Casting on (knitting)
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In knitting, casting on is a family of techniques for adding new stitches that do not depend on earlier stitches, i.e., stitches having an independent lower edge. In principle, casting on is the opposite of binding off, but the techniques involved are generally unrelated.
When casting on at the beginning, one end of the yarn must be secured to the knitting needle by knotting it, usually with a slip knot. This knot is unnecessary when casting on in the middle of the fabric (e.g., when making the uper edge of a buttonhole) since the yarn is already secured to the fabric. The original slip knot can also be pulled out (after a few rows have been knitted) without damaging the knitted fabric.
Once one loop has been secured around the needle, others can be added by several methods.
Perhaps the most straightforward method is knitting on, in which a new bight is drawn through the previous loop and then added to the needle. However, this method is deprecated for giving an untidy edge. It can also be done in a purl version, or even a rib version.
A closely related technique is the cable cast-on, in which a new bight is drawn through the space between the two previous loops and then added to the needle. This edge is firm and has a neat, corded look; although it may be too bulky with thick yarns.
An even simpler method is the single cast-on, also called the simple cast-on, which involves adding a series of half hitches to the needle. This is a common approach for adding several stitches to the edge in the middle of a knitted fabric, but its edge is difficult to make even. A variation is the twisted simple cast on, where you twist the new loop around your thumb, with the yarn going around the back of your thumb to the front as in the simple cast-on, but picking up the new loop from the back side of the loop. This is tighter and neater, but has less elasticity.
A common method is the double cast-on, in which all the loops are made with one yarn, while the other end (the dangling end from the original slip knot) is used to secure the base of each loop. Although popular, this method requires that the knitter estimate the length of the dangling yarn before the stitches are cast on; if the dangling yarn is too short, the knitter will run out of yarn with which to secure the stitches before the full number of stitches have been cast on. In that case, the knitter will have to pull everything out, re-position the slip knot to give a longer tail, and begin anew. Despite this shortcoming, a good all-around method for casting on. This method is also called the knit half-hitch cast on, or the long-tail cast on. Another variation for this method is two use two different yarns, one the main yarns that you are using for your project, and the second a piece of contrasting waste yarn. You attach the two with a slip knot, and then using the waste or contrast yarn as your long tail, start your row. This is useful if you need to pick up stitches on your cast on edge in order to knit in the opposite direction. You can also use it decoratively, making the contrast or waste yarn a part of your pattern design.
To describe it, you start by figuring out how much yarn you expect your cast on row to require and pulling out that amount of yarn. Once you have that, put a slip knot on the needle (this is not absolutely necessary, since the first cast on stitch will create a slip knot for you in the process, but it is generally more secure to start with a slip knot). Hold the needle in your right hand and the yarn in your left, with the long tail pulled around your thumb and hanging in front, and the yarn from ball around your first or second finger, with the ball tail heading toward the back. Once you have that, take the needle under the front of the long tail, picking up a half hitch, then back to the yarn over your finger from the top side of the yarn, pulling the loop through the half hitch you had formed.
This cast on can also be done in a purl and a twisted stitch version as well.
The tubular cast-on involves knitting onto a cast on row knitted in a contrasting yarn with half as many stitches. Each knit stitch into the contrasting stitches is followed by a yarn-over to double the number of stitches. After several rows, a tuck is formed by knitting together the first and third rows, forming a tube through which elastic can be pulled. A neat edge, nicely suited for 1x1 ribbing.
An elegant and versatile method is the invisible cast-on, which is usually done with an extra length of contrasting yarn. The invisible cast-on involves no knotting at all (except the initial slip knot). The contrasting thread can be pulled out later to allow the knitter to continue the knitting in the opposite direction. The invisible cast on is also the best method for double-knit fabrics, since the knitting has no boundary; the knitting is continuous from one side of the fabric to the other.
Double needle cast-on
Braided cast-on: frequently used in mitten edges
Chain cast-on: using a crochet needle or two knitting needles
Crochet chain cast-on -- For this you need to know how to do a simple crochet chain. Once you have chained enough to equal the number of stitches you need, plus a few extra, turn the chain over so that you see the bumps that were forming as you pulled the yarn through the hole. Put your knitting needle through those bumps and knit through it as normal. This produces the same edge as knitting on.
Provisional cast-on is simply the crochet chain cast on using waste yarn. This is done in toe-up socks and shawls or scarves with directional patterns that need to start from a center edge.
Casting on is sometimes done with two needles, or a needle of larger size; the extra length of yarn in each stitch gives the edge more flexibility.
Casting on can also be decorated with various stitch patterns, especially picots. The cast-on stitches can also be twisted clockwise or counterclockwise as they are added to the needle; this is commonly done for the single cast-on described above to give it a neater, more uniform look.