Three Ways to Start Knitting From the Center Out

One of the most exciting things about crochet is that you can start with just a few stitches or even one loop and work in rounds increasing stitches every here and there. Before you know it, you’ve got a granny square, a hat, a blanket or a cute amigurumi. 

Well, it is also possible to do in knitting without much effort at all. The part that often scares knitters – getting the initial set of stitches – is not really that complicated. 

There are quite a few ways to start working from the centre. I’ll show you my favourite three, but before we get to knitting, let’s set a few things straight:

NUMBER OF STITCHES

The number of stitches you need to cast on will depend on the pattern you are using. For this demonstration we’ll be making little squares, so we’ll be casting on 8 stitches. If your pattern tells you to cast on fewer or more stitches, follow the pattern.

NEEDLES

All of the ways we’ll discuss here, set up your knitting for working in the round. That means you will have to use needles that you normally use when you knit in the round. It could be double-pointed needles, two circular needles, or one circular needle if you prefer to use the magic loop technique

Now that we have these issues sorted out, let’s see how we can start knitting from the centre and out.

If you are a more visual learner, take a look at this video tutorial.

WAY #1

This way is the easiest of them all. It does not require any special skills or unusual manipulations with the yarn and needles. 

Click here to watch the video that shows how it’s done. Demonstration of this way starts at 00:30.

Leave a tail about 10-20cm (4-8″) long and cast on 8 stitches using the type of cast on you like. For the swatch shown in the photo below, I used the long-tail cast on. I’m pretty sure “knit on” cast on and “cable” cast on will also work fine in this case. Stay away from decorative cast ons, as they often have thick edges, and we want to keep the centre of the project neat and tidy. 

Don’t worry about the hole at the centre of the swatch in the above photo. We’ll deal with that hole a bit later.

Divide stitches between the needles. If you use double-pointed needles, slip groups of three or two stitches to the other two or three needles. If you use two circular needles, slip half of the stitches to the other circular needle. If you use one circular needle and the magic loop, divide the stitches in half, and pull the loop between the two groups of stitches. If you need a reminder of how the magic loop works, click here.

Arrange stitches for working in the round. There is no need to join stitches for working in the round because we’ll be closing the hole in the centre, and any imperfections that happen when we start working in the round will be closed off and hidden forever.

Round 1: knit each stitch in the front and back (kbf) = 16 stitches.

Place a marker for the beginning of the round.

Round 2: knit all stitches.

These two rounds are a common way to start knitting from the centre out, but they can be different from the pattern you are using. If that’s the case, follow the pattern.

If you “make up” your own design, you can move to a different stitch pattern right after you make those first rounds. To make the fabric lay flat, make 8 increases in every other round, or 4 increases in every round.

To knit a little square like the one shown in the photo, work [yarn over, knit 1, yarn over, knit 3] four times in round 3, and then make a yarn over at each side of the “knit 1” stitch in every odd-numbered round. In even-numbered rounds knit all stitches. 

You can work this way for an unlimited number of rounds until you are happy with the size of your project. Hypothetically speaking, if I kept knitting those little squares, I would make three blankets. How exciting is that?!

It’s a perfect “stash-busting” project – keep knitting in the round until you run out of yarn, attach another ball of yarn and keep working until you knit it up. Then move to another yarn, and another and another until you turn all your odds and ends into a funky cottage-style blanket.

Have all the fun you want with the project, but remember to finish off the centre once you finish the project or at least several rounds. Here’s how to do it:

1. Thread the yarn tail into a wool needle.

2. Run the wool needle through the bottom of each stitch you cast on.

3. Pull the tail to close the hole. 

4. Secure the yarn on the wrong side of the work.

5. Weave in the tail (as we have it in the wool needle already).

This way to start knitting from the centre works well in most cases. The only drawback is that we have to close the hole at the centre later on.

If you are looking for a way that allows you to close that hole at the very beginning of the work, take a look at the

WAY #2

This is where we start working from a loop, just as crocheters do. This way is very similar to the somewhat famous “Emily Ocker’s Cast On” described by Elizabeth Zimmermann in her “Knitter’s Almanac”

Assuming that not every knitter has a crochet hook required for the “Emily Ocker’s Cast On”, I suggest we use a knitting needle to make the initial set of stitches.

This way may seem confusing if explained in words and photos. It will make more sense to you once you watch it in this video tutorial. To give you a general idea of how it works, I’ll try to explain it anyway 🙂

Place the yarn tail on your left index finger and hold the working yarn with your left little and ring fingers. Make a loop at the end of the tail so that the small tail is at the back of the loop. Hold that loop with your left index and middle fingers.

Take a needle in your right hand and insert it into the loop. Pick the yarn that comes from the loop to your left index finger, and move it through the loop, creating the first stitch

Pick the yarn again from left to right, creating another stitch on the right needle.

Insert the needle into the loop, pick the yarn from right to left and pull it out of the loop. This is your third stitch.

Repeat the steps you did when you created the second and the third stitch until you have 9 stitches on the right needle. We need the extra stitch (we only need 8 stitches but we cast on 9 of them) to make sure the last stitch does not unravel when we start knitting it.

Pull the yarn tail a bit to make sure the stitches are not falling off the needle.

Divide the stitches between needles the same way as we did when we used the first way of knitting from the centre. Arrange stitches for working in the round.

Because the cast on is quite flimsy, it could be challenging to do increases in the first round. Besides, we need to get rid of the extra stitch. Here’s how we’ll work the first round – knit 1, knit 2 together, knit 6. 

Now that the stitches have some “body”, we can pull the tail to close the hole in the centre of the work. 

If you want to make sure the hole doesn’t open again as you work on the project, align the working yarn and the tail and use them together to work the first stitch of the next round.

Round 2: knit each stitch in the front and back (kbf) = 16 stitches.

Place a marker for the beginning of the round.

Round 3: knit all stitches.

Now we are ready to work in the main pattern.

WAY #3

If you don’t feel comfortable casting on stitches around a loop, try the third way of starting to knit from the centre out.

This way is more straightforward (especially if you used the provisional cast on before), and it also allows us to close the hole in the centre of the work after the first round.

Just as it is true for the Way #2, it is easier to understand how this way works when you watch this video tutorial.

First, make a loop so that the working yarn is on top of the yarn tail. Hold the loop in your left hand. Take a needle in your right hand and insert that needle into the loop from front to back.

Align the yarn tail with the right needle and hold them together in your right hand.

Take the working yarn in your left hand and wrap it around the needle once from back to front. 

Bring the yarn tail around the working yarn at the bottom of the needle, and back in your right hand.

Now wrap the needle with the working yarn again in the same way, from back to front. Stop. Bring the yarn tail around the working yarn and back in your right hand.

Repeat this step until you have 8 stitches on the right needle. Wrap the yarn tail around the working yarn one more time to keep stitches from unravelling.

Divide stitches between the needles and arrange them for working in the round.

Now we’ll do the same setup rounds as we did when we discussed the Way #1:

Round 1: knit each stitch in the front and back (kbf) = 16 stitches.

Pull the yarn tail to close the hole in the centre. Place a marker for the beginning of the round. To ensure the hole doesn’t open as you work, use the yarn tail along the working yarn to knit the first stitch of the next round.

Round 2: knit all stitches.

Now you know three ways to start knitting from the centre and out. Try every one of them and decide which of the ways you like better.


If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:

“Neat Side Edges” Book

Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.


Happy knitting!

Maryna Shevchenko - www.10rowsaday.com

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Three ways to start knitting from the center | 10 rows a day
Three ways to start knitting from the center | 10 rows a day
Three ways to start knitting from the center | 10 rows a day