The Yarnologue

Long-tail Cast On Tips

The “long-tail” cast on is a popular way to start a knitting project.

It is easy to work (once you get the hang of it), stable, and has a good amount of stretch.

The name “long-tail” refers to the fact that you start by pulling out a long length of yarn, which is used up as you cast on.

That sentence might have just made you realize a pitfall inherent to this cast on method, which is the risk of running out of tail before you’ve cast on the required number of stitches.

As I started my Tucked Pullover I posted one of my favorite long-tail cast on tips on our Facebook wall. My picture generated not only questions, but tips from fans on how they deal with the risk of running out of yarn during a long-tail cast on.

two ball cast on First up, my tip:

When you need to cast on a large number of stitches (say, 100 or more) tie two balls of yarn together or use both ends of one ball. You can cast on to your heart’s delight!

As with a normal, one strand, long-tail cast on, the yarn in the front is your “tail” and the yarn in the back is the working yarn. Once you’ve cast on enough stitches, simply snip the front yarn. Be sure to leave a long enough strand to weave in later!

The knot doesn’t count as a stitch. When you are ready to start knitting, drop the knot off your needle before you begin knitting. When you are weaving in ends, untie the knot and weave in both tails as normal. It helps to go in opposite directions, if you can, to reduce bulk.

Keep in mind that you also have to weave in the third end from when you snipped the front ball of yarn at the beginning. As far as I can tell, the need to weave in three ends, compared to just one, is the only downside to this method.

Tips from Fans:

These ideas can come in handy anytime you’re using the long-tail cast on method.

I learned to allow 1″ of yarn per stitch on needle sizes 7 through 10. I use a little less for smaller needles and a little more for larger needles. I always have enough tail with these estimates.—Patty C.W.

I found Patty’s tip interesting because it’s more precise than my usual method, which is to pull out a length of yarn from my nose to the full length of my arm. I tend to either have too much or too little yarn.

I usually cast on 10 st and then see how much yarn that took and multiply it by the # of stitches/10, so for instance if I need to cast on 110 st, then I’ll use 11 times that amount of yarn. Don’t include the tail in the measurement though.—Karen T.

Karen’s tip involves some math, but considering I’ve fallen short after casting on 50 out of 55 sts, it might be worth trying!

With all these methods it’s important to remember to leave enough of a tail to weave in at the end of your project.

Also you can just make sure your tail is 3 1/2 times your required width. works every time and no knots.—Trish E.

Trish seems very confident in her method. I can’t decide whether it requires more or less math than Karen’s tip. I might have to test it on something small like a pair of socks or gloves before I apply it to a sweater.

Join, making sure not to twist

While I’m talking about casting on, let me throw in a point about joining to work in the round.

I find that new knitters are often confused about how to make sure their stitches aren’t twisted.

Ready to joinWhen a pattern instructs you to “be careful not to twist”, it is referring to your stitches being twisted (or flipped) around the needle.

You want to lay your needle (or needles, if you’re using double pointed needles) on a flat surface that won’t interfere with seeing the stitches.

Then make sure they are all facing the same direction. If you click on the picture above you’ll see a bigger version. Notice that all the loops are on the outside of the needle.

TwistedFor comparison, here is a picture with the stitches twisted.

I’m pointing to the spot where the twist occurs. You can see that the loops go from being on the right-hand side of the needle to being on the left-hand side.

If I started knitting with the stitches in this position I’d end up with a mobius situation, which is very difficult to fix without starting over.

The good news is, if you do end up with a twist like this, you usually notice after just a few rows of knitting so you won’t have to rip out much.

Have you heard these tips for working a long-tail cast on before? Which cast on method do you prefer using?


  1. How can I learn to cast on this way? the long tail method?

  2. Youtube has a vast number of videos that demonstrate how to do just about anything, including the long tail cast-on. There are several postings of the technique; I watched about 5 or 6. Some people seem to explain something a little more clearly. Anyway, it is a valuable resource.

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