Monday, June 2, 2014

Casting On Loosely in Long-tailed Cast On

It is commonly recommended in patterns, blogs and by knitters that the way to loosen up a cast on is to cast on using a larger needle. Does this really work? Is this the most effective way to loosen up your cast on? The looseness of a cast on is mostly constrained by the tightness of the bottom edge of the cast on. For this test I'm using one of the most commonly used cast on's, the long-tailed cast on, with Knit Picks Swish Worsted yarn.

Test 1 - Cast on Using different Size Needles

I am casting on 40 stitches using a US 8 (5.0 mm) needle. The stitches were then placed on a US 6 (4.0 mm) needle so the stitches wouldn't be unduly stretched. My second cast on was using a US 15 (10.0 mm) needle with the stitches placed on a US 11 (8.0 mm). For both, I cast on tight (normal for me anyway) with each stitch cast on next to the previous stitch without a gap.

As you can see, from the picture the length of the cast on's are the same, but the size of the loops have increased.

Test 2 - Cast on Using different Size Needles, Knit with Smaller Needle

For this test, I'm casting on 40 stitches on a US 8 (5.0 mm), a US 9 (5.5 mm), and a US 15 (10.0 mm). I am then going to knit a small ribbed swatch using the US 8 (5.0 mm) needle. I'm adding a third cast on, one needle size up to make a comparison of what is more typically knit.

At this point the swatches look pretty much the same.

Notice on the US 15 (10.0 mm) needle, that first row is pretty sloppy as a result of the substantially larger needle size.

Now lets look at the stretched swatches:

As you can see you gain about 1/4" - 1/2" between the US 8 (5.0 mm) and US 9 (5.5 mm) cast ons, not a large enough growth to have any impact. The US 15 (10.0 mm) grows because some of that extra stitch height is making it into the cast on. Unfortunately this is at the expense of a floppy edge.

Test 3 - Increase the Spacing Between Cast On Stitches to 1/8 Inch

For this test I am going to cast on 40 stitches using my US 8 (5.0 mm) needles, increasing the space between each cast on stitch to 1/8". I use my finger to maintain an approximate 1/8" gap. The swatch is knit in 1x1 rib for 16 rows and bound off using Jenny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off, with no change of needle size.

Here's the swatch as knit:

And here is the swatch stretched:

As you can see we have gained some substantial stretch in this version of the swatch.

What do I take away from these tests? Adding space between my cast on stitches is a more effective way of getting a looser cast on than increasing the needle size. Of course, there is always the option of changing the cast on to a stretchier cast on.

What Do I Do?

I rarely use the long-tailed cast on. Instead, I use the German twisted cast on which is similar to long-tailed cast on, but it adds an extra twist for more stretch. When a loose long-tailed cast on is called for I never increase my needle size. I use German twisted cast on with a gap between the cast on stitches.

Prairie Willow can be found on Ravelry at noliegirl. Prairie Willow is an avid knitter and jewelry designer. My jewelry can be found at Prairie Willow Jewelry;

Photos copyright Prairie Willow Knits..

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