Cast on for a Good Finish
Finishing as an in-process activity
by Jackie E-S
Getting off to a good start can save you from being disappointed later when you are in the final stages of completing your knitted project. A common ailment is a too-tight cast on edge. Or even a sloppy looking one. Sometimes this is not noticeable until you are doing your final blocking and/or trying on. Attempting to deal with this problem in the final finishing stages is frustrating to say the least, and can even contribute to setting that project aside just short of claiming it as a finished object.
I won't get into a "best" cast on contest here, because different knitters and different situations warrant different approaches and solutions. (I hate absolutes – it's the analyst in me, which just has to look at all the angles and this article will be long enough without writing a book!)
For this article, I am talking about the most used cast-on methods that are permanent or "closed", i.e. the loops are bound along the edge.
(Note: alternatively, there are provisional or "open" cast on methods that are temporary, leaving the cast on loops without a bound edge and ready to be picked up later for seemingly uninterrupted knitting in the opposite direction or for invisible grafted seams. I will save this for a later article.)
One way that many knitters try to rectify the problem of a too-tight beginning edge is to cast on over two needles, or cast on using a larger needle. You can get by with this method, as long as the yarn used will re-distribute itself into spaces between the stitches when stretched row-wise. Otherwise, you
will just get a sloppy extra-high first row of stitches, with a still too-tight cast on.
A commonly overlooked fact is that the distance between the stitches of the cast-on row is a big determinant in whether there is enough looseness in the cast on edge to stretch similarly to the rest of the knitting. Of course, you don't want your cast on edge to be so widely spaced that it is sloppy
Here is one approach to check and adjust that the distance between the stitches of your cast on row are proportionately enough for sufficient stretch:
Use the "cabled" cast on, which coincidentally also makes a nice even rope-like edge.
- Start with a slip knot on your left needle.
- Knit into it and place the new st on the left needle.
- Now, instead of knitting into the new stitch, put the tip of your right needle into the space between the two stitches on the left needle, and hook your yarn for the new stitch through that space.
- Place the new stitch on the left needle.
- Continue knitting BETWEEN the last two stitches to form new stitches until you have cast on the desired number.
It's not that this cabled cast on is the one I always use (in fact it is a lot slower than either my regular 2-tailed cast on or the twisted stitch variants I sometimes use). But it has always helped my knitting students better judge how much "give" is needed between each of the cast on stitches (i.e. if you can't get your needle point between 2 cast-on stitches, it's probably too tight!). After you get the feel for this, you can use any cast on method and eye-ball it (or periodically stretch the cast on stitches along the needle to make sure there is enough space that you are allowing between them).
This is continuing article series about making the finishing steps of your knitting project easier and seem effortless. Check the Index of Jackie E-S Articles & Tips for more articles you may have missed.