Circular shawls, toys and hats are just a few of the projects that might require a circular cast-on technique. In crochet, working from the centre out is considered the norm – the humble granny square, for example, might be the perfect beginner’s project. However, in knitting, we have a tendency to work from the outside in.
There are a few different methods to cast on from the inside of a circle, and they all produce slightly different results and are of varying levels of fiddliness!
The three I’ve explored here are the most common techniques:
- Disappearing Loop Cast-on
- Emily Ocker’s cast-on
- I-cord starting cast-on
These will give you a few different options, depending on your preferences – the first uses a crochet hook, the second uses a knitting needle, and the third begins from an i-cord. Although the first two might seem a bit tricky at first, they do become much easier with practice!
For all three examples, I cast on six stitches and increased six stitches evenly on every alternative round, closing the loop shut after about ten rounds of knitting.
Main image: Image: ‘Setting Sun’ from The Knitter issue 27
How to do disappearing loop cast-on
This is my favourite cast-on of the three – I’m a fan of the long-tail cast-on, and this feels like it flows nicely, alternating yarnovers with catching the working yarn through the loop. The result is a neat join with little bulk, and a very satisfying loop-closure when you pull the tail!
Make a loop over your left forefinger with the yarn, letting the tail fall to the left at the front of the loop, and taking the working yarn over your middle finger. Hold the loop shut with your thumb and forefinger.
Turn your left hand to face away from you and slip the knitting needle behind the working yarn from bottom to top to create a yarnover.
Keeping the needle where it is, twist your left hand back around to face you, creating a loop on the needle. This is your first stitch.
Take the needle under the two loops on your forefinger from right to left…
…and pick up the working yarn by taking the needle over it…
…then pulling the working yarn down and through the loop on to the needle.
This time, take the needle under the working yarn from front to back to create a yarnover.
Repeat steps 4-7 until the required number of stitches are on the needle.
To begin knitting in the round, transfer the stitches on to a set of DPNs or circular needles, and arrange to work in the round. Tighten the loop after a few rounds.
Emily Ocker’s circular cast-on
Emily Ocker’s Circular Cast-on is probably the most common of all the circular cast-on techniques, and one that you might have tried already if you have made any toys or circular shawls. If you’re a crocheter, this will look familiar, as it can be seen as the knitting equivalent of a crochet Magic Loop (not to be confused with magic loop knitting).
Make a loop with your yarn, with the tail end of the yarn going over the top of the loop and over to the right.
Hold the loop closed with your left hand and keeping hold of the tail in your right hand, insert a crochet hook slightly smaller than the needles you will be knitting with into the loop and under the working yarn, catching hold of the yarn and bringing it through the loop.
Take the hook over the loop and under the working yarn, catching the yarn and bringing it through the loop on the hook. You might find you need to gently pull down on the loop with your forefinger and thumb to help pull the new loop through. Draw to close, to create one stitch.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the required number of stitches are on the hook. To knit in the round, transfer the stitches on to a set of DPNs or circular needles, and arrange to work in the round. Tighten the loop after a few rounds.
I-cord starting cast-on
This method is a good one if you are struggling with the other two techniques, or are having trouble keeping the stitches on your needles.
Using waste yarn and DPNs the same size as your project needles, cast on the required number of sts using the long-tail cast-on method.
*Knit across all sts, then slide sts to the right-hand side of the working needle without turning work.
Repeat step 2 until the i-cord measures 1-2cm. You can choose now whether to distribute the stitches evenly onto a set of DPNs, or work a few increase rows first to make this a bit easier (see tip box below).
Change to the main project yarn and work across all stitches. This will become your first pattern round.
(Optional) Split the stitches evenly over two DPNs. Work the next couple of rounds over two needles only, working across the front needle, turning and then working across the back (now front) needle.
Continue this way until enough stitches have been increased to make slipping the stitches onto DPNs a bit ‘safer’ as there are now more stitches to grip the needles. You can remove the waste yarn when you’re just a few rounds into the project – this way, if anything goes wrong, there is less at stake!
Thread a tapestry needle with the tail end of the main yarn and unpick the waste yarn stitch by stitch, slipping the live loops onto the tapestry needle as you go. When you reach the end, go into the first stitch once more and then pull the yarn gently to close up the hole.
Working with a small number of stitches straight into the round on DPNs can be frustrating if you’re using slippery needles that keep sliding out. Until you’ve increased to 24 stitches or so, you might find it easier to work in the round on circular needles, or over two DPNs, splitting the stitches evenly over them and holding both in your left hand, but only knitting across the front needle before turning and knitting across the second needle. When there are enough stitches, you can then transfer to three or four DPNs, depending on your preference or the multiple of stitches you are working with.