Before you begin any knitting project, you need to know how much yarn for a long tail cast on. In this Knitting 101, I’ll show you four easy ways to measure for a long tail cast on.
Long Tail Cast On
When you learned how to cast on stitches, you probably learned the knitting basics of the long tail cast on. A favorite for most knitters, it’s usually one of the first cast-ons any knitter learns. It’s considered a stretchy cast on and works well with many a knitting project.
But no method or technique is without reproach.
The biggest complaint from knitters when using the long tail cast on method is: How much yarn do I need? It’s a great question.
It’s hard to gauge how much yarn to cast on if you don’t know how. The yarn ends up being too short, which leaves you to repeat your efforts, or too long leaving you with extra yarn. It can be so frustrating.
But today, we’re going to resolve this issue so it’ll never be a problem for you again. Below I’ll detail four different methods, with pros and cons, to help you decide which is best for you.
Let’s get started so you can get back to knitting.
Long Tail Cast On: How Much Yarn
The four methods we’ll discuss below are:
- Stitches per Inch (SPI)
- Two-strand Cast On
You might already know this method or have heard of it before.
This method is just as the name suggests. In this case, you wrap yarn around the needle the number of stitches you need for your knitting project.
To determine how much yarn for a long tail cast on, there are a few steps to take:
- First, unravel a small amount of yarn from your yarn ball.
- Second, wrap the yarn around your knitting needle as many times as possible.
- Third, unravel the wrapped yarn marking the distance from start to finish.
Say your pattern calls for you to cast on 20 stitches. When you unravel your yarn from the needle and measure, you have enough for 20 stitches. This would be the amount you would cast on. You also want to add a little extra to account for your slip knot and leave a yarn tail.
With this method, you need to wrap your stitches evenly. Don’t wrap the yarn around the needle too tightly or too loosely. Doing so will affect your measurements.
Wrap Method Pros:
- This method tends to be more accurate when using fewer stitches.
- Wrapping is a good option for smaller projects.
Wrap Method Cons:
- You may cast on tighter or looser than you wrap.
- This method is not always reliable.
NOTE: The Wrap Method is not to be confused with wraps per inch (WPI). WPI in knitting relates to yarn gauge, or the weight of the yarn. It is not a way to measure yarn for long tail cast on.
And while you're thinking about wrapping, you might like Red Heart's It's a Wrap yarn. A superfine 50/50 cotton, acrylic blend with an astonishing 1100 yards (1006 meters) of yarn.
Now, let’s talk about the second method for measuring yarn in a long tail cast on: the Zig-Zag Method.
The Zig-Zag Method is similar to the wrap method. It’s different, though, in that it requires you to cast on stitches.
Here, imagine you have a knitting pattern that calls for you to cast on 100 stitches. You probably don’t want to leave this cast on to chance. I know I wouldn’t. That isn’t to say that it hasn’t happened to me before.
Here’s how you do it:
First, unravel a small portion of yarn. The length isn’t important.
Second, long tail cast on until you reach the end. Then, while holding the loop at the end, unravel these stitches.
Now, fold the yarn and measure out the number of stitches you need end over end. The picture below gives you a better visual of this method.
Say you cast on 10 stitches but you need 60 stitches for your knitting project. Using this method, you would measure out 6 lengths of 10, as shown above.
As you can see, each arrow designates a length. From the yarn tail to end of row 1, this demonstrates one length of ten stitches. You would then measure out five additional lengths for a total of 60 stitches.
Again, don’t forget to add a little extra yarn for your slip knot and enough for a yarn tail.
Zig-Zag Method Pros:
- Quick and easy.
- Pretty accurate.
- Doesn’t require a ruler.
- A good option for projects large and small.
- Less likely to leave you playing yarn chicken.
- Works well on straight and circular knitting needles.
Check Out Our Guide to Circular Knitting Needles
Zig-Zag Method Cons:
- Causes fear in those who hate math.
- Not always exact depending on how you zig and zag.
Now let’s talk about a third way to measure yarn for long tail cast on.
Stitches per Inch Method
As the name suggests, this method requires you to measure how many stitches per inch. Thankfully, this is simple to do. It requires only a ruler or tape measure, and a calculator.
Say you need to cast on 100 stitches for your project. You would take your measuring tape and measure out 100 inches of yarn plus a little extra for your yarn tail.
Sounds too easy, right? Read on for pros and cons of this method.
Here’s a handy knitting stitches per inch chart.
Stitches per Inch Method Pros:
- Requires minimal measuring, but that may not always be a good thing.
- This method often works well with worsted weight yarn.
Stitches per Inch Method Cons:
- The Stitches per Inch Method is not always accurate or reliable.
- This method may leave you with an extra long yarn tail.
- It may require multiple cast-ons to meet your stitch requirement.
- May not work well on all yarn gauges or yarn weights.
Before we move on to the next method, I want to make one thing clear. The Stitches per Inch Method is not related to knitting gauge. Some knitting topics are confusing because they bleed over or sound related to other tasks.
In this discussion, stitches per inch has nothing to do with knitting gauge. But if you’re interested in learning more about gauge, you can do so from the link below.
Finally, let’s discuss the last method in this post: the Two Strand Cast On Method.
Two Strand Cast On Method
This last method has been around for years but, for some reason, isn’t as well-known as the others. This is unfortunate because it is so incredibly useful. You'll see below.
The Two Strand Method requires just a couple of steps:
First, you'll need to make a slip knot. Then, long tail cast on using both ends of a single skein, ball, or hank, etc..
You could also cast on using one strand from two separate yarns. This way gives you a lovely multi-colored edge, as shown below.
How to Do the Two Strand Cast On
First, make your slip knot with both strands leaving a 4" – 6” yarn tail.
Next, slip it onto your knitting needle and tighten it gently. Then, separate the two strands and long tail cast on.
There is an additional step in this method though. You’ll need to cast on one extra stitch. Later, you will remove the slip knot, which is why you add the extra stitch.
When you have cast on all the required stitches +1, cut one of the two strands. Be sure to leave a long enough yarn tail to weave in later.
Now, knit your first row with the uncut yarn strand. When you come to the slip knot, do not work it. Slide it off the needle and undo the knot. From there, continue knitting.
Two Strand Cast On Method Pros:
- Most accurate method.
- Quick and easy.
- No measurement or math involved.
- Doesn’t require any extra tools.
- No knot on your cast on edge.
- Helps you cast on large stitch quantities.
- No fear of running out of yarn.
- Can be worked with one or two colors of yarn.
- Fool proof!
Two Strand Cast On Method Cons:
- You might forget to add the extra stitch or remove the slip knot.
- There’s two extra yarn tails to weave in.
As I mentioned before, this method is really handy, especially if you have a lot of stitches to cast on. This picture below is of a baby blanket knitting pattern that I'm working on. I used the Two Strand Cast On Method to take the guesswork out of casting on the 100+ stitches.
Here you can see that you will have two tails to weave in from where the slip knot was removed.
Now you know four ways to measure how much yarn you'll need for a long tail cast on. So grab your knitting needles and try them for yourself today.
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