When you begin to knit, you’ll need to learn to put your initial stitches on your needles. In knitting, this is called “casting on” stitches. When reading a pattern, the abbreviations CO, co, or, c/o are often used to mean cast on.
There are several methods of casting on, each of which serves a different purpose. Some cast-ons are decorative, some are stretchy, and the way you put your yarn on your needles can really change the end garment.
For beginners, it is a good idea to start with the “long tail cast on.” This cast on gives you a stretchy – but not too stretchy – end for your work. It also ends up looking clean and neat if you ensure that your put each stitch equally tightly (with even tension) on your needle. I use the long tail cast on for almost all of my basic garments, like scarves, hats, and mittens.
Below are both video and written tutorials to help you learn how to put your first loops onto your knitting needles with the long-tail cast on. Knit along with me using my Free Beginner Face Scrubby Pattern.
Video Guide: How to Cast On Knit Stitches
Written Guide: How to Cast On Knit Stitches
Cast On, Step 1:
Pull approximately one inch of yarn per stitch you plan to cast on free of the ball of yarn. For example, if you want to cast on 14 stitches, pull roughly 14 inches of yarn out of the ball.
Cast On, Step 2:
Make a slipknot at this point in the yarn, then place it on a knitting needle held in your right hand. (Note: This slipknot will count as your first cast on stitch.)
Cast On, Step 3:
Bring your left hand under the slipknot, with the working yarn above your hand and the yarn tail below your hand. Drape the working yarn side between your left pointer finger and left middle finger.
Cast On, Step 4:
Drape the tail-side of the yarn over your left thumb.
Cast On, Step 5:
Keeping the yarn draped over your thumb and pointer finger, turn your left hand so you can see your palm; the working yarn should lie over your left-hand middle, ring, and pinkie fingers. Keep the slip knot from falling off your needle by gently holding it in place with your right pointer finger.
Cast On, Step 6:
With your left ring and pinkie fingers, pinch the two strings that now drape over your left palm. Bring the tip of the knitting needle in front of your left thumb nail. You should now be holding the yarn properly to allow you to make your first cast on stitch.
Cast On, Step 7:
Insert the tip of your knitting needle under the yarn at the base of your left thumb.
Cast On, Step 8:
Bring the tip of the needle over both the strands of yarn behind your left thumb.
Cast On, Step 9:
With your needle, grab the yarn at the base of your left pointer finger by bringing the needle over the strand, then down toward your thumb.
Cast On, Step 10:
Pull the loop you have created over the strand coming from behind your left thumb and under the strand in front of left your thumb.
Cast On, Step 11:
You should now have a new stitch on your needle and a loop around your left thumb; gently remove your thumb from the stitch, while continuing to clasp the loose ends of your cast on with your left ring and pinkie fingers.
Cast On, Step 12:
Place your left thumb back under the yarn tail that now comes from your second cast on stitch. Use this thumb to pull the stitch tighter (but not too tightly) onto your knitting needle.
Cast On, Step 13:
Rotate your hand back into position to cast on another stitch by turning your left palm toward you while still holding the working yarn and yarn tail with your left ring and pinkie fingers.
Cast On, Step 14:
Repeat steps 7 through 13 until you have cast on all the stitches your pattern requires. **Remember, your slipknot counts as your first stitch.**
Practice Your Cast On With My Free Knitting Patterns
The easiest and fastest knitting pattern to learn with is my Free Beginner Face Scrubby Pattern. It is short and you will have a finished object more quickly.
If you would rather try a longer pattern, my Free Beginner Scarf Pattern is suitable for absolute beginners, as well. Because it has more stitches in the pattern, it will take longer than a scrubby to finish.
After you have cast on some stitches, you are ready to learn the knit stitch. Find out how to make a knit stitch here.