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Off to a Good Start: Casting On

Every knitting project begins with casting on stitches. There are literally dozens of ways to cast on, but most of us have a favorite method and use it for all our projects. Here's a good one to use when knitting something that begins with ribbing.

Let's look at the Baby Cable Sweater, the featured free pattern in this issue. Like most knitting patterns, the instructions simply say, "Cast on 60 (70, 74, 82, 90, 98, 106) sts." No particular method is called for. If you look closely at the photograph, you can see that the knitter cast on with the long-tail method. Because the knitting begins on a wrong-side row, a line of knit stitches forms the bottom cast-on edge. This is a perfectly suitable method to use. However, because the sweater begins with a p2, k2 rib -- yes, the knit stitches are crossed, but they're still essentially knit stitches -- you could begin with a p2, k2 long-tail cast-on. Here's how:

Pull out a tail long enough to cast on all the stitches. Place a slip knot on the needle and wrap the tail and the working yarn around your left thumb and index finger as shown in Photo 1. Hold on to both the tail and the working yarn with the other three fingers.

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Photo 1

Because the right side (RS) begins and ends with two purl stitches, you want to begin and end the cast-on with purl stitches. Pass the needle tip through the loop around your index finger from back to front, picking up the back strand (Photo 2).

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Photo 2

Now pass behind and under the strand on the back of your thumb, picking up the strand; then bring the needle and yarn through the loop on your index finger (Photo 3).

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Photo 3

Drop the loop from your index finger and gently tighten up the stitch. The stitch has a horizontal bar at the base, otherwise known as a purl bump (Photo 4).

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Photo 4

The slip knot counts as the first purl stitch, so you now have two purl stitches on the needle. Now you want to cast on two knit stitches. Begin with the yarn held the same as for the purl cast-on. Pass the needle up through the loop around your thumb, picking up the front strand (Photo 5).

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Photo 5

Pass behind the left side of the loop around your index finger from right to left, picking up the strand, and bring the needle and yarn down through the loop on your thumb (Photo 6).

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Photo 6

Drop the loop from your thumb and gently tighten up the stitch. The stitch appears as a knit stitch. Repeat to cast on a second knit stitch. You now have two purl cast-on stitches followed by two knit cast-on stitches (Photo 7).

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Photo 7

Continue casting on two purl stitches followed by two knit stitches until you have the required number of stitches, ending with two purl stitches (Photo 8).

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Photo 8

Photo 9 shows what the beginning of the cable rib will look like worked off the p2, k2 cast-on. It's not necessarily better than the rib worked off the plain long-tail cast-on, but it's different. Notice that the rib is more pronounced along the bottom edge. The more you know, the more choices you have!

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Photo 9