Knitters, I Never Learned the Long-Tailed Cast On. Am I Missing Something?

I have a confession to make. I’m a pretty good knitter. I can do lace work and Aran sweaters, and am willing to give almost any pattern a try. I even host a knitters night out once a month. However, I never learned the long tailed cast on, a skill which every knitter seems to have and one of the first things beginning knitters are taught. Am I missing something? I’m sure I could learn it if I had to.

The reason I never learned it is, over 20 years ago when I was just learning to knit, the woman who taught me showed me how to knit on stitches instead. It’s quicker and easier, and you don’t have to worry about running out of yarn. When I’m starting a project, unless I’m specifically told otherwise, that’s still the cast on I use, and it’s one I’ve shown other beginning knitters. I’ve been told that, not only is it easier to do, it also stretches more than the long tail cast on.

What’s your take on it? While we’re on the subject, what are you working on?

My take is that if you have a good, reliable cast on that you like to use, you’re all set. I use long tail where nothing is specified, but I don’t see it as having a practical advantage over using the knitted cast on where nothing is specified. Obviously it’s good to be flexible to use the fancy cast ons where called for, but a good basic cast on is a good basic cast on.

I’m currently working on a bulky cotton sweater in some lovely brown yarn. It has huge cables. It will be unflattering but supremely comfortable. What’s on your needles??

I only know how to do the long tail cast on.

I would love to learn another one and your method intrigues me. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it.

Maybe you could do a video and post it to youtube.

I just read in one of the yarn harlot books that knitting on is no good for socks due to lack of elasticity, otherwise, who cares as long as it works. I think the long tail cast on is much faster, but that’s what I learned first.

I am a beginning knitter who has learned the long-tailed cast on, and likes it better (likes the way it looks better) than the other method I taught myself to do.

But, if I ever quit practicing knitting from this chart, and actually knit the sweater I’m thinking of knitting, I may not want to do the long tailed cast on due to the large number of stitches involved.

(The sweater in question is a child-sized sweater with lacy trim which I mentioned in the thread on knitting which I started last week, but am too lazy to link to. )

At the present time, I am saving myself the frustration of frogging what is intended to be a gift, by repeatedly frogging a practice piece instead. I may have finally figured out why my slip slip knits didn’t look the way they were supposed to. I still haven’t decided whether knitting nubs and such are worth the effort, or whether I should simplify the decorative part of the sweater.

I have also decided that for the time being, I will knit nothing, no matter how tempting the pattern is, unless it comes with a picture. (The tempting, but exasperating patterns without pictues that I’ve been working on come from the back of a novel about “Chicks with Sticks”)

I default to a long-tail where nothing in particular is called for, since I find it much faster than any other cast-on I know, and I can control the tightness of it easily. It’s just another cast-on, though, if you’ve got a default that works for you, then whatever.

I hate long tail cast on; I find it unattractive and inelastic. Plus, it’s backward.

90% of the time, I cable on (which is like knitting on (the other 10% are knitting on or double loop or single loop) - but you knit between the previous stitches instead of into the previous stitch). It’s also the one I teach - because it is more like knitting, so it makes more sense to them, too.

I’ve also found too many frustrated by trying to guess how long the stupid tail is supposed to be.

I’d avoid it - on the rare occasion that a pattern explicitly calls for it, you can do a more elastic, better cast on that gets the desired effect by reverse cabling or purling on.

I’m 20 rows away from finishing a shawl that started as something fun and is now something to be finished.

I cast on by knitting the stiches onto the needle. I had to do a Channel Island Cast On for a shell I made. It’s a version of the long-tailed cast on, but once I figured out what I was doing with the yarn wrapped around my fingers it was fairly quick.

I have a book called Hats On! by Charlene Schurch that has instructions for 5 different methods of casting on in the first chapter. There are easily twice that many in Vogue Knitting. I find it does make a difference in how a hat '“wears”, but unless a pattern calls for a specific method I’ve gotten by just fine with the long tail method.

I’m not set up for video, but I can describe it. [ol][li]Make a knot and put it on your needle. This is your first stitch.[/li][li]Knit that knot and, when you’re done, instead of leaving it on your needle, put it back on the first needle. You now have 2 stiches.[/li][li]Knit the new stitch and put it back on the needle. You now have 3 stitches.[/li][li]Repeat step 3 until you have as many stitches as you need.[/li][/ol]
As for me, since I’ve got the man, the ring, and the date, I’m now working on a Fair Isle sweater for my fiance and I’m still making socks for our bridesmaids (our three nieces, who are between 10 and 13 and my best friend). The socks are the Domino Socks from Vogue Knitting Socks Two.

Knitted socks for presents. What a great idea!

The question remains: will you get them done in time for the big day?

I tend to default to the long-tail because it’s quick and easy, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a pattern that *required * it. I find that’s one of the great aspects of knitting - you can do it any way you like, assuming you like the results you get. The knitting police are not going to confiscate your needles if you slip the stitches purl-wise instead of knit-wise, or one purl-wise then one knit-wise while SSKing. (I’ve read advocates of all three ways)

I’m wearing a brand new pair of hand-knit socks from “Favorite Socks” done in gorgeous aqua/green blue/saphire blue Jojoland Melody today. I cast on with the long tail, but over two needles to give it more stretch.

Well, I’ve got three down, so I’m only slightly behind the pace I set of two weeks per sock, so I’m half way through, not counting the pair for my best friend. The next pair will be smaller, so they should be faster, but they’ll be more boring.

By the way, I finally got to try working in the round on two circular needles after a workshop a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure dealing with two cables is better than dealing with four needles, but it’s an interesting technique.

The big (for me) benefits of knitting in the round with circulars instead of dpns are that I’m less likely to lose one of the circs than I am one of the dpns.

Also, if you want to make the tiny pair of socks more interesting, you can knit two socks at the same time on two circular needles (using the technique you just picked up) or do the Anna Karenina sock trick.

If this has been revealed in some other thread on this message board before this, I totally missed it.


As for the OP…I generally use long-tail, but only because it’s the first one I ever learned. It DOES tend to be pretty rigid, though. There’s not a lot of elasticity. I’ve been glancing warily sidelong at sock instructions for the last month or so and I don’t think I’d want to cast on a sock with something that inelastic.

Of course, at this point, I’m still working up the nerve to cast on a sock at all…


See, now IME it’s not that rigid and is quite elastic. I have several socks and hats where I’ve used the long tail cast on precisely because I’ve found it more elastic, and comfortable.

Of course I’ve only ever used single, long tail and provisional cast ons and abandoned the single when I learned long tail… soo YMMV… :wink:

I hope it doesn’t involve a train…

Would that be the one which involves knitting one inside the other?

That one scares me.

Yes, and I can’t seem to find the passage. But at one point in the book, she knits a pair of socks like that.

This is a good explanation of how to do it. It’s actually not that hard, it just requires a little more attention.