Before you can begin any project, you must always begin with a row of stitches on one of your needles that will make up the foundation of your work. The technique for doing so is called casting on, and the individual stitches are called cast on stitches. There are several variations on how to do this technique. For the purposes of this article, we will cover two ways: the easy route, and the neat route. The latter of the two simply entails adding a couple of steps, so that the finished edges of your work look the most professional.
You begin casting on by essentially creating a very loose slipknot somewhere along the end of your yarn. Visual illustrations of each step are provided in the photos section. The easy route requires that the slipknot be at least 2 inches from the end, whereas the neat route requires at least 15 inches from the end. Once you have created your slipknot at the designated distance from the end, slip one of your needles through the knot loop so that when tightened, it is now tied around your needle. If you are following the easy route, make sure that when you tighten the knot, you leave at least two inches of extra yarn hanging loose from the end.
From here, the easy route entails holding the needle in your right hand as you allow the yarn from your skein (ball of yarn) to run between the index finger and thumb on your left hand. It should loop around to the front of your thumb (in a counter clockwise direction, palm facing you) so that you can hold the yarn with the remaining fingers on your left hand. Next, you will take the needle and insert it through the loop wrapped around your left thumb, coming around the front piece of yarn from the left with your needle. Simply pull it tight around the needle (resulting in one cast on stitch) and repeat the above steps until you have the desired number of cast on stitches.
For the neat route, you will also hold the needle in your right hand, but instead of looping the yarn from your skein around your thumb, you will use the 15 inch excess piece of yarn you left while creating your initial slipknot. Hold the yarn coming from your skein out of the way for now in the same hand you are holding your needle. Now insert the needle through the loop (same as above). At this point, you will take the yarn from your skein (which you are holding in your right hand) and in a counter clockwise motion, loop it once around your needle and keep hold of it with the same hand. Use your needle to pull this new loop through the slipknot you have loosely around your needle, pulling it through towards you and then (keeping the needle inserted through this loop, tighten it around your needle. Repeat the above steps until you have the desired number of cast on stitches.
Continue practicing your casting on technique until you feel comfortable enough to complete it at a decent pace and until your stitches are consistently and evenly spread apart. Make sure you don’t tighten the stitches too tightly or it will be difficult to complete your next row of stitches. Conversely, make sure not to complete the stitches too loosely, or your finished piece of work will not come out neat and even. Now that you have the base row of your project created, you can continue on to practice the two fundamental stitches (knit stitch and purl stitch).
Be sure to check out:
Knitting Season: Knit Stitch
Knitting Season: Purl Stitch