How to cast on knitting
Create your first row of stitches on the needle. We show you a simple cast-on technique called the knit-on method, and more.
How to cast on knitting: other cast-on methods
There are plenty of alternative ways to cast on knitting, so if you don’t get on with this one, try something else!
This is a very quick cast-on technique that is used to create a stretchy edge. It’s good for children’s clothes, as well as items with cuffs such as socks and hats.
1. Start with a slipknot
Make a slipknot and place it on a needle, leaving a long tail. Try a length about three times the width of the project you want to make. Wrap the yarn around your thumb.
2. Create a cross
Hold the tail in your left hand with your thumb sticking up. Make a circle anti-clockwise with your thumb. You should end up with a cross on the front of your thumb.
3. Wrap the yarn
Push the needle tip up along the pad of your thumb so it passes through the loop. Wrap the yarn anti-clockwise (right to left) under the tip of the needle then dip the tip of the needle between the arms of the cross.
4. Tighten the stitch and repeat
Slip your thumb out and pull to tighten the stitch on the needle. Continue in this way, sliding each stitch up so it sits comfortably next to the previous one. Keep going until you have the number of stitches you require.
Cable cast-on method
The cable cast-on is very similar to the knit-on method, but instead of inserting the right needle into the next stitch as if to knit it, you insert the needle between the first two stitches. This cast-on forms a relatively firm edge, and it’s very decorative. It’s not very elastic, so it’s better for adult garments and accessories than hats or children’s items where a bit more stretch is important.
1. Make your first stitch
Make a slipknot. Insert right‐hand needle into the stitch as if to knit. Wrap the yarn around the point and pull through, slipping the stitch on to the left‐hand needle.
2. Insert the needle
Push the point of the right‐hand needle between the first and second stitches. Wrap the yarn anti‐clockwise around the point of the right‐hand needle.
3. Create the loop
Pull the loop out with the right‐hand needle, then slip it over the tip of the left‐hand needle. Repeat steps 2-3 until you have the number of stitches you require.
German twisted cast-on method
This strong but stretchy cast-on is perfect for the cuffs of socks and mittens, where you want a bit of snugness and a bit of give at the same time. The added twists that give this cast-on its name help it to spring back to shape when it’s stretched out. Follow our guide to learn the German twisted cast-on.
Long-tail cast-on method
The long-tail cast-on uses two strands of yarn, making stitches using the tail end of the yarn, together with the ball end of yarn. You have to leave a very long tail of yarn to do this with, depending on how many stitches are required – you don’t want to run out! To estimate the length you need, count 2.5cm (1in) for every stitch then add 15cm (6in) for weaving in. This method has a good amount of stretch built in, so will work well for items like socks and hats, as well as children’s garments.
There are also various methods of loop cast-on that you can use, including the finger loop cast-on, alternating loop cast-on and the double twist loop cast-on. These can create firm or stretchy edges, which are helpful for different types of projects.
Our advice for beginners is to stick with one method unless a pattern instructs you to use a specific technique, such as casting on for double knitting. By the time you reach that stage, you’ll be so confident with your knitting that you’ll easily be able to learn a new cast-on.
Want to learn more knitting techniques? Check out our complete guide to knitting for beginners.