How to cast on for double knitting

Want to create a reversible knitted fabric? Then start here! Jen Arnall-Culliford shows you two different methods you can use to cast on for your double knitting projects.

How to cast on for double knitting

Double knitting is, rather confusingly, the name of a nifty knitting technique, as well as a yarn weight description. This article is all about the knitting technique. Double knitting can be used for two main purposes – the creation of a tube of knitting on straight knitting needles, or for making a reversible colourwork fabric. This article will focus on the latter application, covering casting on and off, as well as how to work the basic fabric.

Double knitting fabric is essentially 1×1 rib where you are using different yarns for the knits and the purls. In order to maintain a stocking stitch fabric on both sides of the work, it’s necessary to work all knit stitches with both yarns held at the back, and all purl stitches with both yarns held at the front.

You will likely find this easiest if you hold your yarns in a similar way to how you would for a Fair Isle project. I prefer to hold both yarns over my right index finger (I work Fair Isle with yarns over my right index and middle fingers). I find it slightly easier to move both yarns to front and back if they are over the same finger.

Holding yarn for double knitting
1. Holding both strands of yarn over the right index finger; 2. Holding both strands of yarn over the left index finger; 3. Two-handed method of holding the two yarns.

Casting on

If you are working a reversible piece with two colours, then the two-colour Italian cast-on method demonstrated in The Knitter’s Brioche Knitting Masterclass in issue 104 is perfect. This technique produces a beautifully neat, closed bottom edge, whilst also setting up alternate colours ready for the two sides of the fabric.

If you require an open bottom edge, then the two-colour backwards-loop cast-on method is ideal. You will need to cast on sufficient stitches for both the front and back of the fabric, e.g. if you want a piece that is 20 sts wide, then you need to cast on a total of 40 sts (20 sts for front and the same for the back).

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Method 1 – two-colour backwards-loop

Step 1

Tie the two yarns together in a slip knot and place on your needle. Hold the yarns over your thumb and index finger of your left hand.

Cast on for double knitting step 1

Step 2

Make a backwards loop with the yarn over your thumb.

Cast on for double knitting step 2

Step 3

Insert the needle tip into this loop from bottom to top, and slip the loop off your thumb.

Cast on for double knitting step 3

Step 4

Gently tighten the loop on the needle.

Cast on for double knitting step 4

Step 5

Make a backwards loop with the yarn over your index finger.

Cast on for double knitting step 5

Step 6

Insert the needle top into this loop from bottom to top, and slip the loop off your thumb.

Cast on for double knitting step 6

Step 7

Gently tighten the loop on the needle.

Cast on for double knitting step 7

Step 8

Repeat steps 2-7 until you have the required number of stitches.

Cast on for double knitting step 8

Method 2 – knit into front and back

Step 9

Another straightforward way to cast on a closed bottom edge for double knitting is to simply cast on half of the required stitches, and knit into front and back of every stitch on the first row. If you need to work in two colours from the start, then set up the knitting as follows:

Cast on half the number of stitches that you require using one colour and your usual cast-on method.

Cast on for double knitting step 9

Step 10

Knit into the front of the first stitch with yarn A, but don’t slip the stitch off the left-hand needle.

Cast on for double knitting step 10

Step 11

Knit into the back of the same stitch using yarn B, and slip the stitch off the needle.

Cast on for double knitting step 11

Step 12

Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you reach the end of the row.

Cast on for double knitting 12
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Now you have cast on, you’re ready to work some double knitting! Click here to find out more about how it’s done, including following charts in the round and flat.