Sunday, April 5, 2009

Casting on additional stitches at the end of a row or over a gap by the loop cast-on method: a trick for beautiful fabric

Today's installment of TECHknitting shows a trick for casting on (adding) stitches at the end of a row, such as where instructions state to "add X stitches at the end of the row." This trick works equally well over a gap, such as over a peasant thumb on a mitten, or over a pocket opening, or over a buttonhole.

Way back, in the fourth post ever released on TECHknitting blog, the looping-on method of casting on was introduced, with that post indicating that this method is fragile and of limited usefulness. Yet, there are some times when this cast-on, so unsuited to ordinary duty, simply shines--a real Cinderella of a cast-on. Specifically, when done right, the looping-on cast-on turns out to be ideal for adding stitches at the end of a row.

Now, the experienced knitters among you may be shaking your heads, and well you might: the loop cast-on at the end of a row usually ends up making an untidy mess of loose, loopy foundation stitches--a sad embarrassment at seaming time, and a truly terrible looking mess on an exposed edge. Yet, with all its faults, the loop cast-on can very easily be made directly from the running yarn of the adjoining row, and this ease of construction is simply not true of the alternative methods.

What if the advantages of this looping-on (ease of construction) could remain, but the loose mess could be eliminated? Well, here is a TECH-trick to do that--a trick which will tighten up this easy, yet messy method into respectability and true usefulness.

Step 1: Let us suppose that you have piece of stockinette fabric (illustrated in light blue) and you need to add four stitches at the end of a row of knitting. In this trick, we will get to four stitches eventually, but we are actually only going to start by adding only three loops. These three loops are illustrated in lavender. (To learn how to do the looping-on cast-on, click here.) The yarn connecting the garment stitches and the three newly-made loop st is illustrated in dark purple, and we will come back to that connector shortly.

Step 2: Turn the work.

Step 3: Knit the first stitch of the loop cast-on. This can be frustrating because the loop keeps wanting to untwist as you try to knit into it, but persevere. In the illustrations below, the first loop has been knitted, and the stitch knitted is illustrated in green.

Step 4: Knit the remaining 2 loops. You will now have on your right needle, three stitches plus a horrible, nasty, long length of yarn (illustrated in purple) connecting these 3 stitches to the rest of the knitted fabric, as shown below. Do not despair! This has been foreseen and will be eliminated in step 5.

Step 5: We will now preform the trick which will remove that extra slack, smarten up the loop cast on, and raise the stitch count to the proper number. Here's how: grasp the excess yarn (purple) between your thumb and forefinger, give it a half twist in the clockwise direction, and replace it on the LEFT needle.

Step 6: knit this stitch as you have done the previous loops

Step 7: the final result

Do you see what you've done? You've made a new loop, thus using up the excess yarn AND correcting the stitch count.

By this trick of casting on one less stitch than we need, then making the additional stitch out of the inevitable slack on the next row, we have turned the sloppy slack created by the loop cast on from a disadvantage into an asset.

In the example above, we have 4 stitches to add on by the loop method. However, if you have to add on a substantial number of stitches at the end of a row, the ratio to cast on is about 1/3 fewer stitches than the pattern calls for, then pick up the extra stitches by making loops, evenly spaced, all along the return row, with the last added-in stitch occurring just where the cast on is connected to body of the fabric, as shown in illustration 5.

As an example, if you had to cast on 30 stitches at the end of a row, you'd cast on only 20. On the return trip, you would loop up the extra 10 stitches, evenly spaced, all along the row, with the last (10th) stitch coming at the very end of the row of loops, just where the row is connected to the body of the garment.

The illustrations show stitches added at the right side of a stockinette fabric. You can add stitches on the left side just the same way, and you can purl into the loops on the return trip just as easily as you can knit into them.

Addendum added 4-7-09: To cast on over a gap (thumb, pocket opening) simply cast on fewer stitches, then pick up the extra stitches out of the slack on your next trip through, just as you would on the return trip after casting on at the end of a row.

A note for knitting geeks:
If you look carefully at illustration 7 (the completed cast on) you'll see that it looks just like a long tail cast on. In fact, a long tail cast on IS a row of loops with a row of knitting inserted. (More details about the long-tail cast-on here.) The reason the loop cast on is so loose when performed at the end of the row is because the foundation row of loops is made around a needle, instead of the way long-tail cast on is usually made, with the foundation loops snugged up around the knitted loops. In other words, by making the loops around a needle, they simply end up too big.

When you start to knit into these too-big loops on the return trip, the slack accumulates and turns into a really nasty-looking loose foundation edge. By casting on fewer stitches and then drawing the slack up to form the extra stitches necessary to complete the stitch count, this slack is eliminated. Of course, you can achieve the same effect by working the cast-on loops onto a much smaller needle, but then you have the problem of holding an extra needle parallel to your left needle, which involves acrobatics and a dexterity not required by the trick shown here.

One final refinement for ultra-perfectionists:
It sometimes occurs that even when the last loop is made at the end of the row, just before the body of the garment, you will STILL find an unacceptable length of yarn stretched there, just waiting to make a horrid mess at the join. If this is the case, create yet another loop to get rid of the slack, place this surplus loop on the left needle, and knit (or purl) this surplus loop away by k2tog'ing (or p2tog'ing) it together with the first stitch of the fabric of the garment.

--TECHknitter You have been reading TECHknitting on: "An improved method of casting on at the end of a row by the loop method."


Anonymous Clair St. Michel said...

This is brilliant, this is unbelievably brilliant. I wish I could say something clever.


April 5, 2009 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Welcome back! I look forward to more jewels such as this one.

April 5, 2009 at 5:56 PM  
Anonymous Skiffyknitter said...

I can't believe I never thought of this. You're brilliant.

April 5, 2009 at 6:01 PM  
Blogger lookinout said...

Wow, super! I may b using this in my next project.

April 5, 2009 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger amelia said...

Hooray! Thanks for the great post! This is by far my favorite knitting blog. :D

April 5, 2009 at 10:46 PM  
Blogger Renna said...


April 6, 2009 at 1:22 AM  
Blogger mooncalf said...

What a great tip and, like all the best tips, SO obvious once you think about it. *****

April 6, 2009 at 5:07 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

that's fantastic! thanks--I'm in the middle of a project that calls for casting on additional stitches this way, and have been frustrated with my results. This is a perfect solution!

April 6, 2009 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger C said...

OMG, thank you so much!!! It's so simple but so ingenious!! I feel like an idiot for not realizing this myself, haha.

April 6, 2009 at 11:31 AM  
Anonymous stamm92 said...

Yet another great idea !
I'll use that one for sure.


April 6, 2009 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Gina J said...

VERY helpful!!! Thanks for your fantastic efforts. I'm always impressed not only with your clear verbal explanations, but also your pictures/graphics! You're one talented woman!

April 6, 2009 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

That truly is a great idea. i think I accidentally tried that once figuring I was doing something wrong. I will remember it next time.

April 7, 2009 at 11:16 AM  
Anonymous missallen said...

A jaw-dropping, forehead-slapping, "D'OH!" moment in front of my computer this morning -- Absolutely freaking brilliant -- THANK YOU!!!

April 8, 2009 at 11:12 AM  
Anonymous Pennie said...

This was exactly what I needed! I'm working on a shawl that the directions call for casting on 15 stitches to knit the edging and I really had no idea how to do it and it not be a sloppy mess. Thanks :).

April 9, 2009 at 5:20 AM  
Blogger Sheila said...

Pure genius. Thanks for the great graphics, too.

April 11, 2009 at 1:33 PM  
OpenID ashidome said...

You are a genius and I love your blog. Please tell me that one day this will all be a fabulous book that knitters worldwide can refer to.

Your tips are beyond valuable!

April 11, 2009 at 8:11 PM  
Blogger jo said...

I can only echo what others here have said - brilliant! Oh how I wish I knew this 6 months ago! Love your site, and am waiting one day for a post on avoiding holes under the arms of raglan sweaters :)

April 12, 2009 at 12:13 AM  
Blogger Judi P said...

You are a genius.

April 14, 2009 at 12:35 PM  
OpenID tephra said...

I just wanted to thank you for this tip, I've been using it for casting on over armholes in bottom up raglan tees and tanks with great success. :)

April 19, 2009 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger Pamelamama said...

I love your brain. Congrats on the IK article! Your gifts shared to a larger audience => wonderful. If I wasn't a subscriber already, I'd become one.

April 25, 2009 at 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Kim said...

Wow. This large-loop problem is present in the vest pattern I've been knitting. I will definitely use this trick next time. Great solution!

May 10, 2009 at 8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I hope your "mind never gets empty". Keep sendin' it my way!! You are a shortcut on my desktop!

May 13, 2009 at 4:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best tip ever. St. Charles, Il

June 8, 2009 at 4:08 PM  
Blogger Ihnasarima said...

Ahahaha! my dilemma is solved! And I found it just in time. Thanks!

July 5, 2009 at 1:18 AM  
Blogger caracolina said...

Thank you for posting these helpful hints, and with such great illustrations to boot!

July 15, 2009 at 4:22 PM  
Blogger Margot said...

Very cool comparison to the long-tail cast-on (yes, I'm a geek). But why not just turn your work and do a basic knit-on or cable cast-on and knit it back?

July 21, 2009 at 1:42 AM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Hi Margot: Using a cable cast on or knit-on cast on is certainly a classic technique, used by many--it's just that when I try it, I'm right back to the loose loop problem, particularly in the spot just between where the cast on starts and the body of the garment. Given that I have to get rid of that loose loop anyhow, this method of using the backwards loop means the entire cast on is all in one style. You mileage may vary, so do try the cable or knit-on casting on and see what happens for you!


July 21, 2009 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Lenore said...

I'm knitting something that calls for an increase at the end of each row. I'm going to give this a try since I can't figure out a tidy inc method for moss stitch patterns. Think it will work?

November 12, 2009 at 7:28 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Lenore: this ought to work, no problem. I would knit the first row, and then go to the moss stitch pattern in the second row.

Thanks for writing. --TK

November 12, 2009 at 8:25 PM  
Blogger S said...

You've saved my bacon yet again. I'm knitting a shrug that requires multiple cast on increases and had no idea how to eliminate that nasty long length of yarn.
Thank you thank you thank you.

November 25, 2009 at 10:10 PM  
Blogger marika said...

thank you, that was a life saver!

January 18, 2010 at 7:17 PM  
Blogger Knittonits said...

Thank you! Thank you! Those long strands have always been an "issue" for me with those unsightly gaps!!!!

February 20, 2010 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

I have been wrestling with this problem for two days thinking that surely if I waved the yarn and needles around enough it would magically sort itself out. So glad I decided to do a google search, and even happier that I ended up here! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

February 27, 2010 at 7:36 AM  
Blogger MaryAnn said...

Thankyou! I'm attempting to knit a baby shrug (where did that word come from?) with cast on increases at the end of the initial rows. I really didn't like the loose loop -this method is much better!

March 3, 2010 at 7:34 AM  
Blogger DJ Lau said...

You just saved me from a disastrous sleeve-adding section (8 rows of casting 5stitches on at the beginning of a row)! I was dreading it but came across your blog, and it worked perfectly :D
YOU.ARE.AWESOME :) Thank you!!!!

April 2, 2010 at 6:16 AM  
Anonymous Janet said...

Wow, how great! Margot's question about why not just turn the work and cast on regularly is something I just tried, but my project requires that the new fabric made by the CO stitches will be turned over, and that results in the CO edge not matching the rest. But this solution -- this is fabulous. Thanks!

October 14, 2010 at 7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used this method just yesterday when I ran out of "long tail" during my cast-on and needed 10 more stitches. Worked beautifully. However, now my working yarn is 10 stitches in from the end and I'm knitting in the round. Being a beginner, I'm not sure how to solve the joining problem. Help is appreciated.

March 3, 2011 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--I wouldn't have thought of this for adding stitches onto a long tail cast on. However, if a person WERE going to do that, it would be better to do the extension with the working yarn itself, rather than with the tail: as you found out, using the tail means that the working yarn ends up stuck several stitches from the edge. IMHO, you're so close to the beginning of the project, it probably makes more sense to just pull this out and re-do. TK

March 3, 2011 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Krista said...

Oh you have SAVED me! I was so frustrated with my casting on at the beginning of a row because of the huge GAP! And NOW it is fixed!! THANK YOU A THOUSAND TIMES! :D

March 28, 2011 at 2:11 PM  
OpenID Carey said...


April 2, 2011 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Accidental Poet said...

Dude. You are SMART.

July 2, 2011 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger Wulfgar said...

I'm about to start my first pair of socks and wanted to try toe-up. My problem has been figuring out how to make one (M1) before the first stitches which is what this ( calls for.

Would this be a good method for that? Or do you have a better suggestion?

October 6, 2011 at 5:43 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Wulfgar--a better method for an invisible increase is this:

October 6, 2011 at 3:29 PM  
Anonymous jackie said...

Dear TK, Thanks for the tips. It will help me in my knit.

If i have tocast on extra 40sts, how many is the 1/3 ofit ? and how do i evenly spaced out ?

I understand the cast on extra 4sts part, (using that long ugly loop to be my 4th st) but not really understand the part on the cast on of the many stiches part.

Kindly advice. Thanks again.

July 27, 2012 at 11:08 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Jackie--If it were me, and I wanted to end up with 40 sts, I'd cast on 27 stitches, then turn the work, then knit 3, then add a stitch (formed from the slack between the stitches). Then I would *k2, add a loop repeating from * all the way to the end, which would end up with 40 sts on the needle. Best regards, TK

July 28, 2012 at 7:29 AM  
Blogger apwool said...

I am so glad I found this :) :)

I use a pattern regularly that requires stitches to be added with the backward loop cast on and it is my least favourite part of the garment as I can NEVER get it to look neat!
Until now that is ;)

Thank you!!

December 23, 2012 at 8:11 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I'm working on a knitted baby sweater. The pattern says to increase one stitch at the end of the row which is a 6 stitch moss stitch). Then turn and do another increase and continue in pattern. This is to make a button hole at the end of the row. I have been unable to find instruction for this. Can you help me.

February 19, 2013 at 1:59 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Elanine--I'm not quite sure what the pattern is trying to get you to do, BUT...have you considered going onto Ravelry? First, you could look up to see how other knitters (if any) have made that particular pattern (go to the Pattern tab and fill in the pattern name). Or, you could go to the forum page and ask in the technique forums, or go to the yarn and pattern forum. You are sure to get answers there, especially if you write in the actual name of the pattern. Good luck with it! (cut and paste link into browser window)

February 20, 2013 at 8:50 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Elanine--I'm not quite sure what the pattern is trying to get you to do, BUT...have you considered going onto Ravelry? First, you could look up to see how other knitters (if any) have made that particular pattern (go to the Pattern tab and fill in the pattern name). Or, you could go to the forum page and ask in the technique forums, or go to the yarn and pattern forum. You are sure to get answers there, especially if you write in the actual name of the pattern. Good luck with it! (cut and paste link into browser window)

February 20, 2013 at 8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a terrific idea! I've been working on a pattern (Aranami Shawl)and have been annoyed by that gap before the additional stitches. Thanks so much!

March 9, 2013 at 5:12 PM  
Anonymous Thelma said...

Wow, I couldn't have better help if you'd been sitting next to me! I've been puzzling with the pattern Wingspan, a shawl using short rows forming triangles arranged in steps. Hence, the need to add 16 stitches on the last row of a triangle in order to offset the next triangle. I was not sure which cast-on to use. Now I know! Thank you so much. T.

April 5, 2013 at 5:32 PM  
Blogger Feed Me said...

Is this technique what you recommend to add x stitches at the beginning of row as well (e.g. for an armhole for a sweater being knitted top down? If not, please advise. Thanks in advance.

June 18, 2013 at 4:55 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Yes, this is a good technique for X sts at beg of row. Best, TK

June 21, 2013 at 3:23 PM  
Anonymous Frantzknits said...

This is the coolest trick ever!!! I make an enormous amount of Millo vests (by Georgie Hallum) and the pattern calls for adding stitches in this fashion for the underarms. I will be using this the next time I make a Milo or gloves...WOW!!!

September 24, 2013 at 8:33 PM  
Anonymous Kati said...

I was looking for an easy and fast way of casting on some stitches for knitting flames sideways as a border for a long shawl. With short-row-shaping. This is perfect! Thank you very much :)!

December 2, 2013 at 5:20 AM  
Anonymous Jen said...

Your blog is brilliant and my go-to place when I have questions! I'd like to try this for the Fleece Artist Thrummed Mittens I'm making (the thumb gusset section), and am a little confused. I need to cast on 13 stitches at the end of my row and join them to continue knitting in the round, so I'm not sure how knitting back on the stitches I've cast on would work. After I knit back, do I then turn my work again so I'm going in the right direction and knit along the new cast-on stitches again and then join up at the end of them?

Thanks so much for posting all these fantastic "purls" of wisdom!

January 9, 2014 at 7:55 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Jen-when increasing in the middle of a row (ie: over a gap) then, instead of turning and working back, you simply cast on fewer stitches then join these at the other edge of the gap and keep working around. When you come to these cast-on stitches on the FOLLOWING ROUND, you work the trick of taking up the excess slack by making more stitches until your stitch count is correct. In other words, instead of turning and working back, you wait until you come back on the following round to work the second half of the trick. Best, TK

January 15, 2014 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger Valerie Taylor said...

This is great! Shaking fist at Pinterest because I can't pin it!

January 25, 2014 at 6:14 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Valerie--I'm sorry about the Pinterest thing. That's such a pretty website, so clever and useful. Too scary for me, though, with their copyright issues. Might you consider using your browser's "bookmark" function to bookmark the posts you like?
Thanks for writing, and I'm glad you find the blog useful. Best, TK

January 25, 2014 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Valerie Taylor said...

TK, I totally understand your reasoning behind Pinterest! I don't really need to bookmark your blog -- I come here on a search as often as not, and with your indexes I can find what I remember having seen.

I think I just unvented a teensy step-replacement for this great tutorial. Where you're to pick up the slack, twist it, and put it on the needle, you can actually pick it up down-and-under from the back with your right needle, stick your left needle up under-from-the-right in that, sort of as if to knit backwards, and then you have your needles in ready-to-knit position for the extra stitch. Unless I'm missing something that I'm twisting incorrectly.

January 25, 2014 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Valerie--I'm glad you're OK about the Pinterest thing. Any more, more and more people are writing to me about it.

About your trick--yes, yes and yes. It's actually much easier to pick up the slack with a needle than with your fingers, but it is SO much harder to explain. So thanks for putting this into the comments.

Best, TK

January 26, 2014 at 1:03 AM  
Anonymous K said...

Would that method also work for knitting in the round? The pattern I'm making has me pick up 8 sts from an edge, then cast on 40 sts with the backward loop cast on, then join everything in the round to make a tiny hexagon. The cast on is the outer edge of the hexagon. Would that work?

September 24, 2014 at 7:36 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi K--yes, it works for knitting in the round. What happens is that in the SECOND round, you twist up the loose stitches and thus get rid of the slack AND correct the stitch count, all in one fell swoop, remembering to space out the increases more or less evenly.

Best, TK

September 24, 2014 at 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm wanting to cast on stitches on a third needle and having trouble understanding how to do it by my pattern

October 12, 2014 at 4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you a million. I'm learning to knot mittens and the patterns say ass the stitches but I was just looping them on. Beautiful finesse...

January 12, 2015 at 3:19 PM  
Blogger hmship said...

I just used your trick while knitting the Omena pattern from Jill Zielinski, which calls for using backward loop to cast on 53 stitches twice. It worked great. Instead of using my fingers to add the loop I just pretended I was doing a M1 in the long thread, slipped it back to the left needle and knit it. It worked beatifully.

November 16, 2015 at 10:11 AM  

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