Such a broad question! As much as we all love starting a new project — to the point where some of us (ahem) have cast-on-itis — I think a lot of knitters don’t give much thought to the actual act of casting on. I know I didn’t for the first year I was knitting. I was taught the long-tail cast on, and that seemed to be what all the patterns specified, if they specified anything at all. Then in January of last year, I took a tips-and-tricks class from Josh Bennett in SF and he had a lot to say about cast ons. He talked about whether the first row after long-tail needs to be a right- or wrong-side row (which I had often wondered about) and also about how long-tail leaves you with purl bumps at the bottom of your knitted ribs (which I had never thought to be bothered by, but he’s so right). He showed us how to do long-tail backwards and also the Italian something or other, which is ideal for 1×1 ribbing and which I’ve forgotten in the meantime, having never used it. (There’s always YouTube, right?) But he got me thinking, is the point.
(By the way, I don’t start long-tail with a slip knot. I just make my slingshot, pull down on it with my needle — as pictured — and start casting on stitches. I get really puzzled when I see someone talking about beginning long-tail with a slip knot: what’s the purpose of that?)
Those two Orlane shawls I knitted last year introduced me to the utterly fascinating garter tab cast on for top-down triangular shawls. And reading and knitting so many Brooklyn Tweed patterns, where they’re particularly favored, I’ve also become super curious about tubular cast ons. I did my first one in working on Slade, and it is some kind of beautiful voodoo is all I can tell you.
At VKLive this month, in her steeking class, Ragga Eiriksdottir taught us the German Twisted cast on. (Here’s a video of Lucy Neatby doing it.) Ragga said she liked it better than long-tail for a sweater because it’s just as stretchy but … more durable? I wish I could remember for sure, and I also wish I’d asked her whether it’s her go-to or just her favorite for sweater hems.
The thing that fascinates me about cast ons isn’t just that there are so many ways to get yarn onto the needle, but that there are so many different applications for the different methods. I’m sure lots of people have made a serious study of it, and I wish I had time to do the same. But I think it’s one of those aspects of knitting knowledge that will simply have to develop over the years — as long as I don’t just default to long-tail every single time.
So here’s my Q for You: How do you cast on? The same way no matter what, or do you have different favorites for different fabric or project types?
UPDATE: The replies made me realize there are two long-tail variations I’ve used that are worth noting. The only provisional cast on I know involves using your working yarn and waste yarn and the long-tail method. I loosely tie the two together, rest that on my needle with the waste yarn forward, make my slingshot and start casting on. (The knot does not count as a stitch.) And that amazing Rosa Pomar hat I just finished uses a braided cast on, which is basically the same thing only you start by tying together your two different colors. Cast on one stitch, rotate the yarns clockwise so the next stitch you cast on is with the second color, and repeat — rotate the yarns clockwise and cast on a stitch; rotate the yarns clockwise and cast on a stitch …
And I do use backwards loop or cable cast on for casting on stitches in the middle of a row.
PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Do you knit year round?