Learn to knit – Casting on

Welcome, we’re going to learn to knit! 

I’ve broken these down into small sections so you can read through the posts and then choose the one you need when you need it. You don’t have to read me rambling on again, instead you can go straight to the paragraph you want or click on the link to the short YouTube video that you need. 

In this post I’m going to tell you how to cast on. We’re going to take this stage by stage, and with those stages you can take them as quick or as slow as you want. I recommend nice and slowly to start with.

Firstly you need some needles. I use circular needles in the videos but I use them as straights so it’s absolutely fine if you want to get some straight needles instead. So, I use circular needles, and then I need some yarn. You need the needles to match your yarn – and by that, I mean the thickness. For example I’ve got a superchunky yarn so I’m using 9mm needles for this yarn.

As a general guide these are the needles you need for different yarn weights (thickness):

  • 4 ply – 3.25mm
  • DK – 4mm
  • Aran – 5mm
  • Chunky – 6mm

These are a starting point and can change depending on your personal tension (gauge). For example it might be that you need to knit DK yarn on 3.75mm or Chunky on 7mm. It’s like boiling an egg, there is the recommended minutes to get a perfect egg but I’m sure we will all have different preferred minutes! The more you knit, the more this will make sense and the more you will get used to this.

We have the yarn and the needles so the first thing we need to do is a slipknot. 

You can see a close up video of how to do a slipknot here. 

If you prefer to read how to do it, then here we go. You create a circle, and I usually do this around my thumb but you can do it any way so that you’ve got a circle of the yarn, then you take the yarn that’s coming from the ball of wool through that circle and pull it through to make the slipknot. 

Written down there are too many ways to interpret a circle so if this is new for you the easiest way is to watch the how-to video to see how to do that. BUT if you’ve done it before, then the written description will hopefully help you remember.

It’s called a slipknot because it’s easy to pull it out. It can go bigger or smaller by pulling the loop or ends, and this is important because this becomes the first stitch, you’ve created a knit stitch with your fingers.

Once we’ve made the slipknot, put it on your needle and now you can start to cast on. 

There are two ways to cast on – you can use the two needle method or the thumb method. When I learnt to knit, there was one way to cast on and then I learnt a second way a little bit later on. If you go on to the great world wide web, it seems like there are hundreds of different ways to cast on which can be really overwhelming for a beginner, sometimes it’s a little overwhelming for me!

If you are a beginner, I recommend the two needle cast on because it gets you used to using your two needles and I just think it’s a great way to cast on. Personally I don’t use this method. I use the thumb method, but when teaching people (who haven’t cast on before) to cast on, I show them the two needle method. 

I cast on super quickly because I probably cast on every other day – I have castonitis! I’m always casting on a new project. So when you first start it might feel slow or weird but just keep doing it, the more you do the easier it will become. You can find the short close up video of how to do cast on here 

So how do I cast on with two needles? 

Well I’ve made two stitches. To make the second stitch form the first stitch you go into the stitch, make the stitch then put it onto the left hand needle along with the first stitch. For all the other stitches we’re going to go between the two stitches. This just creates a firmer edge. 

I put the needle between the two stitches. How you hold the yarn helps make this easier. 

I hold the yarn in my fingers – I place it over the palm of my hand, wrap it around my little finger, hold the three fingers over it, and then I take my index finger under the yarn and then guide it underneath and then around the needle and then I hold on to the needle [don’t forget you can see me doing this here] and it holds it in place. Then I just do a nice rocking motion with one needle over the other needle. 

Sometimes what happens when people learn to knit is that they think they have to catch the yarn with the needle in some way, so they twist the needles. If you keep the needles upright, in a sort of cross position, and just rock the left hand needle over the top over the right hand needle and then gently pull the right hand needle forward and roll the left hand needle back and then the yarn is in place to pull through and make a stitch. Don’t hold the yarn and stitches too close to the edge of the needle because that’s how you can get tight stitches, pull it right back along the needle and get that stitch nice and big. 

What might not feel right?

Now, when I teach people to knit in real life, I can see how they are holding the yarn and needles and offer little tweaks, because there are so many different ways to hold everything. So you don’t have to hold it like I’ve written, but it makes it so much better if you do. It feels like you’re more in control when you have it around your little finger but it will feel weird at first.

The other thing that can happen when you start is that your needle comes through but your yarn doesn’t, that can mean it’s too tight – or a bit too loose! It’s just about holding in it a nice cross shape and rocking the needle over. You might be reading this and thinking, “you make this sound so easy” but I have been doing it for a very long time so just remember that this is not the first time I’ve cast on! The first time that you cast on might not be this easy – if it is easy, brilliant! You’re a knitter! And if it doesn’t come easily, don’t worry, keep going! 

I don’t know how many stitches I’ve cast on over the years, we’re probably looking at millions, so just remember this is not my first rodeo. Just practise casting on. 

The other thing is don’t be too self critical. The stitches might not look neat on your needle, don’t worry about it. If you have cast on and you don’t like it, it’s easier just to pull it all back off the needle and start again. There’s nothing wrong with that, there’s nothing wrong with starting again. I start again almost as much as I knit. But I also recommend not pulling back, sometimes we see things worse than they are, and that first cast on row might look uneven but could even out as you knit.

As I have mentioned, I’ve done step-by-step YouTube videos on my channel so you can see everything I’ve written about if that’s easier for you! 

That’s all you need to know to get started, just a slipknot and cast on, if you’ve got a spare 10 minutes or half an hour, you can just cast on.
Don’t worry about the rest of the knitting, just sit down, relax, and casting on…

Article by Jane