holland, and they call these little loops "Teletubbies!!"
*As Marie Antoinette's hatmaker said: "Nothing is new but that which has been forgotten." In that spirit, I am confident that the TKIO exists somewhere else with a different name, and that I have not "invented" it. However, I never saw another and so (to use Elizabeth Zimmerman's famous phrase) have "unvented" it.