Crazy for Cast-Ons (Part 1): The Old Norwegian and Some "Tail Tips"

Remember my list of knitting resolutions? Number 1 was to learn the Old Norwegian Cast-On. Well I did, and I want you to learn it, too. I also learned some really cool tips for "tail management" when casting on, so keep reading to the bottom of the blog!

Back to the Norwegian: This cast-on forms a sturdy, very elastic foundation row. It's worked with two ends of yarn-one that comes from the working ball of yarn and the other that comes from the tail end of that same yarn (just like the long-tail cast-on).

Here's an illustrated tutorial, and if you want a video demo, there's one that follows. (I like the combo of the video and illustration so I can easily refer back to the illustrations if I need to.)

  Step 1: Leaving a tail the necessary length, make a slipknot and place it on a needle held in your right hand. The slipknot counts as the first stitch.

Step 2: Place the thumb and index finger of your left hand between the yarn ends so that the strand connected to the ball is around your index finger and the tail end is around your thumb. Secure the yarn ends with your other fingers and hold your palm upwards, making a V of yarn (Figure 1).

Figure 1
Step 3: Bring the needle in front of your thumb, under both yarns around the thumb, down into the center of the thumb loop, back forward, and over the top of the yarn around your index finger (Figure 2).

Step 4: Use the needle to catch this yarn, then bring the needle back down through the thumb loop (Figure 3), turning your thumb slightly to make room for the needle to pass through. 

Figures 2 and 3

Step 5: Drop the loop off your thumb (Figure 4) and place your thumb back in the V configuration while tightening up the resulting stitch on the needle (Figure 5).

Repeat steps 3 through 5 for the desired number of stitches.
(Instructions from Ann Budd's book Getting Started Knitting Socks)

Figures 4 and 5

My friend Mimi showed me how to do this cast-on, and she let me shoot a video of her doing it for you! There's a lot of "twisty-turny" in this cast-on, so watch carefully!

I've had many comments on the Knitting Daily site about how great this cast-on is for top-down socks, so here is a link to our free sock pattern booklet: Knitting Socks with Knitting Daily: 5 Free Sock Knitting Patterns!  

The Long Tail (and sometimes the not-long-enough tail!)

One of the questions I get a lot on the message boards is how to estimate the length of tail you need for a long-tail cast-on. I once had to cast on 790 stitches for a circular shawl. Eek! I used two balls of yarn to cast on, one for the tail and one for the working yarn, so I knew I wouldn't run out of yarn (I also placed a marker every 50 stitches so I only had to count to 790 once). See the video below for a demo of this technique.

Normally, though, I just leave an inch or so per stitch if I'm casting on to size 5 or larger needles, and a little less for smaller needles.

The following video shows several cast-on techniques and provides some tips, too. The segment is from Knitting Daily TV season 4 (which starts airing TODAY in Spokane, or get the whole season of DVDs here).

Part 2 of Crazy for Cast-Ons will come to you in February. We'll talk about provisional cast-ons in part 2, and I'll give you a couple of patterns to use to practice, too!


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