Twostrand or longtail caston

The two-strand method (sometimes called the long-tail method) is a great all-around cast-on for your starting repertoire. It's elastic, attractive, and easy to knit from. For this cast on method, you need only one needle: the RH needle.

To cast on using the two-strand method, follow these steps:

1. Measure off enough yarn for the bottom part of your piece and make a slip knot on your needle.

To figure how long the "tail" should be, you need approximately 1 inch for every stitch you cast on plus a little extra. Alternatively, you can measure the bottom of the knitted piece and multiply this by 4.

To make the slip knot, make a pretzel-shaped loop and place your needle into the loop, as shown in Figure 4-1a. Then gently pull on both ends of yarn until the stitch is firmly on the needle but still slides easily back and forth, as shown in Figure 4-1b.

2. Holding the needle in your right hand with the tip pointing away from your hand, insert your left hand's thumb and index finger into the "tent" formed by the two yarn ends falling from the slip knot on your needle.

Figure 4-1:

Get the slip knot (the first stitch) on your needle.

Figure 4-1:

Get the slip knot (the first stitch) on your needle.


  1. With your left hand's ring and pinkie fingers, catch the yarn ends and hold them to your palm so they don't flap around underneath (see Figure 4-2a).
  2. With your right hand, pull the needle between your left thumb and index finger so that the "tent" sides aren't droopy.
  3. With the RH needle tip, go around the yarn on your thumb from the left (see Figure 4-2b), then around the yarn on your index finger from the right (see Figure 4-2c), and pull the new loop through (see Figure 4-2d).

Figure 4-2e shows the finished stitch.

6. Tighten this new loop (your first cast-on stitch) onto the needle — but not too tight!

You'll quickly find that if you don't let go of the yarn after creating the stitch, you can use your thumb to tighten the stitch onto your needle.

Although this is the first cast-on stitch, it's the second stitch on the RH needle because you also have the initial slip knot.

7. Repeat Steps 5 and 6 until you have the number of stitches you need (see Figure 4-3).

If you need to put your work down, or if you lose your place, you may have to pull the stitches off the needle and start from Step 2 instead.

Although casting on may feel awkward at first and you have to pay attention to each movement, with time and practice, you'll no longer have to think about what your hands are doing. You'll be surprised at how quickly you'll learn the movements and make them smoothly and effortlessly while you think about something entirely unknitterish.

Figure 4-2:

"Catch" a loop from your left hand.

Figure 4-2:

"Catch" a loop from your left hand.

For left-handed knitters

Knitting is a two-handed endeavor. Whether you use your right hand or your left hand to write or stir your coffee, you use them both to knit.

For better or worse, knitting patterns are written for right-handed knitters (those who work from the LH needle to the RH needle). If you can master either of the knitting methods presented in this chapter (that is, English or Continental), you won't have to reinterpret patterns in order to work them in reverse. Chances are, like most right-handed knitters, sooner or later you'll work out a series of movements that feel natural and easy, and your stitches will be smooth and even.

If you find that the initial awkward feeling isn't going away, try to work in reverse — moving the stitches from the RH needle to the LH one. Follow the instructions for either the English or Continental style, substituting the word "right" for "left" and vice versa. To make the illustrations work for you, hold a mirror up to the side of the relevant illustration and mimic the hand and yarn positions visible in the mirror image.

If you find that working in reverse is the most comfortable method, be aware that some directions in knitting patterns, such as decreases, look different when worked in the opposite direction. This quirk will be most problematic for lace patterns, but it's a small price to pay for comfortable knitting. If you decide to work in reverse, Left-Handed Knitting by Regina Hurlbert (Van Nostrand Reinhold) may be helpful.

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