Perfect Cast On for 1×1 Ribbing

When I first started to knit sweaters, I wanted them to look exactly like store-bought sweaters. At that time, “handmade” was almost synonymous to “unprofessional”, even “low quality”. Of course, I didn’t want that for my sweaters, so I tried to avoid the “handmade look” as much as I could.

I used fine yarn and thin needles, I spent hours fixing mistakes, even the ones that no one would ever notice, but there was one thing that invariably gave me away – a stiff ridge at the bottom of the sweater and the cuffs.

The bottom band and the cuffs were usually knit in 1×1 ribbing, and because I used “good old” long tail cast on (the only type of cast on I knew back then :-), there was always a ridge at the bottom edge, and that ridge restricted the stretch of the fabric. Sometimes, it was that bad, that I could hardly squeeze my hands through the cuffs … 

And then I discovered Italian cast on (also called “long tail tubular cast on” in some sources). This way to cast on stitches is a game-changer. It creates a stretchy cast on edge, works great for 1×1 ribbing, and doesn’t create a ridge at the bottom. The best part – it is also quite easy to do.

Let’s see how it works.

As usual, all steps described below are demonstrated in a video tutorial. Click here to watch it.

STEP 1

Leave a tail that is at least four times longer than the length of the cast on edge. Place the tail on your left thumb, and the working yarn on your left index finger. Hold both strands with the other three fingers of your left hand, just as you do when you cast on stitches using long tail cast on.

STEP 2

Take one of the needles in your right hand, and place the needle on top of the strand stretched between your left thumb and index fingers. Move the needle around the strand to create a loop by twisting the yarn. Watch how to do it. This loop is our first stitch.

Note that the yarn should be twisted in such a way that the strand that comes from the thumb is at the front of the strand that comes from the index finger.

STEP 3

Move the needle under the strand that comes from the index finger, pick the strand that comes from the thumb, and move the needle from under the strand that comes from the index finger. Here’s how it looks in the video tutorial.

As you can tell from the little bar at the bottom of the new stitch, we’ve just created a purl stitch

STEP 4

This step is very similar to the previous step, but we’ll start making a new stitch from the other side – move the needle under the strand that comes from the thumb, pick the strand that comes from the index finger, and move the needle from under the strand that comes from the thumb. Click here to watch this part of the video tutorial.

Because we started from the other strand, this step resulted in a new knit stitch.

Now repeat steps 3 and 4 to cast on as many stitches as you need for the project. If the ribbing starts with a knit stitch (as it usually does), finish casting on after you make a purl stitch in step 3.

If you stop or get distracted while you cast on stitches, and you can’t remember which way to go to cast on the next stitch, look at the twist at the bottom of the needle. To cast on the next stitch, go under the strand that is at the back of the twist to pick the strand that is at the front of the twist.

When you finish casting on stitches, twist the working yarn and the tail at the very bottom of the last stitch and then turn your work.

FIRST ROWS

With this type of cast on, creating the stitches is only half of the task. It also matters how you work the first rows to correctly set up the pattern and make sure the cast on edge looks as good as it should.

There are two main ways to work the first rows, each of the ways creating a slightly different edge.

WAY #1

This way is the easiest of the two – simply start working in the “knit 1, purl 1” ribbing pattern, knitting every knit stitch through the back loop. Here’s how it goes:

Row 1: [knit 1 through the back loop, purl 1], work brackets to end. Watch how to do it.

Starting with row 2, work in the established ribbing pattern as usual. 

The edge created by this way is thinner and has more stretch than the edges created by the way #2.

WAY #2

This way requires to slip all purl stitches while you work the first two rows. Here’s how to do it:

Row 1: [knit 1 through the back loop, slip 1 with yarn in front], work brackets to the last two stitches, then knit 1 through the back loop, and purl the last stitch.

Row 2: [knit 1, slip 1 with yarn in front], work brackets to the last two stitches, then knit 1, purl 1.

Starting with row 3, work in the ribbing pattern.

The main advantage of this way of setting up the pattern is that the edge of the work is not too stretchy, and it is a bit thicker than the edge created by the way #1. The downside – it’s not as simple as starting working in the ribbing pattern right away.

Both ways have their pros and cons, but the truth is – the result is not THAT much different. If you are not too fussy about the thickness and the amount of stretch of the cast on edge, pick the way that you like better and use it whenever you decide to use Italian (long tail tubular) cast on.

Long tail tubular cast on | 10 rows a day
Italian cast on - step by step | 10 rows a day
Perfect cast on for 1x1 ribbing | 10 rows a day