In today’s Knitting 101, I’ll teach you how to long tail cast on in knitting.
Of all the knitting cast on methods, the long tail cast on is the easiest to learn. It is also the one knitters use most.
This is due to the fact that it’s a stretchy cast on, which creates a clean, neat edge. The image below gives you an idea of what I mean. Here you can see a knitted washcloth in 100% cotton yarn with a neat long tail cast on edge.
This elastic cast on makes it so useful for all kinds of knitting projects, which we'll elaborate on later.
In addition to learning how to long tail cast on, I’ll also share some other names it goes by. I’ll tell you how to start a new row in knitting, and what to do with the long tail once you finish your knitting.
Before we discuss the long tail cast on method, a quick word on some knitting terms.
Knitting Terms for Beginners
You’re bound to come across the following knitting phrases as you learn to knit. I just want to call them out for clarification in case you’re not familiar with them yet.
- Active Yarn / Working Yarn - This is the yarn you’re knitting with. It relates to the yarn coming from the yarn skein or yarn ball, not the yarn tail.
- Turning Your Work - When you knit to the end of a row, the worked row will be in your right hand. To turn your work, return this needle to your left hand and work the next row, etc.
Turning in knitting occurs in straight knitting, when you're knitting back and forth. You'll also turn your work when knitting short rows.
- Knitting Tension - This is how tightly or how loosely you knit. Too tightly leads to smaller stitches and denser fabric. Too loose leads to large, uneven stitches. Both make your knitting look sloppy and unprofessional, and will affect your knitting gauge. Try for a smooth, even knitting rhythm for beautiful stitches.
You can learn more knitting terms and knitting abbreviations here.
Other Names for the Long Tail Cast On
Depending on where you live and knit, you may hear the long tail cast on called by different names. It's also known as:
- Double Cast On
- Continental Knitting Cast On
- Slingshot Cast On
- Two Strand Cast On
- Basic Half-Stitch Cast On
While it’s called different things in different regions, there’s really no difference in the long tail cast on itself.
So, let’s move on and talk about this knitting cast on method.
The Long Tail Cast On Method
When you cast on stitches with this method, you’re knitting the first row. This first row of stitches is what anchors the knitted piece together. This is why it’s important to learn the long tail cast on correctly.
As I mentioned earlier, this easy knit cast on is known for its elastic edge. This stretchiness is important to a variety of knitting projects.
Here are some easy knitting projects that use the long tail cast on:
- Arabesque Knit Cowl
- Fingerless Gloves
- Andalusian Risa Knit Hat
- Garter Stitch Scarf
- Eenie Meenie Baby Blanket
- Electric Love Mosaic Cowl (shown above)
Okay, let's learn the long tail cast on step by step. But first, let me list the knitting supplies I'm using for this tutorial.
For this knitting tutorial, I'm using:
How to Long Tail Cast On for Beginners
Before you begin, measure out your yarn for your long tail cast on. If you're not sure how much yarn you'll need for the stitches required, this tutorial will help you.
First, make your slip knot and cinch it onto your knitting needle in your right hand. Your yarn tail should be in front, your working yarn in back.
Now, lift the yarn tail over your left thumb and the working yarn over your left index finger. It should be in the shape of a Y or a slingshot.
To keep the slip knot in place, hold it on the knitting needle with your right index finger.
Third, swing the knitting needle to the left and insert it under and through the loop. Your knitting needle is moving towards your right index finger.
Fourth, continue this motion from left to right over and under the loop on your index finger.
The motion is now moving back to the left and through the loop on your thumb.
Fifth, drop your thumb and allow the yarn to slip off your finger. Now, gently tug the strands of yarn to cinch it on the needle. You have now cast on your second stitch.
Remember, the slip knot is your first stitch in the long tail cast on.
Don’t forget to count it.
Finally, repeat this process until you have cast on the desired number of stitches you need to begin your knitting project. You'll use this same method if you're knitting with one yarn (as shown above), double stranded knitting (2 strands of yarn), in marl knitting, or when knitting with more than 2 strands.
You’ve done it! You’ve learned how to long tail cast on. This is not the end of your long tail journey, though. Let’s talk about what happens next.
How to Start a New Row in Knitting
The image below shows your cast on row of knit stitches. This is what your first row of knitting looks like.
Now, when you finish casting on your stitches, you’ll start a new row in knitting. By this I mean you'll start knitting or purling. To do this, you’ll need to turn your knitting.
Take a look at the image below. This is what your stitches and yarn should look like once you've turned your knitting after the cast on row.
The knitting needle with the cast on row should be in your left hand. The yarn tail is in back, your active yarn / working yarn is in the front.
Now you can begin knitting (or purling) the first row after the long tail cast on. Follow your pattern’s instructions.
Ok, so we’ve covered how to long tail cast on step by step for flat knitting. What about casting on for knitting in the round? I’ve got you covered.
Long Tail Cast on in the Round
When you’re ready to try circular knitting, you’ll find it’s a very similar process. You’ll find a dedicated tutorial on how to cast on knitting in the round here.
Can't decide? Here's a free headband knitting pattern I designed to get you started.
Okay, so we covered how to begin knitting and knitting in the round. What about after?
You may wonder, What do I do with the yarn tail when I finish a knitting project? This is an important question, one that doesn’t get mentioned much. Let’s talk about what happens when you finish a knitting project.
How to Finish Knitting
When you come to the end of your knitting, there’s a couple of steps that remain. The first step is to fasten off your knitting, or bind off. This knitting tutorial shows you how to bind off here.
The next step involves weaving in knitting ends. This includes the yarn tail from the long tail cast on, any yarn joins you’ve made, and the bind off tail. This video tutorial will show you how to weave ends in your knitting.
Then, you’ll need to wash your knit and block your knitting, if it requires it. Once that's done, it'll be ready to gift or wear.
Long Tail Cast On FAQs
Still have questions? That’s okay. I have answers. Here are some of the most common questions I get asked about this type of cast on.
How long should my yarn tail be for the long tail cast on?
What if your long tail cast on is too short?
How do you measure the length of a cast on tail?
Which side is the tail for the long tail cast on?
What if I cast on too tightly?
What if I have a loose cast on?
Did you find this long tail cast on knitting tutorial helpful? Still have questions? I’d love to know! Drop me a line below and I'll do my best to help you.