In a pinch

Knitters, if you are like me, you have your habits that you stick to 99% of the time. One of these habits for me is that I use the long tail cast on almost all of the time. (I actually usually end up doing it with two hands, similar to that shown here, because that’s just how I learned and I got very speedy at it). I know how to do other cast ons, but that one has just become my favourite, and in general I think it’s okay to have favourites as long as they don’t start to get in the way.


If you’re a practiced long-tail cast on user, though, you know that one of the big downsides is that it is hard to predict exactly how long of a tail to leave. It’s very easy to end up with one wayyyy too long, or one juuuuuust slightly too short. There are indeed ways to try to combat this, and the internet is on it: there are whole lists of suggestions here, here, and here.

On a personal level, I’m going to be honest with you and admit that most of the time I don’t over-think the amount of yarn I use for the long tail – I usually either rip it out early on if I can tell it’s going to come up short, or just live with it if it’s too long and snip off a bit of the extra yarn. (This feels like a big confessional. Hi, my name is Glenna and I don’t care if I mess up my long tail cast on. Hi, Glenna.)

However, the real point of this anecdote is to say that if are coming up short on the long tail cast on by just a little bit, you can rescue yourself by casting on the remaining stitches using the cable cast on or knitted cast on. These are 2 of the more basic cast ons that many knitters learn as newer knitters and then we easily end up leaving behind once learning exciting things like the long tail or twisted german cast on.


This is a nice solution to have up your sleeve in a pinch, for when you just want to finish your cast on and maybe it’s not an edge people will actually see very obviously, such as the top of a sock cuff. My top photo, above, shows you my cast on for my 2nd Jaywalker sock that I started while riding a streetcar on the weekend, when I didn’t want to pull it all out and start over. I stopped in the middle of the long tail and then did the rest using the cable cast on method, and then joined my round and carried on with starting my sock. Incidentally, this is also a good method for adding on stitches over a gap, such as when knitting mittens or gloves (when you need to re-cast on stitches over the gap left after holding aside thumb stitches).

The main thing to keep in mind is that when you start knitting that first round, the cable cast on stitches will be looser than your long-tail cast on stitches. So, work these through the back loop to make them more snug (knit through the back loop shown above, purl though the back loop shown below).


The result will still be a little bit noticeable on the cast on edge, or at least it will be until you sew in the end. It is definitely a pinch-hitting kind of fix, and if you’re the sort of person who would be driven crazy by the minor inconsistency left behind at that point in the cast on edge, then it may not be the solution for you. But, it’s an option available in your toolbox and just goes to show it’s always good to hold on to all those bits of technical knowledge even if you don’t think they’re useful to you. You just never know what will be handy

Have a great Monday, knitter friends!


Pattern: Jaywalker, by Grumperina (available for free on Ravelry)
Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock, ‘Vera’ colourway
Project bag: Small drawstring bag from ZigZag Stitches, purchased in 2013


  1. I’ve used that rescue technique plenty of times…when coming up short. I’ve always felt like I’m cheating or fooling myself and now I feel less so! Thanks for your comments.

  2. I’ve always wanted to do this, but was afraid. next time! thanks.

  3. Missy's Crafty Mess · ·

    Great advice… I’ve been guilty of the same

  4. Very helpful! I’ve been using a long-tail cast-on exclusively and when you’re casting on a big sweater and start running out ……. this will save me! I never thought of it before and a big THANK YOU!

  5. Oh, boy…I learned the knitted cast on and that’s the only one I use. I dont know any others! Maybe after 35 years it’s time to learn something new?

  6. I never learned the long tail cast on, even tho it seems to be the first (and only) one a lot of people use. After reading that it’s not stretchy (which can be a BIG problem), and of course knowing about the running out of yarn thing, I decided that I don’t really need to learn it! I do cable or knitted cast on for most things unless the pattern specifically calls for something else.

  7. I have to laugh at how interesting this was to me and just how much of
    a knitting geek I have turned into. It’s easy to do, isn’t it when
    something has engaged your interest for years … as it seems to do for so many
    of us knitters.
    Thanks, Glenna. I learned some new things. Have never seen the two-hand method you
    linked in your first paragraph (looks awkward but then the way I do it looks awkward too). Also wasn’t aware of the German twisted method.

    I’ve always done long-tail by “feel” (guessing, really) – works most the time but not
    always. The wrap and/or “knit 10 stitches and measure” is also new to me and makes perfect sense. That may save me frustration. Thanks much!

  8. I learned cable cast on recently for a shawl and it ended up being very nice, especially for the crazy number of stitches that I needed (over 300). Long tail probably would have killed me.

  9. When I use a long tail cast on for more than 20+ stitches I use the inside and outside strands of yarn (from a yarn cake, won’t work from a ball) and just snip one yarn end once I’ve cast on all my stitches. No worries about running out of yarn and no regret over leaving too long of a tail. If you’re using multiple skeins of the same color you could cast on using a strand from two skeins if you don’t like pulling the inside strand from a yarn cake.

  10. Isabel's Needleworks · ·

    And I thought I was the only one !!! 🙂 I do that exact same thing when casting on. And the long tail cast on is the only one I’ve used. And yes I have ripped out the stitches and had to start again.. thank you for the great post…

  11. My grandma taught me the long tail method with 2 hands as well, though I must admit that once I learned the “slingshot” method, I did find it a lot faster… And then I learned the twisted German cast on and like that even better!

  12. Michelle Dry · ·

    I totally relate to the long tail cast on. To me it’s easy and I do use the inside and outside strand of yarn I have wound if it’s a really long cast on so I don’t run out of yarn. I learned a different cast on, is it the Italian? Cast on? I can’t remember but it’s the really hard one for a one by one rib or you can manipulate it for two by two and it’s really stretchy. I think it is the superior cast on for a stretchy cuff or sock edge but it’s so hard to do.

  13. OMG I need to tell you my secret way of avoiding this with long-tail cast ons, which BLEW MY MIND (because yes, I am that person). One of the women at my old knit night ties a slipknot with both ends of the skein (from the center and from the outside of the ball), then does the cast on with each long end. You can’t run out of yarn because you’re going from the whole skein rather than a finite length.

    When she gets to the end, she breaks off the yarn from the outside of the ball and keeps working with the strand from the center. It means you have two ends to weave in on your cast-on edge, but otherwise makes things so much easier.

  14. Marcy George · ·

    I, too, related to this post as others have stated, and I began using such a long long tail that then I began using the left over tail to double my first row of stitches (for socks it was only 60 stitches). That led to a nice bonus of firming up a stretchy beginning, and now I always do it. Thanks for confirming and affirming that we each bring knowledge to the whole group!

  15. My cast on starts as yours, but then I just knit it off my thumb, which saves piking it up and pulling it over as the video shows. I am just as fast and more even than the slingshot people, and when I teach it too people they are always surprised how easy it is. It only proves that there is no single right way to do anything, doesn’t it?

  16. I am still working with the long tail cast on. I never knew it existed til roaming on I never leave enough at the end and had many time to rip out and try again

  17. I tend to actively avoid long-tail cast-ons for exactly that reason! Lately I’ve really been fond of the crochet cast-on because its edge matches the knitted bind-off so nicely.

  18. That yarn looks quite interesting! Love the colors!

  19. Glenna,
    I was looking at your very first published pattern for Knitty..the Ivy sweater. Based on what you know now, how would that cross over sweater be modified, or what changes would you make to it? It seem I have been looking at a lot of items I made the last 2-3 years and giving them a “do over” in my mind. As i learn more and my skills improve, I find myself thinking “I could have done X, this way”.


  20. Glenna, I have used your tip twice this week, while knitting miniature sweaters to decorate my office door. Thanks for saving my so much time!

%d bloggers like this: