Long Tail Cast On Method

A Mini Series of Stretchy Cast On Methods
You know those knitters who always use the same cast on and bind off methods unless the pattern specifies otherwise? Uhm… I am one of those knitters. In an effort to try to break my lazy habits, I’m going to do little series of swatches to compare new techniques. I’m going to start with my CO method of choice: The Long Tail Cast On.


I love this one because of the rhythm of working it. I can cast on stitches quite quickly. As a stretchy cast on method, it’s not bad. My 2 inch swatch stretched to 4.25 inches along the cast on edge.

The right side isn’t unattractive, but the cast on is obvious. A twisty looking line creates a defined edge. It doesn’t bother me, but I know some knitters don’t like it.


The long tail cast on has an obvious wrong side. The ridge can blend in on reverse stockinette and garter stitch, but it wouldn’t work well with reversible ribbing.

This cast on method also has one big problem. The tail of yarn can be awkward when casting on a large number of stitches. You have to guess correctly how long your tail needs to be which can waste yarn or require you to start over if you come up short. The tail could potentially get tangled if you’re casting on hundreds of stitches. It’s just a bit annoying.


So, will I keep using it? Yes and no. I probably will continue to use it as my go-to cast on method in situations where it won’t be seen like necklines where I will pick up stitches. I’m going to stop using it on bottom up projects because it just isn’t the best option for working with ribbing.

Next week I will be looking at the tubular cast on.






11 responses to “Long Tail Cast On Method”

  1. Billi

    This is very interesting to me. Please continue on. I always use long tail unless it specifies otherwise. I am excited to learn about some others.

  2. I did use long tail years ago, but now I seem only to use cable cast on. I can cast on quickly and there is never the need to calculate how long the cast on yarn needs to be, especially helpful when making something big like a sweater. Love the photos.

  3. Long-tail is my go to cast-on. But every time I learn a new cast-on, I have a bit of a fling with it for a few projects. Currently I’m in love with the provisional cast-on. I suppose I’m having a thing for socks as of late as well.

  4. I had a short love affair with the long-tail cast-on when I first started knitting, then dropped it for the cable cast on. I still prefer cable cast-on for lace and lacy socks, but for ribbed patterns and sweater pieces long-tail can’t be beat! Now, if only there was a perfect, stretchy (but not too strechy), attractive cast-on that would work for everything…

  5. I tend to use the same cast on (long tail) unless otherwise specified OR unless I’m knitting socks cuff down, in which case I use German long tail cast on (i think that’s what it’s called).

  6. I have gone the other way to some of your commenters, used to use the cable cast on but am now a big long tail fan.
    I was told a trick to avoid running out of yarn- Use two balls, hold them together to tie the slip knot then work the cast on doing one extra stitch, on the second row slide the slip knot off and undo it, you have to work in two extra yarn ends but don’t have to cast on ten times because you run out of yarn.

  7. What Halfpint said!

    I mod my long-tail cast on if I’m casting on a ribbed edge. I’m sure there’s a name for it, but I don’t know it, and I’m terrible at explaining it, but it has to do with switching between thumb and finger sides for knits/purls. It turns out invisible. Perfect for someone as anally retentive as me.

  8. Lisa S.

    This is where being left-handed is an advantage. The smooth side of the long-tail cast on comes out on the right side for me, so it looks great. My most common cast on for ribbed edges, however, is an invisible cast on (don’t remember the name) from Montse Stanley’s book.

    Lisa S. in Seattle

  9. It too is my go-to cast-on, so easy and fluid.

  10. Jean

    The reason your alternate cable cast on biases is because you are twisting the sts to,place them on the needle knit-wise. If you just put them in the needle purl-wise, the cast o mill not bias. It will also be identical front and back. The knit and purl sts will begin nicely at the bottom of the work and move straight up. You can also use this method for k2p2 rib, or any other rib for that matter, by cable casting on 2 Knitted sts followed by 2 purged sts etc. If you use a larger needle size for the right hand needle, this will force the gap,between sts to,be larger, generally keeping the sts the same size if you gently tug as you placemat on the left needle. Mathis increases the gap between sts making the CO stretchier.

  11. Jean

    Oh, also, increasing the gap,but not the st only works with a “sticky” yarn such as wool. Doing this with silk or bamboo will not increase the gap but not the stitch. It will still make the CO row stretchier but not so,invisibly. For a very slippery yarn, I prefer a tubular cast on.

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