I'm lucky! I get to preview the patterns in each issue of Knitty well in advance. When I find instructions that might give a knitter pause or a technique that would be fun to explore in depth, I put on my teacher hat and see what we can learn together.
As the Techniques Columnist at Knitty, I will continue the worldwide knitting community's tradition of sharing knowledge. Follow my lead and try something that might be new to you! Whether you adopt it wholesale, adapt it to your needs, or throw it out, you'll surely gain something by trying.
Crochet hook? Waste yarn? Forget about it.
Judy's Magic Cast On (JMCO) was introduced to knitters right here in Knitty's Spring 2006 issue. Once you have become friends with it, you'll realize it's not only a seamless way to start a sock toe, but it's also a provisional cast on, and, in many cases, it can be substituted for other methods involving waste yarn and crochet hooks. No waste yarn and no crochet hook is incentive enough for me, allowing for some laziness without penalty.
Let's take a quick look at some examples, then see where we might apply it to patterns in this issue of Knitty.
In the example of a lace- or otherwise-patterned scarf, the designer wants the two halves to match right down to the bound-off edge. A provisional cast on at the middle allows live stitches to be be worked in either direction, so the two halves match. Can we ditch the crochet hook and waste yarn here? Let's look.
The photo above shows JMCO performed in red at left (so you can see better), and all in the main color at right, so you can see that it looks truly invisible. From the cast on, half the stitches were worked going one direction, then bound off. While the first half is being worked, the remaining stitches are happy to be babysat by the cord of the circular needle. Then you return to those baby-sat stitches and work the second half as the first. Here's what that babysitter looks like:
Next let's look at the currently popular cowl or infinity loop. Think "scarf joined at both ends". A provisional cast on in this type of pattern avoids the lump that would be left after doing a hard cast on and bind off, followed by sewing the ends together. Can we use Judy's Magic here?
The photo above shows the cast on performed in red, followed by stockinette stitch in the main color, and finally, with yellow, a Kitchener stitch graft to close the loop. Note how I used contrast yarn for the JMCO and Kitchener to illustrate that they occupy three total rows in the final piece. When working stripes, plan for this. For instance, if the pattern calls for stripes 2-rows wide in two colors A and B, you would perform JMCO with A and switch immediately to B. On the final stripe, work one row of B, and graft with B, so all the stripes are two rows wide.
Can we do it in garter stitch? You bet. Start with JMCO as per usual, but break the rule which states the right side (smooth knit side) is facing you. Flip those needles so the purl bumps are facing, then begin your first row with knit stitch. Knit every row for the garter stitch pattern, then perform a garter stitch graft at the end. Below you see a sample, again with the cast on in red and the graft in yellow.
So, you get the idea. Let's take a look at where it is used in this issue.
Hopoholic uses a provisional cast on down the center back of the garment. A center field of stockinette stitch is bordered with moss stitch. With a waste yarn version, each half of the back, left and right, will be out of sync with each other to the tune of a half-stitch. This is normal, unavoidable, and acceptable. This will also be true if you forgo the waste yarn and use JMCO. The difference is in where the moss stitch sections line up. There is an unavoidable hiccup there, too, in the waste yarn version seen in the photo below. You can see it running horizontally through the center of the swatch where the stitches are misaligned by a half-stitch.
In the JMCO version below, a different kind of hiccup is visible, due to the fact that JMCO creates two rows of stockinette at the get-go.
Here the choice is up to you. I still prefer not having to pick out that waste yarn, so I'd opt for the JMCO version. You might choose otherwise, but it's nice to know your options.
Begin with JMCO and work the yoke in one direction. Return to the held stitches to finish the neck. In this case, I might cast on with two needles, securing the one holding the neck stitches. A needle kit is handy here because you can remove the needle tips that might get in the way and instead secure the two ends together with a connector.
Penrose toes is a toe-up sock that starts with a provisional cast on right across the top of the toes, that place on commercial socks where you sometimes see a contrasting seam. Two wedges of short-row sections are worked to wrap the toes, then working in the round begins for the foot. Starting with JMCO in this case would add two extra rows on the top side only of your sock. Hmm. Maybe not so helpful. But you could start at the tips of the toes with JMCO followed by increases worked every other round until the stitch count needed in the pattern is reached.
Let's spend some time looking at Urban Tribe, because this pattern is perfect for pulling a JMCO switcheroo. It's such a pretty pattern!
First read the pattern as written to wrap your mind around the construction. The technique substitutions we make will not change the result in the finished garment at all.
Do not CO 315 with waste yarn nor knit one row with CC1. Instead, with CC1 and two 40-inch long circular needles, JMCO 630 sts. That's 315 on each needle. (These photos show stitch counts scaled down to fit 16-inch needles for illustration purposes.) After casting on and counting twice, you finish with your needles tips pointing left, like this:
Point needle tips to the right, and roll the needles so the back side with purl bumps is facing you:
I'm using my tapestry needle to point to the first stitch to work:
But first, it's the stitches on the other needle that are going to be baby sat for a long time. If you have a needle set like my Addi Clicks pictured, you can remove the needle tips and secure those stitches with a connector. It gets the floppy needle tips out of the way and keeps those held stitches from escaping. Otherwise, secure with point-protectors.
Do you see how the JMCO forms the edge including the turning row? Now just proceed as instructed, working rounds 1-62 of chart A, the following knit and purl rounds for the turn, and rounds 1-61 of Chart B. Below I have cheated and worked 6 rounds of plain stockinette stitch, the knit and purl rounds in gray, and five rounds in stockinette:
Cut working yarn long as instructed to graft remaining stitches. Follow pattern instructions about darning all the ends. The final step is to use to Kitchener stitch in stockinette stitch, not in garter stitch as the pattern indicates, because that turning row already exists in the cast on.
Sewing with such a long tail can be cumbersome. To start, I like to double my sewing yarn until I've used enough of it to get comfortable with handing it single.
Now it is true that this method still requires some fussing around. For me, the greater hassle would be picking out waste yarn and worrying about what might happen if I drop a stitch. Of course, the choice is always yours.
You get the gist of it. Next time you need a provisional cast on, stop a minute and consider whether JMCO will fit the bill.
Yarn pictured is Hikoo Sueño, a 4-ply worsted weight blend of 80% Superwash Merino Wool and 20% Viscose from Bamboo (255 yds/100g). Needles are Addi Rockets, size US 5 (3.5 mm).
Both are from Skacel Collection, Inc, the kind sponsors of this column.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lorilee knits. She also collects National Park experiences and likes being close to rocks, mosses, and lichens.
Her designs have been published by Vogue and Interweave, and she teaches at national fiber events as well as online at Craftsy and Interweave. Lorilee grew up in Pittsburgh, spent thirty years in west Michigan, and now calls Seattle home.