How to cast on
To start knitting you need to get the required number of loops, or stitches, onto the needle – this is called casting on. There are many ways to cast on stitches, but here are the two basic techniques.
Cable cast on
This technique gives a firm edge that looks good with stocking (stockinette) stitch and will keep its shape and not become baggy over time. It involves using both the knitting needles.
1. Make a slip knot about 15cm (6in) from the end of the yarn. Hold the needle with the slip knot in your left hand and the other needle in your right. With the working end of the yarn in your right hand, put the tip of the right-hand needle into the stitch on the left-hand needle.
2. Bring the yarn in your right hand under and around the point of the right-hand needle.
3. Pull the yarn taut so that it is wrapped around the tip of the right-hand needle.
4. Bring the tip of the right-hand needle, and the yarn wrapped around it, through the stitch and towards you.
5. Pull gently until the loop is large enough to slip it over the tip of the left-hand needle. Take the right-hand needle out of the loop and pull the working end of the yarn so that the loop fits snugly around the left-hand needle.
6. To cast on all the other stitches, put the tip of the right-hand needle between the last two stitches instead of through the last one. Then repeat Steps 2–6 until you have the required number of stitches on the left-hand needle.
Thumb cast on
The thumb technique produces an edge with elasticity, which is very useful when working with yarns that don't have a lot of give, such as chenille or firm cotton, or when casting on for a ribbed edge. It is also looks good with garter stitch and moss (seed) stitch.
1. For this cast on you firstly need to pull enough yarn from the ball to make all the stitches; approximately 2cm (3⁄4in) per stitch is needed. Measure out the correct amount of yarn then make a slip knot.
2. Hold the ball end of the yarn and the needle in your right hand. Hold the other end of the yarn (the measured length) in the palm of your left hand. Move your left thumb behind and under the yarn, so that the yarn is wrapped from front to back around your left thumb.
3. Insert the tip of the needle into the loop on your thumb.
4. Wrap the yarn in your right hand under and around the tip of the knitting needle.
5. Bring the needle, and the yarn wrapped around it, through the loop around your thumb and towards you to make another stitch on the needle.
6. Slip your thumb out of the loop and pull the two ends of yarn away from the needle in opposite directions. Repeat Steps 2–6 until you have cast on the number of stitches required.
- Every knitting pattern gives a tension (gauge) instruction at the beginning, which will usually read something like: '20 stitches and 28 rows to 10cm (4in) square over stocking (stockinette) stitch using 4mm (US 6) knitting needles'. This would mean that you must have 20 stitches across 10cm (4in) and 28 rows across 10cm (4in) of your knitted fabric.
- Everybody works to their own tension and if yours is not the same as the pattern writer's, your knitted items will not be the same size. Luckily, it's easy to change the tension by changing the needles, but you will need to work a sample square first.
- Using the yarn and needles given in the tension (gauge) instruction, cast on at least four stitches more than indicated. Working in the stitch pattern stated, work at least four rows more than the number indicated. Lay the knitting flat, without stretching it. Lay a ruler across the stitches with the starting point a couple of stitches in from the edge. Put a pin in the knitting at the start of the ruler and at the 10cm (4in) mark. Count the number of stitches between the pins, including a half stitch if there is one.
- Measure 10cm (4in) across the rows in the same way and count the number of rows between the pins. If you have too few stitches to 10cm (4in), then your tension (gauge) is too loose; if you have too many stitches, then your tension (gauge) is too tight.
- To correct the tension, just change the size of the knitting needles you are using. The general rule is that one difference in needle size will create a difference of one stitch in the tension (gauge). If your tension is too loose use smaller needles; if it is too tight use larger needles.
The content on this page is taken from First Knits, published by LoveCrafts.
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