Learn to Cast On Knitting Stitches
A Free Knitting Lesson from PurlsAndPixels
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 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” also called the “two strand method.” 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, mittens, and sweaters.
Learn to cast on – Video tutorial
Learn to cast on – Written instructions
For this method, you’ll start with just one needle, held in your right hand.
The “long-tail” name of this cast on comes from the fact that you will need to leave a long piece of yarn on the non-skein side of your yarn. To begin, pull approximately one inch of yarn per stitch you want to cast on free of the skein. So, for example, if you want to cast on 40 stitches, pull roughly 40 inches of yarn out of the ball. Make a slip knot at this point, and place it on your needle in your right hand.
Now, pick up your working yarn and the long-tail with your left hand.
Lift your right hand and the needle above your left hand, so that the yarn dangles over your left hand. Pinch your pointer finger and thumb together and put them between the two strands of yarn. Ensure that the working yarn (coming from the skein) is draped over your pointer finger, and the long-tail is draped over your thumb. Clasp both ends of the yarn gently into your palm to maintain tension in your work. Bring the knitting needle down, between your pointer finger and thumb. You should now be holding the yarn properly to allow you to make your first cast on stitch.
Insert the tip of your knitting needle under the yarn that is draped on the outside of your hand. With your needle, grab the strand coming from the thumb-side of your pointer finger, from top to bottom. Pull through the loop you’ve created on your thumb. You should now have two loops on your knitting needle (your slip stitch and your first cast on). Continue in the same manner to add more stitches to your needle.
Quick steps for the long-tail cast on:
That was a lot of text, so here are the cliff-notes.
1. Pull 1 inch of yarn/stitch you’ll cast on free of the skein.
2. Make a slip knot & put on right-hand needle.
3. Drape the working yarn over your pointer finger, and the long tail over your thumb.
4. Insert the knitting needle through the yarn at the bottom side of your thumb to create a loop.
5. With the needle, pull the strand of yarn coming from the bottom of your pointer finger through the loop on your thumb.
Practice with my Free Beginner Knit Scarf Pattern
Once you’ve learned to cast on, you can start to make your first knitting piece. My easy and free beginner knit scarf pattern is a good place to start to learn and practice knitting. I will reference this pattern throughout my learn to knit online tutorial:
You can start your scarf here, by casting on enough stitches to make a piece between seven nine inches wide. When following my free beginner knit scarf pattern, I suggest you start by casting on about 40 stitches. This will give you a scarf or other flat panel project that is about 9 inches wide. Your piece’s width will vary based on the tension and gauge of your knitting, but for your first project, don’t worry too much about getting an exact measurement. Its just for practice!
When you begin to learn the knit stitch, you will be able to use this first cast-on as the beginning of your very first knitting project. You can stop after about 40 rows or 9 inches of knitting, to make a 9 inch square. You can make multiple squares, sew them together and create a patchwork blanket. Or keep on knitting instead of binding off at 9 inches and make a simple scarf. Find my easy and free beginner scarf pattern here. Your scarf can be as long or short as you want. If your first attempt at knitting not so pretty because you’re tension isn’t quite right, you can throw it away without losing too much yarn. Or, if you haven’t gotten too many tangles, you can undo your work and wind the yarn back up into a ball to start over. Try, try again! You can do it!
A helpful tip:
For most patterns, your slip knot counts as your first cast on stitch.
After you have cast on some stitches, you are ready to learn the knit stitch. Find out how to make a knit stitch here.