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Last issue I promised to continue with more ways to cast on, so let's just get right to it. The provisional and a tubular cast on described below are a bit more advanced than the ones I wrote about last time so if this is the first time you've picked up a pair of needles, you might want to start with one of those.

Open, a.k.a. provisional, cast on
This method of casting on uses a length of waste yarn that is removed later to reveal "live" stitches, which are then placed back on the needle and knit in the opposite direction. This can be useful for hems or for making an object that's closed at both ends -- like a knitted, stuffed toy. With a provisional cast on you can even start a scarf in the middle and work a chart that looks right on both ends. It can also be a type of insurance when you're not entirely sure you have enough yarn to complete a project. You can use the open cast on, knit the feet of both socks, divide your yarn in half and make the cuffs as long as your remaining yarn will allow.

To work this open cast on you'll need one needle a couple of sizes larger than the needles you'll be using to knit with (or alternately, two needles held together) and a spare length of sturdy yarn, several times longer than the length of the finished cast on.

Make a slip knot with the working yarn and place it on the needle. For this cast on you only need to leave a short tail -- you'll be working with the yarn coming from the skein. Hold the needle and one end of the waste yarn in your right hand.

*Move the working yarn in front of and under the waste yarn...

...then in front of and over the needle.*

Repeat from * to * until you have the required number of loops of working yarn on the needle. End by moving the working yarn in front of and under the waste yarn. Make sure you have an equal number of stitches around the waste yarn as you have on the needle.

Here is what it will look like after you've removed the needle(s) and worked a few rows...

I realize that the loops around the waste yarn look impossibly large and sloppy, but after you replace them on the needles and work a row or two in the opposite direction you'll see that it actually doesn't show at all...

Backwards loop cast on
Also known as the "single cast on" this is the simpliest cast on of all. It can be used for casting on stitches in the middle of a row (as for a buttonhole) but it is all too often quite sloppy and loose. If you need to cast on in the middle or at the end of a row, it's often better to do so by knitting on (see last issue). I'm including it now because the tubular cast on that I'll be talking about next uses it as its base.

To work this cast on, simply make a backwards loop and place it on the needle.

Repeat until you have as many stitches as you require.

Tubular cast on
The tubular cast on is, to put it mildly, a gorgeous way to cast on for working ribbing and has been praised for its loveliness all over the knitting blogosphere. Using a spare piece of yarn cast on half the number of stitches you need using the backwards loop cast on. (If you don't know what that is then you're not reading the entire article. Go back one technique.) Then, using the working yarn, purl one row. Now take a minute to look at what we've just done. Notice that there are purl bumps of the blue working yarn peeking out from between the loops of the wine colored waste yarn. We'll be using those bumps in a couple of minutes, so remember what they look like.

Then work 3 more rows in stockingette stitch (knit one row, purl one row, knit one row) and turn the work so the purl side is facing you for the following bit.

Purl the first stitch. Next insert the right needle into the first purl bump way back down on that first row you purled -- the ones were were just inspecting.

Slip the loop onto the left hand needle and knit it through the back loop.

Continue across the row, purling 1 stitch, then picking up and knitting tbl the next purl bump until you come to the last stitch. Purl the last stitch, the pick up the loop at the selvedge edge and knit through the back loop.

Turn and work ribbing, knitting the knit stitches and purling the purl stitches. Remove the waste yarn by cutting between some of the stitches and tugging to remove lengths of yarn.


Theresa is an American living, knitting and blogging near Oslo, Norway with her husband and step-daughters.

She's just started working full-time as a nurse and has no time for housework.