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So who is coming down the marling rabbit hole with me? Cecelia Campochiaro, marling designer of awesome, has a lot to answer for!

Oh golly gosh! I have fallen hard—I just can’t stop pulling yarn combinations out of my bag of sock yarn leftovers and whipping up a microswatch or twenty. There is just something so unutterably pleasing about these tiny morsels of joy.

Swatch, but make it micro

Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone else, but I’m generally not much of a swatcher, as I am totally happy to wash and block my project in progress and rip it all out if needed. But I am making an exception for these microswatches. They are so small! So perfectly formed! And so, so informative!

Some of the color combinations I have tried have turned out totally differently from how I would have imagined. It’s definitely worth getting your microswatch mojo on before you start a project.

I have been intrigued by marling for a while, and I feel like the projects in MDK Field Guide 19: Marls are the perfect canvases for a color-shy knitter, like me, to get their teeth into.

I decided to start with the Striped Marl Hat. Having worked through my obsession with microswatches, I settled on a color combination I liked. There will be more iterations of this pattern in my future, I’m sure of it.

With the color combination chosen, it’s on to casting on, which is the subject of today’s video tutorial.

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Spaced out

Cecelia recommends the spaced long-tail cast-on method for the majority of the designs in Field Guide 19. This is such a handy technique to have in your knitting toolbox. It’s worked in the same way as the long-tail cast-on, but … you guessed it … it has spaces.

I am going to assume for a moment that you’ve already come across the long-tail cast-on. It’s a really handy method for creating a stable but stretchy edge.

However, one of the biggest misconceptions around it is about how to make the cast-on edge looser or stretchier.

Unlike with a cable or knitted cast-on, increasing your needle size will NOT make your edge stretchier. If you increase your needle size with the long-tail method, you will just end up with larger stitches on the first row of your work. This happens because the long-tail cast on consists of creating stitches and knitting them all in the one movement: the stitch is created around the thumb, and then yarn is pulled through that loop, hence knitting it.

By contrast, the spaced long-tail cast-on spreads the stitches out across your needles—you are keeping the thumb loops looser thereby keeping the edge looser. Once you’ve understood what’s happening, it all makes sense.

Here is my video tutorial to walk you through the process of spacing out your stitches in the spaced long-tail cast-on method. I’m demonstrating it using two yarns held together for marling, but you can do the same process with a single strand of yarn for sock knitting, or anywhere you require some extra flexibility.

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 hope that video shows you how straightforward this method is.

If you haven’t met the long-tail cast-on before, I hope you now feel confident trying it (just skip the spacing-the-stitches maneuver unless you need the stretch!). Long-tail is my cast-on of choice for most situations, and this variation just gives me more situations in which to reach for it!

I am now well on my way with my Striped Marl Hat, and I’ll be back soon to show you how straightforward it is to change colors. Before you know it, you will be comfortably down the marling rabbit hole with me.

Someone’s a glad hatter.

Tea anyone?

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About The Author

We think Jen Arnall-Culliford is flat-out brilliant. Jen is one of the knitting world’s superb technical editors and teachers, and the star of the tutorial videos.

Cheerful. Cool headed. Supersmart. To take lessons from Jen ups our knitting game, every time.


  • Thank you, Jen! Your calm explanations are a balm for my needle-stabbing tendencies when confused.

  • Excellent video!! Thank you very much!

  • Saved! Thank you Jen

  • Great video, the bonus is a new way to make a slip knot. Thank you for always teaching me something new.

  • Love your videos! I have gone down the marl rabbit hole even before these patterns came out.i love the way the yarns play on one another. I’ve made a hat, sweaters, scarves. I have a box of fingering weight yarn in several colors that I’m swatching to make a striped sweater. Can’t wait.

  • I learned this “spaced” long tail cast-on from cat Bordhi and have used it ever since! Love it!

  • This is a great article and video! Definitely saved for reference later on. Thank you!

  • Very interesting, using the index finger to ensure the stitches aren’t too close together.

    BTW you do NOT need a slipknot at the beginning of the Long Tail CO. Just twist the tail and working yarn as a loop on the needle and off you go! I can’t remember where I first learned this, but it works like a charm, and avoids the pesky little bump a slip knot creates. Try it!

    It doesn’t work for the knitted cast on, the cable cast on, etc. but it does in the LTCO because of the tail. The first stitch you make after the loop secures the loop. My mind was fairly blown the first time I tried it. 🙂

    • Generally speaking, I just hold the yarn over the needle before starting the long-tail cast on. But in this situation I was matching the instructions in the Field Guide, so went with the slip knot. I love that there are so many ways to achieve the same things in knitting. 🙂

  • I’ve heard similar advice before that using a larger needle doesn’t work. And yet, if I use a smaller needle the cast on is definitely too tight. Perhaps I’m subconsciously spacing them out more because it’s a larger needle? Works for me anyway.

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