How to Cast On: 5 Stretchy Cast Ons in Knitting

Are you tired of starting a knitting project only to end up with a stiff and inflexible cast-on edge? We’ve all been there. But fear not, because in this comprehensive guide, we’ll show you how to cast on with ease and create a stretchy cast on in knitting that will give your projects the perfect amount of flexibility every time. From the basics of casting on to five different methods for creating stretchy cast ons in knitting, we’ve got everything you need to take your knitting to the next level. So grab your needles, some scrap yarn, and let’s get started!

stretchy cast on in knitting

Understanding the Basics of Stretchy Casting On in Knitting

Before diving into the various methods for creating stretchy cast ons, it’s important to understand the basics of casting on. The cast on is the foundation of your knitting project, and it sets the tone for everything that comes after it.

At its most basic level, casting on involves creating a series of loops on your knitting needle. This is typically done by first making a slip knot and then working additional stitches. The number of stitches you cast on will vary depending on the project you’re working on, and your pattern should provide guidance on how many stitches to cast on to achieve the desired size and shape.

In patterns, you’ll typically see the abbreviation for cast on—CO.

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Different Stretchy Cast On in Knitting Methods

There are many different methods for casting on, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Some methods are more suitable for certain types of projects than others, and some are easier to work than others. Today we’ll explore these 5 stretchy cast on methods:

  • Long Tail Cast On
  • German Twisted Cast On
  • Italian Cast On/Tubular Cast On
  • Cable Cast On
  • Crocheted Cast On

Regardless of which stretchy cast on method you choose, it’s important to keep tension consistent throughout the casting on process. Too much tension can lead to a tight and inflexible edge, while too little tension can result in loose and uneven stitches. With a little practice, you’ll find a casting on method that works best for you and your unique knitting style.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of casting on, let’s explore why it’s important to use a stretchy cast on for certain types of projects.

knitting how to cast on

Why Use a Stretchy Cast On in Knitting

When starting a knitting project, it’s important to consider the type of edge you want to achieve. A stretchy cast on is key for projects that require flexibility, like socks or hats—which have to stretch over a larger circumference before settling in to a smaller circumference. For this a stretchy cast on is preferred, rather than just a “loose” cast on, because it will expand before snapping back into a place. The perfect stretchy cast on is snug without being tight, adapting to the wearer’s body for comfortable finished knit that stays in place.

While some knitters may opt for a tighter edge, it’s important to consider the ultimate purpose of the project when selecting a cast on. A stretchy cast on can make all the difference in the comfort and wearability of the finished piece.

The Slip Knot—The Beginning of 99% of Stretchy Cast Ons in Knitting

What is a Slip Knot?

Before you start a casting on, the first step is to create a slip knot. A slip knot is a an adjustable loop of yarn. This knot is what will secure your yarn to the needle and allow you to begin casting on stitches.

Beneath the slip knot will hang two strand of yarn. One is the “tail”—the cut end of the yarn. The other is the “working yarn”—the yarn attached to your skein/cake. Different types of cast ons will require different lengths of yarn. The most typical lengths are 6”/15 cm—the amount needed to easily weave in ends—or 4 times the length/circumference of your cast on—e.g. if you’re casting on a 25” cowl, then you would need 100” of yarn for the cast on.

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Slip Knot

slip knot cast on knitting

1. Cross the yarn over itself to making a loop, with the working yarn on top.

slip knot cast on knitting

2. Take the working yarn down and behind the loop.

slip knot cast on knitting

3. Pull the working yarn through the loop, creating a second loop.

slip knot cast on knitting

4. Pull on the second loop and the tail to close the slip knot.

5. Place the slip knot on your needle (or hook) and pull gently on the working yarn to tighten around the needle. The slip knot should be snug around the needle, but not too tight as you’ll need to be able to slide the knot along the needle as you cast on stitches.

With your slip knot in place, you’re ready to cast on!

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The Long Tail Cast On

The long tail cast on is THE go-to cast on for knitters. It is often the first cast on taught due to its simplicity and its suitability for a large number of projects.

When cast on with a relaxed tension the long tail cast on is stretchy by itself. But if you need some extra stretchiness (or tend toward a tight tension when casting on) you can go up 1-2 needle sizes from your project to turn it in into a super stretchy cast on.

How to Cast On: The Long Tail Cast On Method

To begin, measure out a length of yarn that’s about four times the width/circumference of your knitting project, create a slip knot and place it on your needle.

knitting stretchy cast on, knitting co

Set Up: Hold the needle with the slip knot in your right hand. In your left hand, hold the tail over the thumb and the working yarn over the pointer finger. Bring both strands together under the thumb and pointer finger. Hold the strands loosely against the palm with the remaining 3 fingers. (Yarn will form an arrow pointing to the needle.)

1. Rock your left hand back, keeping the needle down towards the palm. This crosses the yarn, creating a loop around your thumb.

knitting how to cast on

2. Insert your needle into the loop, from back to front.

knitting stretchy cast on, knitting co

3. Wrap the working yarn (on your pointer finger) around the needle.

knitting how to cast on

4. Pull the needle (with the wrap) through the loop around your thumb.

knitting stretchy cast on, knitting co

5. Slide the loop off your thumb.

6. Swipe your thumb under the loose tail to pull the loop snug around the needle and reset for the next stitch.

Repeat these steps to cast on the desired number of stitches for your project.

The German Twisted Cast On

The German twisted cast on is the go-to stretchy cast on for most beginners and experienced knitters alike. It is closely related to the long-tail cast on with a series of extra twists that add stretchiness.

When it comes to knitting a project that requires a stretchy cast on, the German twisted cast on is a fantastic method to use. This cast on technique creates a very elastic edge that is perfect for items like socks, hats, and gloves. The German twisted cast on is not only stretchy but also strong and durable, making it a great choice for items that will receive a lot of wear and tear.

The German Twisted Cast On vs. The Old Norwegian Cast On: Is There a Difference?

The short answer is no! The German twisted cast on and the old Norwegian cast on are two names for the same stretchy cast on. But in the US, you’ll most often hear this technique referred to as the German twisted cast on or the twisted German cast on.

How to Cast On the German Twisted Cast On

To perform the German twisted cast on, you’ll need to start with a slip knot on your needle and a tail that is 4 times the width/circumference of your project. Use the same set up as for the long tail cast on.

1. Rock your left hand back, keeping the needle down towards the palm. This crosses the yarn, creating a loop around your thumb.

knitting stretchy cast on

2. With the needle, go under the entire loop.

knitting how to cast on

3. With the needle, catch the inner edge of the loop (between the thumb and pointer) from top to bottom and pull it under the outer edge of the loop. This creates a smaller gap in the yarn.

knitting stretchy cast on

4. Wrap the working yarn (on your pointer finger) around the needle.

knitting how to cast on

5. Pull the needle (with the wrap) through the small gap created in step 3.

6. Slide the larger loop off your thumb.

knitting stretchy cast on

7. Swipe your thumb under the loose tail to pull the loop snug around the needle and reset for the next stitch.

knitting how to cast on

Repeat this process until you have the desired number of stitches on your needle. Once you have completed the cast on, you’ll notice that the edge is very stretchy, perfect for projects that require some give.

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The Italian Cast On/Faux Tubular Cast On

The Italian cast on, (sometimes known as the tubular cast on (this can have a different meaning), faux tubular cast on, or the long tail tubular cast on), is a technique that creates a seamless and polished 1×1 ribbed edge, making it ideal for top-down sweater collars and hat brims.

This is an extremely stretchy cast on. It looks beautiful, but may not have enough structure to work as a sock cuff.

Additionally, the Italian cast on must be worked flat for a number of rows before it can be joined in the round.

This cast on can be worked in one or two colors, and is often used for to set up for brioche.

Tips for a Successful Italian Cast On

I’ll admit that I often have a hard time getting a clean, even tension with the Italian Cast On (and I’m a total Type A). It’s easy to get it twisted and when it gets twisted, the stitches become uneven. So here are a couple things to try:

  • Cast on using straight needles. Once the cast on gets to the circular cord, it’s very easy to get twisted.
  • Cast on using smaller needles. I always forget this until I’m 50 stitches in and pulling my hair out, but I think it could go a long way to evening up the tension!

How to Cast On the Italian Cast On

Set Up

For a single color: Leave a tail 4 times the length/circumference of your cast on edge, make a slipknot and place it your needle. Use the hand same set up as for the long tail cast on.

For a two-color cast on: Leaving 6”/15 cm of tails for both colors, tie both strands together with a knot. Use the hand same set up as for the long tail cast on with the foreground color (main color) over the thumb and the background color (contrast color) over the pointer finger.

In this cast on, you will be creating knits and purls, starting with a purl stitch. And you are casting on on the wrong side. Steps 1-3 create 1 stitch—a knit stitch on the RS and a purl stitch on the WS. Steps 4-6 create a second stitch—a purl stitch on the RS and a knit stitch on the WS.

The Repeat

stretchy cast on in knitting

1. With your needle, go over, around, and come up from the underside of the yarn on your pointer finger.

stretchy cast on in knitting

2. Go over and around the yarn on your thumb.

stretchy cast on in knitting

3. Go under both strands of yarn. (This creates a loop of yarn on the needle with the yarn from the thumb and a “purl bump” across the front of that loop.)

stretchy cast on in knitting

4. With your needle, go over, around, and come up from the underside of the yarn on your thumb.

stretchy cast on in knitting

5. Go over and around the yarn on your finger.

stretchy cast on in knitting

6. Go under both strands of yarn.

stretchy cast on in knitting

(7. This creates a loop of yarn on the needle with the yarn from the pointer finger, which looks like a knit stitch.)

Continue repeating until you’ve reached the desired number of stitches. If working flat, you’ll likely end after step 3. If working in the round, end after step 6. 

Turn the work, taking care not to let the stitches twist. Knit all “knit stitches” through the back loop. Purl all “purl stitches” as normal.

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stretchy cast on in knitting

The Cable Cast On

To achieve a firmer and denser edge, try the cable cast on method. This technique may take a bit of practice, but it produces a sturdy and polished edge that is perfect for sweaters, scarves, and any other items where a strong structure is necessary.

This cast on is often used for an underarm cast on and other types of mid-row cast ons.

You’ll need to go up at least 2 needle sizes to make this a stretchy cast on.

How to Cast On the Cable Cast On

To begin, create a slip knot and place it on your needle, leaving a 6”/15 cm tail.

Cable Cast On Set Up

1. Place the needle with the slip knot in your left hand and the remaining needle in your right.

how to cable cast on

2. Knit the stitch, leaving the knitted stitch on the left hand needle.

how to cable cast on

3. Slip the new stitch to the left hand needle.

Cable Cast On Repeat

1. Insert the tip of the right hand needle between the first and second stitch on the left hand needle.

how to cable cast on

2. Wrap the working yarn over the right hand needle as if to knit.

how to cable cast on

3. Pull the loop through, between the two stitches.

how to cable cast on

4. Slip the stitch from the righthand needle to the left, making sure the right “leg” (the right side of the loop) is in front.

Repeat steps 1-4 until you’ve completed your desired number of stitches.

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A Crocheted Cast On in Knitting

Familiar with crocheting or just looking for a quick stretchy cast on method that doesn’t involve needles? Try the crocheted cast on in knitting. It’s a great alternative for those who prefer to use a crochet hook or who struggle with other stretchy cast on techniques.

This one was entirely new to me and so much fun!

It’s a beautiful, decorative cast on, which creates a crocheted chain along the cast on edge! This edge could be stretchy or tight depending on one key factor: your hook size.

So for a stretchy cast on hoose a crochet hook 1-2 sizes above your needle size (compare the millimeters).

With practice, the crocheted cast on will become second nature, and you’ll love the results it produces. It’s a great technique to have in your knitting arsenal, especially for projects that require a little extra stretch. So why not give it a try and see how it works for you?

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How to Cast On Using the Crocheted Stretchy Cast On in Knitting

Begin by making a slipknot with a 6”/15 cm and place it on your crochet hook. Then, insert the hook into the first stitch on your left-hand needle, as if you were going to purl the stitch.

Set Up: Place the crochet hook in your right hand and the knitting needle in your left hand. Place the working yarn over your left pointer finger.

crocheted cast cast on

1. Move the yarn around behind the needle.

crocheted cast on

2. Cross the hook over the top of the needle and wrap the yarn around the hook.

crocheted cast on

3. Pull the loop over the top of the needle and through the loop on the crochet hook.

Note: There will only ever be 1 loop on the crochet hook at a time.

Repeat steps 1-3 until you have only 1 stitch left to go.

Final Stitch: Do not move yarn around to the back of the needle. Simple wrap the yarn around the hook and pull through the stitch on the hook. Transfer this final stitch on the hook to the needles.

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stretchy cast on in knitting

Wrapping Up the Cast Ons

Learning how to cast on and learning which stretchy cast on you love to can make or break your knitting project. With the knowledge of five different methods—the long tail cast on, German twisted cast on, the Italian cast on, the cable cast on, and the crocheted cast on—you now have the tools to create the perfect amount of flexibility in every piece you knit.

Remember to experiment with each method, find what works best for your project, and enjoy the journey of creating something unique and beautiful. As knitting legend Elizabeth Zimmermann once said, “Knit on with confidence and hope, through all crises.”

So, let’s pick up our needles and confidently create something beautiful.

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How to Cast On: 5 Stretchy Cast Ons in KnittingHow to Cast On: 5 Stretchy Cast Ons in KnittingHow to Cast On: 5 Stretchy Cast Ons in KnittingHow to Cast On: 5 Stretchy Cast Ons in KnittingHow to Cast On: 5 Stretchy Cast Ons in KnittingHow to Cast On: 5 Stretchy Cast Ons in KnittingHow to Cast On: 5 Stretchy Cast Ons in KnittingHow to Cast On: 5 Stretchy Cast Ons in KnittingHow to Cast On: 5 Stretchy Cast Ons in KnittingHow to Cast On: 5 Stretchy Cast Ons in Knitting
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