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Dear Patty,
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:


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.

Patty in your (hip-huggers) pocket!

Here’s how to save this article in your MDK account with one click.

About The Author

Patty Lyons is a nationally recognized knitting teacher and technique expert. In her pursuit of training the mindful knitter, Patty is known for teaching the “why” in addition to the “how.” She specializes in sweater design and sharing her love of the much-maligned subjects of gauge and blocking.

You can find Patty at her website and on Ravelry.

Do you have a problem you’d like Patty to tackle? Write to her at



  • Thank you for this tip Patty! I will definitely try it because I love the look and stretch of this cast on!

  • This is so cool!
    I find my first 2- 4 rows of double knitting after the tubular cast on are looser than the rest of the rib. Would you work these on a smaller needle?
    Btw, can’t wait for your book in September! On preorder to the UK!!

    • The pattern I learned tubular cast on with suggested using a smaller needle size for those first setup rows.

    • Only you can answer that question for yourself. You know how . . . rhymes with WATCH ❤️❤️

  • I had a pair of red corduroy hip hugger elephant bell bottoms in the sixth grade. They were my favorite thing ever!
    This technique is BRILL! I will try it as I’m about to cast on 108 stitches.
    I have a related question; can you use this cast on if you want to work the 1 x 1 ribbing in Twisted Rib? Would you just work the first 3 set up rows as usual and then join to work in the round and start twisted rib? The pattern calls for only 5 rows of ribbing (it’s the neckline) and I really want to use this cast on!

    • I had flowered corduroy bell bottom hip huggers. Not little flowers, they were 8-inch HUGE flowers. So wild. But my purple jean hip hugger bell bottoms with matching purple wide belt were my favorite.

    • I had a pair of white corduroy hip hugger bell bottoms in 6th grade and I thought I was the coolest thing ever when I wore them. And the Italian tubular cast-on is perfect for everything where you want the edge to be very flexible.

  • Niiiiiiice. Thanks!

  • Brilliant, as always.
    Thank you!

  • That’s so clever! Now I can cast on something bigger than a sock with a tubular cast-on!

  • Brilliant!

  • Simply. Brilliant.

  • Another trick is to cast on using a straight needle. The stiffness of the needle helps keep the stitches in control.

  • Practical and insightful as always.

    I was all in for the purple crushed velvet hip huggers.

    And, I just want you to know that the sweater you inspired me to re-knit has, in fact, been re-knit. It fits so much better!

  • Oh, thank you for this tip, Patty! As I read it, I realized that I’d found this trick somewhere a couple years ago, but forgot about it when I did a tubular cast-on two days ago. I managed to get my 100 stitches on okay, but if only I’d seen this first, it would have been less stressful. I like to use a straight needle for this cast-on, and I kept tugging down on the stitches to keep them straight (kinda) on the needle. Thanks again!

  • I experienced the same problem – the two color Italian cast in is a struggle because the stitch construction does not hold on the cable because the loop is not stretched. The problem does not occur when the stitch/loop is on the straight (larger diameter) part of the needle. So, I cast on 15 stitches and then pass 10 of them to a DP needle, and continue to populate the DP needle until it is full (not too full so stitches slide off) and then add DP needles as needed. This is just like a top-down sock and it all goes together just fine!! Note, I don’t like a gap or stretch between the DP needles so I only pass off “mature” stitches

  • Thank you Patty for this tip. Another problem solved!

    • Patty, you are truly a knitting genius. Thank you so much for this tip

  • Genius!

  • I hope this is in your book. I may need to order a second copy because I can only imagine how dog-eared my first copy will become.

  • This is genius Patty! I’ve been wanting to do The Weekender sweater but the idea of casting on using the tubular cast-on kept me from starting it! I’m going to try this trick.

  • Thank you – thank you – thank you!

    I suffered through a cast on of 156 stitches for a hat (sock yarn on 2.5mm needle) four times because I would lose track of where I was when I stopped to count. My goal of gifting hats to the men in my life for Christmas this year was starting to look impossible.

    You explained the anatomy of the cast on AND provided a way to easily untwist while keeping count – brilliant!

  • What about using the alternating cable cast on?

    • That’s a lovely cast on, but a different cast on. There are many ways to cast on in knits and purls (cable, long tail, german twisted) but this reader was asking for help with tubular.

  • I wish I’d seen this a couple of days ago, when I cast on 200 stitches! It helped that I was using heavy DK but Believe me when I say I wrestled with that join! With this tip I will be fearless with tubular cast-ons. Thank you!

  • This is great!! You truly are a knitting genius:) While we are talking tubular cast on’s… recently I was teaching a bulky hat class, at the store I work at and we were making a hat that called for a tubular cast on. In this version the instructions had you do a crocheted provisional cast on. You cast on half the required stitches on and then in the first row of knitting you K1, yo. Increasing to the required amount of stitches. You then knit 1, slip 1 on the next row and then slip 1 purl 1 on row 2, then repeat for 2 more rows before joining in the round. So finally here is my do you make a neat join for those first few rows? Also can yo explain the difference if there is any between these two methods? And are there other methods of doing a tubular cast on? Thank you so much.

    • This sounds like a great email question for a column (it’s a column length answer, not a comment answer ). There are many ways to create a tubular cast on. They break down into three main categories: folded, long tail, YO.

      • I’d love to read a whole column on the different types of tubular cast-on methods (and I also love your taxonomy! So clarifying). Especially curious to hear your opinions on the merits of the different approaches.

        I have almost always used a folded method (the “Tubular cast-on for K1, P1 rib” from Cap Sease’s book) because it is dead simple (for me, at least) and it has always given me lovely results. I love having a solid inch of waste knitting to start with because it means that my “real” knitting starts out beautifully even.

        But I admit, I have never had the patience to give the Italian method a fair shake, being of your opinion when it comes to whether the “pain” is worth it.
        I do find myself wondering if the Italian method would live up to its hype. Maybe with this tip, I’ll finally do my own evaluation!

  • Brilliant! Thank you!

  • You are awesome. I read MDK primarily for your posts. Thank you for what you do.

  • Wow! Thank you so much. I would not use the Italian cast on because of it twisting and just used the regular rib cast on, even in brioche! I will definitely try it now.

  • So simple, especially after watching video, utterly ingenious & great tutorial of the anatomy of this cast-on! I learned Italian 2-clr cast-on from Nancy Marchant’s Craftsy Brioche class but that twisting on the cable needles about drove me crazy, having to redo 2-3Xs each time I started a new project. Now I won’t dread it. Can’t thank you enough!


  • #Brilliant – I love this so much! Came for the scrap yarn, leave with that half-stitch OMG you made my ribs better AND easier!! (Is this going to be in your book?!)

  • OMG Awesome. Thanks Patty!

  • May I suggest this method of Tubular Cast-on?
    It’s fast, it’s structurally the same as the Italian Cast-on, and you can keep the waste yarn in as long as you need it. If you work the double knitting rounds flat, it’s easy to join in the round without twisting for sock and sleeve cuffs.

    • Thank you Lisa- this is a great recommendation!

  • Patty, I’ve taken classes from you so I knew you were amazing. But this tip? In my book it is a life changer. You are a genius! Thank you!!

  • Fantastic Patty!

  • Genius tip! Many thanks, Patty. I use a straight needle for this cast on but your tip made even that simpler.

  • Wow! Just tried this last night and all I can say is WHAT A GENIUS. This tip has saved many a hair on my head (I usually have to redo a tubular cast-on several times…) I used this trick on fingering yarn (129 stitches, 2.5 mm needles…) and was even able to pick up a dropped cast-on stitch with no glitches. I can’t thank you enough for sharing… 🙂

  • Hi Patty,
    I wanted to knit 2 sleeves at once with magic loop but the directions say to use Italian tubular cast on. Can I make that work?? My head is spinning.

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