It is hard to tell why the long-tail cast on method is so popular. Is it because this cast on is relatively simple? Or, because the edge formed by the long-tail cast on is firm and moderately stretchy? Or, because this method is one of the few ways described in most vintage and modern knitting books?
We’ll never know the exact reason for the popularity of the long-tail cast on. But we can be certain that this is a great way to cast on stitches and that it works well for most knitting projects. In fact, one can happily make hundreds of cosy knits without knowing any other types of cast on.
Over the years, knitters developed at least three variations of this versatile way to get the initial set of stitches on the needles. Each variation creates the same edge but is performed in a slightly different way.
In this tutorial, we’ll take a look at these variations one by one. If you prefer to learn from a video tutorial, follow this link.
As the name suggests, this type of cast on requires a long tail. How long? We discussed some of the reliable ways to estimate the length of the long tail in this tutorial.
WAY #1 – Slingshot Long-Tail Cast On Without a Slip Knot
I find that a slip knot makes the corner of a project too rigid, often with a nasty hole. That’s why I avoid slip knots as much as I can. When I use the long-tail cast on, I always turn to this “slip-knot-less” variation.
Here’s how it works (you can also watch it in this part of the video tutorial):
Place the working yarn on your left index finger and the yarn tail on your left thumb. Hold the tail and the working yarn with the other left fingers.
Take a knitting needle in your right hand and place it on top of the strand stretched between your left thumb and index finger. Then push the needle down to pull the strand so that it forms a V-shape.
Insert the tip of the needle from the bottom up into the loop formed around your left thumb.
Pick the working yarn from right to left.
Pull the yarn through the loop.
Take your thumb out of the loop and put it into the space between the working yarn and the tail.
Stretch your thumb and index finger to pull the strands apart and close the loop at the bottom of the new stitch.
Repeat steps 1 – 3 to cast on more stitches.
At first, you will form two stitches at once, and then you will be adding one more stitch every time you repeat these three steps.
WAY #2 – Classic Slingshot Long-Tail Cast On
This variation is very similar to the previous way with one small difference – we start by making a slip knot.
Make a slip knot (told you! 🙂 and place it on a knitting needle. Take that needle in your right hand.
Now place the working yarn on your left index finger and the yarn tail on your left thumb. Hold the tail and the working yarn with the other left fingers.
Repeat the same steps 1, 2 and 3 that we used in way #1 to cast on as many stitches as you need for your project.
WAY #3 – The Thumb Method
This variation of the long-tail cast on is perfect for knitters who use English knitting style, because the working yarn stays in our right hand as we cast on stitches.
Make a slip knot and place it on a knitting needle. Hold that needle and the working yarn in your right hand while you hold the yarn tail with your four left fingers.
Move your left thumb to the back of the strand stretched between the needle and your left fist.
Then move your left thumb around this strand to create a loop.
Insert the tip of the needle from the bottom up into the loop on your left thumb.
With your right hand, wrap the tip of the needle with the working yarn counterclockwise, just as we do when we knit a stitch.
Pull the yarn wrap through the loop to create a new stitch.
Take the thumb out of the loop and pull the yarn tail down to tighten the bottom of the stitch.
Repeat steps 1 – 3 to cast on the number of stitches you need for your project.
Any of these ways will form the strong edge that the long-tail cast on is known for. If you feel that the edge is not elastic enough for your project, use two needles held together as you cast on stitches.
Once you cast on all stitches you need, take one needle out and start working on the project. After a few rows, you will clearly see that the cast on edge is more relaxed than the edge formed when we cast on stitches with one needle.