The long-tail cast on method (also called ‘compound half-hitch cast on’) was probably one of the first cast on methods you learned when you started knitting. But did you know there are different versions of the long-tail depending on what kind of stitch you are trying to make?
What most people learn as “THE long-tail cast on” is really just the knit version. There is a purl version too, which is a little more complicated, but once you know both you can alternate them to match the knit and purl stitches of ribbing. This means you can start the ribbed brim of a hat or the cuff of a sweater with congruent cast on stitches – and this makes for one very clean and almost invisible edge.
I highly recommend learning this technique – it may seem crazy to cast on a hundred stitches like this but your muscles WILL memorize how to do it and you’ll being working it very quickly after a couple projects!
The easiest way to learn this method is to see it in action, so let’s put the video of this tutorial right up front:
You will be casting on a knit long-tail stitch, followed by a purl long-tail stitch, then repeating the sequence to match the subsequent k1, p1 ribbing:
Knit Long-tail Cast On Stitch
This is the regular long-tail cast on you are probably familiar with. Just to go over it again, here are the steps:
- Make a slip knot on your needle, leaving a very long tail. Hold this tail over your index finger and the strand going to the ball over your thumb.
- Use the tip of the needle to catch the strand coming off your thumb, closest to you – opening it up to make a loop.
- Now take the tip of the needle back over the top of the strand going to your index finger – and catch that strand.
- Pull it through the loop made by the strand on your thumb.
- Drop the strand off your thumb and pull it to tighten the new stitch around the needle.
Purl Long-tail Cast On Stitch
1. Starting with your hands in the same position as the knit version (one strand over your thumb, one strand over your index finger), tilt the needle straight back. Place the needle over and behind the strand going to your index finger to catch the yarn.
2. With the index finger strand caught in front of the needle, bring the tip of the needle so that it points at your thumb – over the top of the strand connecting your needle and thumb.
3. Take the tip of the needle and catch the strand coming off of your thumb as shown – from the inside – and open up this strand to make a loop. The loop goes from the needle – to your thumb – back around the needle.
4. Once again, tilt the needle straight back and catch the strand going to your index finger – over the top/outside and around the back.
5. Tilt the needle all the way towards you and then slip it back through the loop – the way it originally traveled.
6. The result will look like this. You can see the new stitch on the needle and the nub underneath it which will be the purl nub.
7. Drop the strand off your thumb and pull to tighten. All done!
(P.S. the purple hat at the top is the infant-size Sérac on my 6 month old!)