I love Long-tail cast-on! It’s so versatile and very easy to control. I opted for showing Knitted cast-on for my Brand New Knitter DVD as it includes so many elements that are repeated in an actual knit stitch and it will form stitches no matter how randomly they are made. But as soon as the basics are established and the knitter is comfortable with stitches, it will be time to explore the Long-tail method. This method is, in essence, a series of stitches (made with the ball yarn) knitted through a series of loops (made with the tail yarn).
It is otherwise known as Continental cast-on – but the name “Long-tail” reminds the knitter that a long tail of yarn is needed. I’m all in favor of helpful names!
In this video I demonstrate Long-tail cast-on and explore some of its many attributes!
I demonstrate this cast-on by using two colours to differentiate the functions of the tail and ball yarns. It’s important to understand the role of the two yarns. If you use your tail yarn to make the twists around the feet of the new stitches, it can be unpicked or cut away at a later time as a form of provisional edge (not the most convenient one, but it will work).
Estimating the tail length is often cited as a problem with this method. I recommend 4 times the width of the edge, which is usually perfect. You don’t want to have to economize on tail yarn length because you are running out, else your edge will wind up too tight. The tail yarn controls the spacing between the stitches (and YOU control the tail yarn).
Fear of tangles in the tail yarn sometimes leads knitters to economize on the length, too. No problem dealing with that: If you wind the tail into a butterfly, it keeps it tidy and allows it to turn and release the twists that tend to un-ply, and hence weaken, your tail yarn.
Long-tail calls for a little finesse from the knitter in balancing the tension between the two yarns. There is no reason why the new stitches should ever be tight. There is no need for a larger size needle to be used, either, as this only leads to baggy stitches and won’t affect the width of your edge. You are in control of the tension and of the spacing of the stitches.
You’re the boss.
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