Friday, October 12, 2007

QUICKtip: improve long-tail cast on with a KNOT

The long tail is the method I most use for casting on. (For the reasons I like it best, and for a tutorial on how to do long tail cast on, click here.) However, although it is my fave, the fact is that the larger the number of stitches to be cast on, the less accurate the estimation will be for the length of the tail.

I was pondering this for the nth time a couple of nights ago when a BIG idea jumped into my head--what if the tail were actually a separate piece of yarn? That would make long tail casting on far more feasible where LOTS of stitches are needed -- a man's sweater, the edge of a poncho, a shawl started along the long edge, a blanket. (Above) The easiest way to work this caper is to simply knot both ends of the skein of yarn together. On the upside, you could cast on eleventy-seven stitches and you'd never run out of yarn by allowing a too-short tail. On the downside, you'd have extra ends to work in, but the weaving-in method or the held together tail method from the 3-in-in TECHjoin should take care of the extra loose ends without too much trouble (and in flat garment knitting, you can use at least one of these tails, left long at each side, to seam the garment).

(Above) The "knotted stitch" does NOT figure into your stitch count--before knitting the second round, drop the "knotted stitch" right off the needle. The first true stitch now presents as the first stitch of the row.

Ordinarily, both strands of the long-tail cast on would be in the same color--the 2 colors are for illustration purposes only.

Addendum 10-13-07: A sharp-eyed reader, Talvi, wrote in the comments that I seem to have unvented provisional long tail cast on. And so I have--Talvi provided this link, and sure enough, there it is: a long tail cast on with a knot! Summarizing briefly, the idea of using long tail casting on with a knot as a provisional cast on would be to really and truly use two different colors of yarn, as in the illustration, and then pick out the bottom loops (red in the illustrations). This would leave the top loops (white) on the needles, and the tails of those white stitches could then be treated as stitches to be worked in the opposite direction.

However ... as cool as long tail casting-on with a knot is, I personally would use it only where LOTS of stitches were wanted--I would not use it as a provisional cast on. Years ago I messed around with pulling out the bottom thread of conventional long tail cast on as a method of provisional cast on, and rejected it for these reasons:
  • 1. The bottom yarn is on the needle pretty tightly in long tail casting on (and this is equally true regardless of whether you cast on over one needle or two). It takes some determined picking (or cutting) to get it loose--as you can see from the diagram, the bottom yarn actually forms loops that double back on themselves.
  • 2. All that picking, plucking, snipping and pulling compromises the tension of first actual row of stitches, if not the actual integrity of the stitches themselves.
  • 3. There are better ways to provisionally cast on--methods that unzip more readily.
  • 4. Even if an actual method of provisionally casting on seems too much trouble, or too complicated to wrap one's mind around, a couple of rows or rounds in waste yarn is the easiest and best method of provisional cast on ever invented--the appearance of the first actual row or round of stitches is the VERY BEST with the waste yarn method because these stitches came from "inside" the fabric and have no tension issues at all.

However, as in all things knitting, your mileage may vary--using long tail casting on with a knot as a provisional cast on might work well for you despite the fact that it doesn't work well for me.
In any event, a REALLY BIG *THANK YOU* to Talvi for bringing up this information!

(You have been reading TECHknitting on: "use a knot to improve your long tail cast on.")