Hello everyone, welcome to today's knitting tutorial! Today I will be going over the basic long tail cast on using the thumb method. There is another variation on how to create the long tail cast on, but I will cover that in a separate post. The method demonstrated here is the easiest and most commonly used. This is the method I originally learned, and how I continue to work when using this cast on technique.
Regardless of the method used to create the long tail cast on, it is one of the fundamental knitting cast on techniques, and one of the most widely used, partly because of its ease and versatility (it also looks uniform when done correctly). You can use the long tail cast on for just about any project, but it is always important to consider both the functionality and the appearance of a cast on when designing knitwear.
To start, you must determine approximately how long of a tail you will need to start your project. There are multiple ways to calculate tail length for this cast on; however, the most common (and usually most accurate) is to create a yarn tail roughly 3.25 times the size of your finished project, plus an extra 6 inches for the remaining tail. As an example, if you are staring a scarf measuring ten inches, you would make a tail that is 10"x3.25+6 (38.5 inches). Another common variation is to add together 0.5-1 inch (more for heavier weights and less for lighter weights) for each of the cast on stitches (i.e. approximately 20 inches for a cast on of 20 stitches) along with 6 inches of extra for the remaining tail.
The most difficult part of the long tail cast on is determining how much yarn to start with. It is better to overestimate, as extra tail can be reduced later with scissors. If there is not enough tail to finish the cast on, and obtain the required number of stitches, you will have to start over. This is about the only complaint I have about the long tail cast on; apart from this, it is a good technique to learn.
Once you determine a measurement, create a slip knot at the end of this length. Place the slip knot onto the needle. Hold the needle in your right hand. Arrange the working yarn (the part attached to the ball) over your index finger and the tail length over your thumb, as shown below. You will now begin the rest of the long tail cast on, as explained in Part 2.
Guide the tip of the needle underneath the outer tail yarn (on your thumb, the part closest and facing you). Do not work with the back portion of the thumb yarn loop, as this is a separate cast on technique, called the elastic cast on (it is based on the long tail method, but with different results, as I explain here).
Wrap the needle tip counterclockwise around the working yarn.
Bring the needle tip through the loop on your thumb, then carefully drop the tail yarn off your finger.
Pull the tail and the working yarn gently to adjust the tension of the stitches. They should be consistent and taut, but not overly tight. As a rule, you should be able to slide the stitches up and down the needle without any trouble but without the process being too easy. A cast on that is too tight or too loose is not only unsightly but will likely cause problems when finishing your project later.
Repeat the steps of Part 2 until you have the required number of stitches. Note that you will only be adding one stitch each time, as you will not be adding more slip stitches, only stitches created from the looping process shown in Part 2. Also to note, the starting slip stitch does count as the first stitch. It is worth pointing out that unlike with many other cast on methods, the tail hangs from the last stitch created, and not the first, as you can see below. This does not make a significant difference when knitting.
Once the cast on is complete, proceed with your pattern; there are no additional steps required to secure the long tail cast on before knitting your fabric.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. If you have any questions about today's technique feel free to post them in the comment section of this post. Until next time, happy knitting!
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