Knitting: Easy, Loose Cast on
May 30, 2012
If you are like the majority of knitters, you cast on tight. Some just cast on a little tight, but most cast on really tight. This can be a real pain when it comes to sweater necks, top-down socks and even starting a nice scarf (you can clearly see where your knitting looses after the cast on edge). You can try teaching yourself to cast on loosely which can be an exercise in patience or you can just try one of my 2 easy, loose cast-on methods. You will love them both.
1) Bigger needle: depending on how tight you cast-on you can use a bigger needle for just the cast-on and then on row 1 switch to your pattern recommended needle size. I suggest going up 2-3 needle sizes (i.e. from an US 8 to a US 10). I prefer 2 sizes because my cast on is only medium tight. If yours is super tight, go up three. Try each with a gauge swatch to see which needle size works best for you. Remember the loose cast on may look pretty loose but this will be less visible after blocking and wearing.
2) Double your needle: If I don't have my needle pouch with me or if I am traveling I will cast on holding both my needles together. This doubles the size of the needle and gives a very nice, loose cast on. It is a little tricky holding and casting on with 2 needles but you will quickly get the hang of it. This one is especially handy because once you have cast on just slide one needle out and you are all set for row one.
A well-done loose cast on is not only better for garments and wearing but also for that trouble-some first row. If you cast on tight you probably dread working that first row because it is so tight and hard to get your needle in there to work each stitch. With your new loose cast on, working the first row will be as easy as working any other other row. On top of that, your knitting will no longer blossom out once you get past the first row. Your project will be the same size from cast on to the last row (unless you change the size). No longer will you need to knit a few rows to get a real feel of the width of your project. You can see evidence of this in the first picture. From the cast on row to about row 2-3 the sample flares out until it reaches its working width (see red marks). This may not seem like a big deal but if you are creating a beautiful color work scarf you will want it to be perfect from start to finish and don't want the color skewed by this flare.
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