Learn to Knit: Casting On

Casting on is the first step in any knitting project. While there are several ways to cast on, we’ll be learning the backwards loop cast on today. This is a simple cast on technique that’s great for beginner knitters!

For this tutorial, you’ll need some yarn and one pair of knitting needles (they can be straight or circular needles). Let’s get started!

Start with a slip knot

To begin this cast, we start with a slip knot. To make a slip knot:

  • Start with one loose end of your yarn, held in both hands.
  • Move one finger under the yarn and up so the yarn passes over this finger.
  • Use a finger from the other hand to move the front strand of the yarn forward, creating an open loop.
  • Move your first finger behind the back strand – this creates a cross in the yarn – and in front of the front strand.
  • Catch the front strand with the top of your first finger and pull this strand through the loop.
  • Let go with your second finger and gently tug the two strands of yarn to snug the loop up towards your first finger.
  • Place this loop on your needle. This will be your first stitch.

Creating the slip knot can take a little practice, so don’t worry if it takes you a few tries!

The working yarn and the tail

You’ll see there are two strands of yarn coming away from the loop. The one that connects to your ball of yarn is called the ‘working yarn, and the one that goes to the cut end of the yarn is called ‘tail’.

  • Hold the needle and the tail in one hand. If you’re a left-handed knitter, this would be in your left hand.
  • With your other hand holding the working yarn, take one finger under the yarn and up.
  • Take your needle underneath the front strand of this yarn and up so the yarn passes over the top of the needle.
  • Gently release your finger from the yarn, keeping a little tension in the working yarn. You’ll see that the working yarn has formed a loop around the needle. This is your second stitch.

To create more stitches, we repeat this part of the process. You continue like this until you have the number of stitches you want for your cast on row. Here I’ve cast on 10 stitches.

Tips on practicing with the backwards loop cast

One thing to practice with the backwards loop cast on (or any cast on for that matter) is getting a reasonable tension in your cast on stitches. The tension is how tightly the stitches cling to the needle.

  • Each time you create a stitch, you can gently tug the working yarn to nestle this stitch up against the previous ones. If you pull quite tightly when doing this, you’ll get a set of stitches that’s very snug on the needle, which will make it difficult to knit into these stitches as you move on with your knitting.
  • Conversely, if you’re quite loose with the working yarn when you cast on stitches, you can end up with a very loose set of stitches.

Now, you’ll be able to knit stitches like this without trouble, but as you move forward, you’ll find that this edge of your knitting looks quite loose and a bit wobbly. A good rule of thumb when judging your tension for cast on stitches is that you should be able to easily spread the stitches a little more than 0.5 cm (.25 inches) from one another.

Beginner knitters often find their stitches are too tight rather than too loose, so if you’re just starting out, try to think about letting your cast on stitches be a little loose, and you’ll probably end up with a good tension.

There you have it – the backwards loop cast on, a great beginner cast on method. Give it a try, and let me know if you have any questions as you work on this!

Photography by Piotr Angiel