I love the tubular cast-on and I’m good with a small number of stitches, but when I have a lot of stitches on my needle, they just spiral around each other and I find it impossible to get my double knitting set up without screwing it up.
Turning inside out in Wisconsin (Michelle)
Dear Turning inside out,
It’s true that the tubular cast-on is lovely. It creates a rounded edge that flows beautifully into ribbing.
It’s equally true that it can be a twisted mess.
When I was a kid and found hip-huggers incredibly uncomfortable, I remember some adult telling me that beauty always came at a price, and I had to “suffer for fashion.”
Fast forward many years later, and a friend showed me the long tail tubular cast-on (also known as the Italian tubular cast-on) and told me “I usually have to rip it out a few times before I get it right. It’s a terrible pain to do, but it looks so pretty, it’s worth the pain.”
To both of those pithy comments I say “Nah, Patty don’t play that way.” You don’t have to suffer for fashion and the Italian cast-on does not have to be a pain to do.
Since the Italian cast-on is really just a series of loops, there’s zero stability. So, if you are casting on a ton of stitches, especially on circular needles, they can become a twisted mess. It can feel like building a fence from wet noodles.
This is what the cast-on edge looks like before going into your double knitting. As you can see, there’s not much there there.
Notice the stitches on the needle behave themselves, but for the ones down on the
cable, it’s a free-for-all.
One day I realized I could use the same trick I wrote about years ago here (to keep track of how many stitches I cast on), to help me straighten out my Italian cast-on.
I start with that single twist of yarn on my needle and then I lay a length of scrap yarn
under the needle tip and cast on 4 more stitches:
Move the yarn to the front, and cast on 5 more stitches. then move the length of scrap yarn under the needle tip to the back.
Repeat this step every 5 (or 10) stitches until you have finished casting on. You will have this mess when you are finished:
But now you have that scrap yarn to help guide you in how to straighten out your cast-on before you start your double knitting. The scrap yarn should alternate front and back.
Even the stitches down at the cable can be aligned by giving a little tug to that scrap yarn.
Keep the yarn in place until after you’ve worked your first row or row of double knitting (by knitting the knits and slipping the purls with yarn in front). Then you can pull it out.
A little scrap yarn proves you do NOT have to suffer for your art. Now before you all ask for a video . . . here it is.
Keep writing in with your questions, MDK knitters! Here’s the address: [email protected].
P.S. Weirdly, I eventually got used to hip-huggers, and now I find high-waisted jeans uncomfortable. Oh, fashion, you just can’t win with me.