Cast Ons Part 2
I am not sure exactly when I became slightly obsessed with learning ALL the methods for casting on that I could—Certainly, it was more than 10 years ago.
Since then, at least 3 new cast ons have been created:
Judy' Magic, Tilly's Knit and YO cast on and my Double Chain--and more made themselves known to me in 2013, and every year more and more are found!
With so many new knitters (and old!) I am sure there will be yet more methods—created, reworked or remembered and the list will grow.
Why are there so many cast ons? I don't know! But what I think is: A knitter for some reason stops knitting for a while, or finds themselves in isolation (from other knitters) –and while they remember how to knit and purl (any finished object contains thousand of knits and purls)--they forget exactly how to cast on.
In an attempt to remember/recreate the cast on they first learned—they make a mistake—but one that works—and a new cast on is invented. Similarly, a cast on that favors right hand yarn holding knitters might be reworked for left hand yarn holding knitters, or visa versa.
The history of knitting is wide and vast, and at various times knitting was fine work (for clergy or royalty) and at other times and places, knitting was the cheapest method of creating clothing for poor working people. Knitting was done professionally (in guilds) and as a work at home scheme for the largely uneducated poor.
These different requirements, purposes and styles of knitting, are, I am sure another factor in the number of different cast on methods.
Some Cast ons (the Turkish, or the Norwegian or the Channel Island cast on) betray geographic histories, --which might be real—or just fanciful place names--the double knotted cast on was taught to me by a Russian woman who claimed it to be a Russian cast on—but the same cast on is also called the buttonhole cast on, and common in the UK and commonwealth countries.
Certainly, different cast on methods have different characteristics—While all cast ons can be worked tight (and be inelastic) almost all cast ons can be worked loose and provide plenty of stretchiness. There are differences in cast on methods--but I don't think any single cast on is superior to all the other.
Still some cast ons are all to easy to work tight (which can sometimes be desirable) and some cast ons are almost impossible to work tight, and retain a good deal of elasticity, no matter how tightly worked.
I don't think that any one cast on is perfect for every application. Lace needs the simplest and lightest cast on, children's or men's work sweaters need a strong, durable cast cast on. I think hats and neck bands of top down sweaters need very attractive cast ons (stretchy, too) and sock need the stretchiest cast ons!
Personally, I think a good knitter should know a half dozen basic cast ons:
The cast ons suggested--are just that--suggestion--I think, in the end, every knitter should chose for themselves. Knowing a full dozen different methods is not unreasonable--But--this is just my opinion!
Different cast ons do have different characteristics—the more cast ons known, the easier it becomes to chose the best method for the project at hand.
My recommendation is always: Learn a few. Make a sampler of cast on methods, DECIDE for your self which cast on is best for your project.
Making a Cast On Sampler
Making a sampler of cast ons is an easy way to learn a cast on, and to be able to compare it to other cast ons.
Start with a single skein of worsted weight yarn—in a medium color- not to dark, not to light: a pair of needles suited to the yarn, a stitch holder (or single DPN) some tags, and 1 or more reference sources.
Start by casting on 20 to 22 stitches. Use a cast on you know. After the cast on, work about 1 inch of ribbing (if you prefer 1 X 1 use that, if you prefer 2 X 2 , use that)
Then work about 1 inch of stocking knit—here is a good place to try out a selvage stitch, too—and make your sampler serve a double duty!
Then, knit your sampler onto the dpn or stitch holder. Do this after completing a right side row, so the last row worked is a wrong side row. Break/cut the yarn.
Finally—take one of the labels, and label the cast on; include the common name, and the resource you used to learn the cast on. You might want to include the type of yarn, and the needle sized used, and a personal rating (how easy is the cast on to do, how stretchy do you think it is, and how attractive, too.
Start again—using a different cast on, and an inch of ribbing. Then, join the first cast on to the second. Hold the two pieces of knitting together in left hand—sort of how you'd hold 2 needles for a 3 needle bind off--only don't bind off. Just knit the 2 pieces together.
The first cast on swatch should be in back the newer one in front. Knit them together, (knit stitch 1 of front swatch with stitch 1 of back swatch.) Repeat with stitch 2 and all the stitches across the row.
Add another inch of stocking knit, with a second selvage stitch. When you've worked about an inch, and have just completed a right side row, once again knit the swatch on to the DPN, and so the swatch ends with a wrong side row. Break/cut yarn, label the second swatch, and start again with Cast on 3--
Repeat again and again making the sampler as long as you'd like-- You can organize the cast ons—one sampler for single yarn cast ons; one for double yarn cast ons; one sampler for decorative cast ons--or any way that makes sense for you.
The sampler can be made in a single sitting, or over a weekend, or over a couple of months.
Learn at your own pace. Don't expect to remember or be skilled at cast on with a single use- which is why its good to add information to the label—a quick resource for you to refresh your memory.
The BEST way to know which cast on is best for any given project is for YOU, the knitter to decide! The best way to decide is to learn a few cast ons, and to learn the characteristics of each cast on.
Forward to Basic Bind Offs
Forward to Selvage Stitches