Have you ever knitted a tube of toothpaste? No, I haven’t either, but I have knitted lots of similarly shaped tubes. Socks, for example—both from the top down, where you close the tube at the toe, and from the bottom up, where you are starting at the base of the tube.
Or the Destination Scarf from Field Guide No. 17 Lopi—you start at the bottom of that tube AND close it at the top!
The simplest way of dealing with this shape is to cast on, knit the specified length, bind off, and then sew the tube shut at the each end. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this approach—it’s completely functional, and has worked well for millions of knitters for a long time.
But why stop at functional? Learning new skills to refine your practice is very rewarding.
Starting from the bottom of the tube
As a wise knitter recently told me, sometimes the best cast-on is actually a bind-off, and the combination of crochet provisional cast on and grafting is just that. A way to start knitting with live stitches that you can later bind off, and in this case, graft together. The difference in finish between taking this approach, and the simple cast on and sew together later is so huge that I would suggest it’s incomparable.
I use the version of the crochet provisional cast-on where you work your crochet chain over the knitting needle. This ensures that it will unzip properly when the time comes to release your stitches. It is super nifty, and if you’ve not yet tried it, then I highly recommend giving it a go. As always, my video tutorial will walk you through each step of the process.
Video notes: If you are watching on YouTube, you can hover over the time bar to see the different sections of the video, which is handy if there’s a particular thing you want to re-watch. The video also has subtitles which you can display by clicking on the CC button.
I recently became aware that this method can be a bit more tricky if you are left-handed. Here’s a helpful video tutorial from Deja Joy of Knit and Crochet Ever After that shows you how it’s worked left-handed.
In the MDK Shop
Closing the tube
Grafting stitches together is an incredibly satisfying process. You take two sets of live stitches, and you sew through them to join them invisibly. Once complete, it’s almost impossible to tell where the join has occurred. So much more elegant than casting off and sewing the tube shut!
All you need for success is the little ditty, “Knit, slip, purl. Purl, slip, knit.”
The basic method gets a slight twist for the first two and last two stitches, but essentially, “Knit, slip, purl; Purl, slip, knit” is all there is to it.
I hope you’ll have fun playing with these two fabulous techniques.
I know I did!