Casting on

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holding needles

The first step when beginning to knit is to cast on. There are several ways of doing this, but there are two cast ons - the thumb and the cable methods - that seem to be the most frequently used. The best one to choose is the one that you feel most comfortable with, or that produces the kind of edge you prefer. You may choose to use a different cast-on technique depending on where it occurs on the garment. The cable cast on, for example, produces a firm edge that can be useful in an area that may get a lot of wear, such as on sleeve cuffs.

Some knitters hold their right needle like a pen, some like a knife. I prefer to knit in the 'pen' style as I find it helps me knit more quickly and more fluently. Try this first, as illustrated below, and then try holding it over the needle and see which you feel more comfortable with.

around your little finger, under your centre finger and over your index finger. Your index finger is used to pass the yarn around the tip of the needle. The yam circled around your little finger creates the necessary tension for even knitting.

To hold the yam in your right hand, pass it around your little finger, under your centre finger and over your index finger. Your index finger is used to pass the yarn around the tip of the needle. The yam circled around your little finger creates the necessary tension for even knitting.

starting with a slip To start most cast-on methods, you first need to make a simple slip knot, also called a knot 'slip loop'. This makes the slip knot the very first 'stitch' that you cast onto your knitting needle. To make it clear which end of the yarn comes from the yarn ball, the loose end is shown short so it fits in the diagram - but in reality you should leave a long loose end so it can either be darned in or used to sew the seam.

2 Then pull both ends of the yam to tighten the slip knot on the knitting needle. You are now ready to use one of the following cast-on methods to cast stitches onto your knitting needle.

1 Wind the yam twice around fingers on your left hand to make a circle of yam as shown in the inset. With the knitting needle, pull a loop of the yam attached to the ball through the yam circle on your fingers.

2 Then pull both ends of the yam to tighten the slip knot on the knitting needle. You are now ready to use one of the following cast-on methods to cast stitches onto your knitting needle.

1 Wind the yam twice around fingers on your left hand to make a circle of yam as shown in the inset. With the knitting needle, pull a loop of the yam attached to the ball through the yam circle on your fingers.

thumb cast on I use the thumb cast on because, as a fairly tight knitter, I find it gives me a fast, fluid

(English) cast on with an edge that I like. It has quite a bit of 'give' in it, which makes it ideal for edges that need some flexibility and stretch, for instance on the roll-up brim of a beanie hat (see Simple hat on page 72).

One word of warning, however - because you are casting on and working towards the end of the yarn (unlike two-needle methods where you work towards the ball), you have to predict how much yarn is needed for the amount of stitches required. You may find that you are left with a few more stitches to make and not enough yarn to make them with. Depending on the thickness of the yarn, 1m (39in) creates about 100 stitches.

1 Make a slip knot as shown previously, leaving a long tail. With the slip knot on the needle in your right hand and the yarn that comes from the ball over your index finger, wrap the tail end of the yam over your left thumb from front to back. Secure the yam in your left palm with your fingers.

2 Then insert the knitting needle upwards through the yam loop on your left thumb.

1 Make a slip knot as shown previously, leaving a long tail. With the slip knot on the needle in your right hand and the yarn that comes from the ball over your index finger, wrap the tail end of the yam over your left thumb from front to back. Secure the yam in your left palm with your fingers.

2 Then insert the knitting needle upwards through the yam loop on your left thumb.

However, if you are unsure, over-compensate by allowing more yarn than you think you need. You can always use the extra length to sew up the seams.

Generally, knitters are taught to use a slip knot to begin with when casting on with this method, but once you become confident with the technique, rather than use a slip knot, work the first stitch by simply laying the yarn over your thumb from front to back and holding the yarn as before with the yarn over the right needle - then knit into the thumb loop. I find that this gives a slightly neater edge to the cast on. These diagrams have been drawn with the hand holding the needles like a knife, over the needles (see Holding needles, page 24).

3 Next, with the right index finger, wrap the yarn from the ball up and over the point of the knitting needle.

4 Then draw the yam through the loop on your thumb to form a new stitch on the knitting needle. Lastly, let the yam loop slip off your left thumb and pull the loose end to tighten up the stitch. Repeat these steps to make the stitches you need.

3 Next, with the right index finger, wrap the yarn from the ball up and over the point of the knitting needle.

4 Then draw the yam through the loop on your thumb to form a new stitch on the knitting needle. Lastly, let the yam loop slip off your left thumb and pull the loose end to tighten up the stitch. Repeat these steps to make the stitches you need.

cast-on tip

On reversible fabrics, after casting on you can decide which is the wrong side of the fabric. You can then check this by noticing whether the 'tail' of your cast-on yarn is on the left- or right-hand side of the work. With the thumb cast on, this tail will be at the opposite end of the work to the cable cast on. (Although your fabric is reversible, you will need to know which is the right side and which the wrong side when working shaping, etc.)

cable cast on The cable cast on is a popular method of casting on that creates a firm edge. It can be a good cast on to use where an elastic, but sturdier, foundation row would be an advantage. Those with a standard to tight 'tension' like myself may find it more difficult to insert the knitting needle between the stitches and pull the yarn through, so make sure that you do not tighten up each new stitch on the left-hand needle too much. (See more about your knitting tension on page 34.)

1 Make a slip knot as shown previously. Then hold the knitting needle with the slip knot in your left hand and insert the right-hand needle from left to right and from front to back through the slip knot. Wrap the yam from the ball up and over the point of the right-hand needle.

2 With the right-hand needle, draw a loop through the slip knot to make a new stitch. Do not drop the stitch from the left-hand needle, but instead slip the new stitch onto the left-hand needle as shown.

3 Then insert the right-hand needle between the two stitches on the left-hand needle and wrap the yam around the point of the right-hand needle.

4 Pull the yam through to make a new stitch and then place the new stitch on the left-hand needle as before. Repeat the last two steps to make the stitches you need.

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