You know those patterns that ask you to cast on loosely, then proceed to tell you to try casting on over two needles to make it looser? Well, I’m here to tell you that is a terrible lie. And here’s why. The reason you want to cast on loosely is not so you can get your working needle through the stitches when you knit your first row. It’s so the edge will not be smaller than the knit stitches that come above it. A tight cast on will pinch the first few rows of knitting, giving a rounded-corners look. You want your cast on edge to be almost as stretchy as your knit fabric and you want it to be the same width as your work, with nice, even square corners. But here’s the kicker…the looseness of your cast on is not a function of the size of the stitches you are putting on your needle. It is a function of the space between those stitches. Let me say it again. It’s not the size of the stitches, it’s the space in between them that determines the looseness of the cast on.
Here…I’ll prove it to you.
Here I’ve cast on over two needles, Nice and loose, right? So loose that there’s even space between the needles. Big, loopy loose stitches.
When I take out one of the needles, there’s enough loose space in the stitches you could drive a truck through. This should be plenty loose.
But when I knit a few rows, you can see I am in trouble. The edge is round-cornered and bumpy. Yuk.
A closer look will show you that all I’ve done is distort the first row of stitches and make a mess on the edge. Sigh. Not what I was after at all.
Now take a look at this…
By holding my right fore finger between the stitches as I’m casting on, I can extend the amount of yarn between the stitches. This stretches the overall width of the cast on.
I can actually slide each stitch as far away as I like to achieve the right looseness in my cast on.
After knitting a few rows, you can see that my edge is the same width as my work and my corners are not distorted.
A closer look shows that the spaces between my actual stitches is the same as the spaces between my cast on stitches.
Keep a close watch the next time you cast on. You see exactly what I mean. And don’t let anyone fool you ever again. Casting on over two needles just makes a mess. Use your finger!