Monday, May 2, 2011

Items started along a long edge--how best to cast on

A perennial question on community knitting boards is how best to cast on along a very long edge, such as a scarf made edge-to-edge (as opposed to top-to-bottom) or a wide afghan made all in one piece.  IMHO, the best way would be to provisionally cast-on the long edge, using  COWYAK or the crochet method.  Afterwards, when the garment is finished, take out the provisional cast-on and work a bind-off to finish that edge.  This has two advantages.

1. The tension of the edge can be adjusted afterwards to suit the tension of the garment
2. The two edges will match perfectly, both tension-wise and appearance-wise, having both been bound off by the same method.

(In fact, is my humble opinion that this is also the best way to cast on for pretty much ALL garment knitting--such as a bottom-up sweater.  In other words, cast on provisionally, work the body of the garment, and only afterwards add the bottom band.  You can then freely experiment with different bands--hems, ribbings, etc.  Also by this method, The top and bottom bands will thus match along their edges, and the tension of the whole bottom band can be adjusted once you have a better idea of how the garment fits, and how the bottom band should best be tensioned to best fit the knitting of the body of the garment.  A further advantage to this method is that it also allows you to fine-tune the length of the finished garment, as well as of the cuffs for bottom-up work; or the tension and height of the neck band on a top-down garment.) 



Blogger Roberta said...

I'm sure others have expressed interest in a TECHknitting book, but please add my voice to theirs. I would definitely buy any book you publish.

May 2, 2011 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I never really thought about using provisional cast-ons that way! It makes a lot more sense and gives you a bit more leeway to play with the length without having to take everything out from the shoulders. Thanks for that tip!

May 2, 2011 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger CricketB said...

Seeing as I only rarely get a nice, loose cast-on, I have to agree. At least with bind-offs (which also often end up too tight), you have the rest of the project to compare it with and it's easier to tear out and redo.

May 2, 2011 at 11:55 AM  
Anonymous Vanessa said...

Huh, I never thought about this. Cool!

May 2, 2011 at 12:09 PM  
Anonymous FirstMute said...

This is possibly the most useful tip I've read in months. Seriously. I am going to do this for everything I knit from now on.

May 2, 2011 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Angeluna said...

You ANGEL, you read my mind once again. Your article was just in time for a new project for which I was trying to devise a cast on.

I actually KNEW this, but had forgotten.

May 2, 2011 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger heavenlyevil said...

I've gotten in the habit of doing this in the last couple of years and it really does make a difference. Especially for square or rectangular things; it's so much easier to keep all sides the same.

May 2, 2011 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger gail said...

Simply brilliant!

May 2, 2011 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger geeky Heather said...

Holey shamoley! I may very well redo the 2" of sweater I've just started!!!! Thank you!

May 2, 2011 at 3:23 PM  
Blogger Esther said...

Alas, about a month too late to save my current project, but I will definitely keep it in mind in the future!

May 2, 2011 at 4:25 PM  
Anonymous twinsetellen said...

In a Yarnover class this weekend, one of the teachers recommended provisional cast ons for sleeves knit from the cuff up so that their length could be customized AFTER they were sewn in. Makes perfect sense, as does this.

May 2, 2011 at 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Ayse said...

When I was learning to knit, I could never make a good cast-on edge, so I always knit for a bit, put in a lifeline, then undid the first part and worked back to the starting edge. Even decades (cough) later, I still think the best place to start any knitted object is in the middle.

May 2, 2011 at 8:35 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

I've come to the conclusion that COWYAK is the only cast-on method you ever need. Projects can be ruined right from the start with a too-tight cast-on which you may not always realise until you come to block the finished item. COWYAK allows you to defer the decsion of what to do with that 1st row of live stitches until the end of the project. I use it for everything.

May 3, 2011 at 3:56 AM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

I love the food for thought you just gave me as well as the opportunity to learn another method of cast-on. Thanks!

May 3, 2011 at 7:32 AM  
Blogger Chantal Boucher said...

When i fall in your blog... i cannot stop reading, going back to other post, you are so, but so interesting!!

May 3, 2011 at 7:43 AM  
Blogger Honnay said...

Provisional cast-ons (and YOU!) rule!
Many people have asked me, "What's that string on the bottom of your knitting?"

Thanks for again confirming MY knitting wisdom!


May 3, 2011 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger seeherknit said...

Having recently completed a bottom up sweater that would fit so much better if the ribbing were just two inches longer in the hem, I find this to be excellent advice. Wish I’d used the provisional cast on.

May 3, 2011 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Dear seeher... ALL IS NOT LOST!! you can still remove that bottom ribbing and work the garment in the other direction. Think of the exisiting ribbing as you COWYAK, and remove it. Ther eare more details at this link (cut and paste into your browser)

May 3, 2011 at 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Canada said...

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May 4, 2011 at 4:15 AM  
Anonymous Ellen said...

I enjoy the crochet provisional cast on (I mount the stitches on the needle as I go; wrap the needle, chain a loop). But I see the advantage of having a few rows of waste to protect the integrity of the stitches ... so if I did a provisional crochet cast on, then knit a few rows with the waste yarn, I could have the convenience (and satisfaction!) of the chain and then just unravel to my live stitches, yes? I think I would still have to deal with that half a stitch/loop at the selvage ... hmmm ... I love the conversation you've started.

May 4, 2011 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Ellen--yes, you could start COWYAK with a crocheted prov. cast on. Or, you could take a scissors to an ordinary COWYAK, so that you only had to unravel the final row or so.

May 6, 2011 at 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Belgie said...

Considerably, the post is actually the greatest on this notable topic. I fit in with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your upcoming updates. Saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the great lucidity in your writing.

May 7, 2011 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger GinkgoKnits said...

What about using this with garments with complex patterns? I'm specifically thinking of a cabled sweater where a good design includes ribbing that flows into the cable pattern. Wouldn't this make a mess of such hems or cuff? I would love to be able to go back and lengthen the ribbing at the start of various cabled hats, but it's my understanding that it's not possible if I want everything to stay lined up. Otherwise, yes, I agree this a brilliant tip for those scarves cast-on at the long edge.

June 1, 2011 at 1:36 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Ginko--you are correct that for non stockinette fabrics, the pattern from a provisional cast on will be offset by half a stitch between the fabric worked "up" from the provisional cast on and the fabric worked "down" after the provisional cast on is removed.

The explanation for why is here-- (cut and paste the link into your browser window)

Therefore, you are correct that it is not possible to carry the cable (or any other pattern) "down" from a provisional cast on into the ribbing where the ribbing is worked in a different direction from a provisional cast on than the rest of the garment.

However, this problem need not arise if you immediately bind off the fabric when the provisional cast on is removed--the reason for doing this is simply to have the cast on match the cast off (bind off).

Another common example is to use this trick for a sweater made in stockinette, adding the ribbing afterwards, whether worked "up" or "down" (at neck for a top-down sweater, or at the lower edge for a bottom-up sweater) --for this hypothetical stockinette sweater, the 1/2 stitch displacement will never show, thus allowing the ribbing length (and therefore the sweater length!) to be adjusted afterwards.

Thanks for writing--TK

June 1, 2011 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger GinkgoKnits said...

Thanks so much for the quick response. I'll definitely remember this tip -- maybe I even need to start a stockinette sweater to cement it into my mind! My only problem with your posts is that there are too many clever tricks to remember them all while I'm knitting. I've loved using those Tulip buttonholes and they've stayed perfect looking despite being used with 2" buttons.

June 3, 2011 at 3:56 AM  

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