Does it matter which cast-on I choose?

Dear Jennifer,

As all knitters are aware, “casting on” is the process of putting stitches on the needle. There are countless ways to do it, but you may have a favorite technique you fall back on most of the time. This might leave you wondering whether the method really makes a difference. After all, stitches are

Dear Jennifer,

As all knitters are aware, “casting on” is the process of putting stitches on the needle. There are countless ways to do it, but you may have a favorite technique you fall back on most of the time. This might leave you wondering whether the method really makes a difference. After all, stitches are stitches, right? Well, actually, your choice can have a big impact on your project. Here are some things to consider when selecting a cast on:

 

Is stability important?

Firm cast-ons are those which form a strong, non-stretchy border at the base of the work. This kind of edge is useful for projects that need to maintain a certain shape such as bags, pillows, scarves, etc. The popular long tail cast-on is the go-to technique in this category since it is often the first method taught to new knitters. It is also the most commonly called for cast-on in knitting patterns. Alternatively, the cable cast-on, named for its attractive “cable-like” appearance is also extremely firm.

 

Does it need to stretch?

Cast-on edges with give and flexibility are important for hat brims, sock cuffs, and top-down raglan sweaters because these items need to be stretchy in order to fit properly on the body. Try the German Twisted cast-on or the Estonian cast-on for stretchy garments and accessories. For lace, use the knit-on method, or e-wrap cast-on because either technique will provide the maximum degree of expansion needed for open work stitch patterns. The knit-on (or purl-on) method also has the advantage of not requiring you to estimate in advance how much yarn the cast on will take.

 

Is it pretty or utilitarian?

Sometimes cast-ons must perform very specialized functions. For instance, the tubular cast-on creates a very professional looking finished edge while beaded and picot cast-ons create beautiful embellishments. On the other hand, provisional cast-ons can be removed to reveal live stitches which can be used in a variety of ways.

Remember – all cast-ons are not created equal. They differ greatly in ease of use, appearance, and function. When deciding which method you will use, consider whether the cast-on edge should be stretchy, firm, or finished.

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Comments
  • Loretta

    Nice concise article. It would be helpful to have links to photos/tutorials of each of the cast ons mentioned. Just a thought for your next newbie notes! Thanks!

    Reply

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