Knitting Basics: Casting On Stitches

These are the basic instructions for how to cast on knitting stitches. For more knitting help, see the Interweave Knitting Glossary.


To get started, you need to make stitches—this is called casting on. One of the most common methods is called the long-tail cast-on. You need a ball of yarn and one needle to cast on.

STEP 1: Leave a long tail of yarn three times the width of what you are knitting; for instance, if you are knitting an 8″-wide scarf, start with a 24″-long tail. Make a slipknot and place it on the needle. To make a slipknot, lay the “tail” of yarn on a flat surface and make a loop near the area where the tail becomes the ball of yarn (Figure 1a).

cast on knitting

STEP 2: Place the tail of yarn under the loop.

STEP 3: Place a needle under the bar of yarn within the loop you just made with the tail (Figure 1b).

cast on knitting

STEP 4: Pull both ends of the yarn to complete the slipknot. This is the first cast-on stitch.

STEP 5: Place the needle with the stitch in your right hand and use your index finger to hold the slipknot in place.

STEP 6: Separate the two strands with your left thumb and index finger, keeping the yarn taut with your other three fingers (Figure 2). The yarn tail should be around your thumb and the
working yarn (attached to the ball) should be around your index finger.

cast on knitting

STEP 7: Raise your hand so that it’s slightly above the needle (Figure 3). From left to right, bring the needle into the loop created by your thumb (Figure 4).

cast on knitting

STEP 8: Bring the needle over and back through the loop created by your index finger (Figure 5).

cast on knitting

STEP 9: To finish, with the strand of yarn from your index finger captured, go back through the thumb loop (Figure 6).

cast on knitting

STEP 10: Bend your thumb and release the yarn on your thumb. Pull the yarn so you slightly tighten the stitch on the needle. You don’t want it to be really tight, but it shouldn’t be so loose that it slips off the needle or looks uneven.

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