I share a lot of knitting patterns here.
Baby blanket knitting patterns are one of my favorite things because 1) babies are adorable and anything and everything made for babies to use or wear is pretty much adorable and 2) you don’t have to measure blankets. You don’t really even have to worry about the gauge of yarn you’re using (I hate knitting swatches to determine gauge!). You do run the risk of the blanket turning out slightly different if you don’t check the gauge beforehand, but unless you’re wanting a really tight-knit blanket, or it has cables you don’t want gaping holes in, for the most part, you can just take your chances with whatever yarn you like and you’ll do okay.
So I wanted to share a small change I made when casting on for blankets (or sweaters…or anything else). I used to use a simple cast on – I just looped the yarn over my needle and bam! One stitch cast on. It’s easy. You don’t have to calculate anything. You can just cast on like that until you have all your stitches, and then get to work.
However, a year or so after I began, I switched to the long tail cast on (also, called the continental cast on). It just looks a little more finished. I think it gives your work a nicer edge. It’s one of those little changes you can make that takes your knitting from beginner to more advanced and polished-looking. And I think it’s fun to do, actually! After you practice the first ten or so stitches, you get the hang of it and start whipping your yarn around, through your fingers, and onto your needles pretty quickly. And it reminds me of the cat’s cradle yarn games I used to play with my friends when I was little. Ahhhh, memories!
I made a video to show you how to do the long tail cast on…take a look, and then be sure to read on for some important tips.
As I mentioned, one small challenge of using the long tail cast on method is that you need to know how much yarn you’re going to use to cast on before you get started. Frankly, usually I guess. I’ve had to go back and take all the stitches off and start again once or twice, but it doesn’t really bother me. However, there are some guidelines you can use to figure out how much yarn you’ll want before you get started. You can be much smarter than I am, do a few calculations, and save yourself the pain of having to start over like I do.
How to determine how much yarn you need for a long tail cast on:
You can use several methods to help you figure out how much yarn you need:
- Cast on 10 stitches with a long tail cast on.
- Hold the end of the tail close to the last of your 10 stitches. With your other hand, hold the slip knot you made to get started. Slide all the stitches off the needle and pull your hands apart to unravel them.
- Measure the length of yarn between your two hands. This tells you the length of a tail for 10 stitches.
- Divide the total number of stitches you need to cast on by 10. Then multiply by the measurement you just made. Round up to the nearest whole number. This gives you the total length of yarn you need to cast on. I’d add a few more inches, just to be safe.
-Method 2 (the two-strand method):
- Use two separate strands of the yarn you’re working with (either from two balls of yarn, or one from each end of one ball of yarn)
- Hold both strands together and make a slip knot as though you were working with only one strand. Do not count your slip knot as one of your cast on stitches.
- Separate the two strands and cast on your stitches. After all your stitches are cast on, cut the strand of yarn that formed loops around the base of the new stitches.
- After knitting one row, remove the slip know from the needle and untie.
One more thing to watch out for when using the long tail cast on method – when you begin knitting your first row, make sure you’re using your working yarn (the yarn attached to the ball or skein) and that you don’t accidentally use what’s left of your tail to knit with!