Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

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How To: Cast On Stitches in the Middle of a Knitting Project

Filed under: How To,Knitting — folkcat at 4:20 pm on Tuesday, February 6, 2007

A reader recently sent me this question by e-mail:

I’m in the middle of making baby slippers…a pattern I got off of Lionbrand’s website. It requires you to cast on 10 stitches at the end of a knit row. For some reason I’m drawing a blank. Any advice would help!

Several of my pet knitting projects – Fingerless Mitts, Barefoot Diva Socks – have design features that are basically modified buttonholes. These require binding off a certain number of stitches on one round, and then at a later point (next round on the mitts, several rows later on the socks), casting stitches back on.

Because these projects are worked in the round, they’re not quite the same as casting on extra stitches at the end of a row. But the approach I use may be helpful for either situation.

Most often the advice I see for casting on additional stitches in the middle of a project, or at the end of a row, will recommend using the Backwards E Cast On (video demo found here). I find this is okay if you’re just adding a stitch or two. If you’re casting on a longer section, however, it’s my experience (your mileage may vary) that the Backwards E tends to be tight to knit into, and has an issue of additional slack building up between the stitches – leaving excess loops at your new edge.

What I prefer to use instead is the Cabled Cast On. This gives an elastic edge, with stable stitches to work into on the next round, and can be worked from your current working yarn on your knitting project (without adding in any additional yarn).

There are lots of pictures with this tutorial, so I’m going to put them after the jump. If you want to learn how I cast on in the middle of a row/round, then read on!

My instructions are for working a cast-on in the middle of a piece that’s being worked in the round. If you are casting on at the end of a row of flat knitting, you can follow these instructions up to the point where you’ve cast on your last stitch, and ignore the rest. Simply turn your work and continue to knit flat as per your pattern instructions.

General note – as you’ll see, I knit continental style, carrying the yarn in my left hand. I don’t do English style well enough to photograph for you, but with a little imagination, I’m sure you can picture where the yarn would be coming from for that method. I am also right handed – I am afraid that I must leave you lefties to your usual devices for translating these instructions.

All these images can be viewed larger for better detail by clicking on them.

How To: Casting On in Middle of Work, Fig. 1
Fig. 1

Having bound off some stitches on the previous round, I’m now looking at a needle with stitches at either end, but a gap in the middle (Fig. 1). The plan is to cast on stitches to bridge that gap as I work across the needle on this round.

I work the stitches at the beginning of the needle. (Fig. 2)

How To: Casting On in Middle of Work, Fig. 2
Fig. 2

The working yarn is coming from its normal stitching position, the back of the last stitch on the right hand needle.

Then I turn the work around. (Fig. 3)

How To: Casting On in Middle of Work, Fig. 3
Fig. 3

I also moved the working yarn so that it will come from what is now the back of the first stitch on the left needle.

To begin the casting on, insert the right hand needle tip between the first two stitches on the left hand needle. (Fig. 4)

How To: Casting On in Middle of Work, Fig. 4
Fig. 4

Now, pick up the working yarn with the tip of the right hand needle in exactly the same manner as if you’re working a stitch. (Fig. 5)

How To: Casting On in Middle of Work, Fig. 5
Fig. 5

And pull the yarn through to the front. (Fig. 6)

How To: Casting On in Middle of Work, Fig. 6
Fig. 6

Now, the new stitch you created must be transferred from the right hand needle to the left. Insert the tip of the left needle into the front leg of the stitch on the right hand needle, passing from right to left. (Fig. 7) To visualize this, imagine that you are knitting the stitch left handed.

How To: Casting On in Middle of Work, Fig. 7
Fig. 7

Remove the right hand needle, leaving the new stitch on the tip of the left. (Fig. 8 )

How To: Casting On in Middle of Work, Fig. 8
Fig. 8

Voila! You’ve now cast on one stitch using the Cable Cast On technique. To continue, simply repeat these steps, beginning with inserting the right needle between the new first two stitches on the left. (Fig. 9)

How To: Casting On in Middle of Work, Fig. 9
Fig. 9

Continue until you’ve cast on the required number of stitches, as specified in the pattern. (Fig. 10)

How To: Casting On in Middle of Work, Fig. 10
Fig. 10

If you are knitting in the flat, you would be ready now to just work back across the stitches on your left hand needle, following the instructions in your pattern. If you’re knitting in the round, as I am, you must now join the cast on stitches to the existing work.

To continue in the round, then, turn your knitting so the working yarn is coming from the last cast on stitch on the right hand needle. (Fig. 11)

How To: Casting On in Middle of Work, Fig. 11
Fig. 11

Following your pattern instructions, work the first stitch on the left hand needle in the normal fashion, but keeping a tight tension to prevent any slack from forming at the join. (Fig. 12)

How To: Casting On in Middle of Work, Fig. 12
Fig. 12

Stitch around the entire round of knitting, working the cast on stitches per your pattern instructions as if they were normal stitches. When you have worked the last of the cast on stitches, look closely at the point where they join again. You may notice, in spite of working the stitch tightly on the previous round, that there’s a little extra slack. (Fig. 13)

How To: Casting On in Middle of Work, Fig. 13
Fig. 13

If so, knit the next stitch through the back loop to take up a little of that slack. (Fig. 14) This helps to prevent a small hole from forming at that point.

How To: Casting On in Middle of Work, Fig. 14
Fig. 14

And that is it – simple, but with a little extra attention to details that could otherwise make your end results look sloppy.

Whew – my first true knitting tutorial! I hope it’s of some help to you. If anyone has any questions, or their own tips about this process, by all means feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me via the link at the top of the page.

Happy Knitting!



Comment by Carrie K

February 6, 2007 @ 10:30 pm

Oh, that looks easy, Jen! I knit continental and use the cable cast on mostly and I’d never really considered it as a ‘mid project’ cast on.

Nice tutorial!


Comment by Valerie in San Diego

February 9, 2007 @ 8:51 pm

Thanks, Jen! I kept seeing such instructions and couldn’t figure out how to execute them. This helps enormously. Backwards loop cast-on just isn’t good sometimes. And I’m a continental babe, too.


Comment by Beth in North Carolina

November 2, 2007 @ 2:48 pm

Hi! I haven’t knitted in years, but my daughter’s friend came to me the other day for help knitting a litt bag to felt for her daughter. It got me in the mood, so I went to the knit shop and bought some wool/alpaca yarn and got to where I was to cast on for the handles — 25 stitches. I knew the backward e was messy,so got on the internet to see what I could find. THANK YOU SO MUCH


Comment by Terra

January 22, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

Finally a tutorial that makes sence!!!
Thank you so much!!!


Comment by Linda

January 23, 2008 @ 12:41 am

Thanks so much, I couldn’t find this technique in any of my knitting books. Very easy after reading and then watching the video.


Comment by jRo - missoula, mt

April 21, 2008 @ 9:39 am

Thank you so much. I’m on vacation in Moab, Utah working on fingerless gloves and forgot how to cable cast on to make the thumb hole. I, too am a continental knitter. Your instructions are very clear. Thank you……now off to shop for yarn at Desert Threads in Moab!!!


Comment by Karilyn

July 6, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

This tutorial was great – very clear. My Poncho by Debbie Bliss is better because of your help. Thanks so much!!


Comment by Monica

July 19, 2008 @ 10:05 pm

This tutorial was great! Exactly what I needed. (By the way, I knit in the English style, and your directions were completely clear.)


Comment by Eleanor

November 3, 2008 @ 11:41 pm

I have been knitting the Chevalier mitts from the front of the fall VK magazine and came across this requirement of mid-row cast-on and was flummoxed! Thank you for this. I am going to give it a try. I am an English style knitter from Markham, Ontario in Canada and will do this as I am watching election action from your side of the border tomorrow night.


Comment by Diane

November 22, 2008 @ 9:17 am

You saved my fingerless mitts! Thank you so much for your tutorial. I have made one mitten previously and can’t remember how I cast on over the thumb, but it was so terrible and my thumb gusset holes so bad, I never made the mate. I really wanted to finish these fingerless mitts and all I needed was to cast on 6 stitches but couldn’t figure out how again. Your method worked wonderfully and my thumbhole turned out great. Thanks again!


Comment by Robin

January 15, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

Jen, Thanks so much! I have never made anything that required casting on in the middle of a project before, yet decided to make a pair of fingerless gloves. When I got to the cast on part I, too, was clueless! Your instructions are clear, and your pictures helpful! After checking out five websites with no clear idea of how to do this, I was very glad to find your site–I have bookmarked this! Thanks!


Comment by Kate G.

May 26, 2009 @ 11:54 pm

Thanks, Jen. You just saved my project. Even though you posted this 2007 it’s still relevant today!


Comment by shewolf

September 23, 2009 @ 2:59 am

Thanks so much! I knew the basic method, but didn’t realize I had to turn my work to have it work out. I’ve been stuck with that awful backwards loop for a long time.


Comment by Britt

October 18, 2009 @ 7:12 pm

thanks! you just saved me a bunch of hassle. great pics and tutorial! b


Comment by Emma Tulloch

October 22, 2009 @ 10:41 am

Thanks! I had to look for ages to find an understandable description of this.


Comment by Jill Hilbert

December 5, 2009 @ 9:04 pm

I am thrilled…….. I’m 60 years old, learned to knit at age 8……. I’m knitting open palm mittens and this has helped tremendously!!! Thank you!!!


Comment by Jill Hilbert

December 5, 2009 @ 9:06 pm

I am thrilled…….. I’m 60 years old, learned to knit at age 8, haven’t stopped since but I can always learn a better way to do things!!!!……. I’m knitting open palm mittens and this has helped tremendously!!! Thank you from another continental knitter……


Comment by Kay Schenone

January 7, 2010 @ 4:27 pm

I was knitting “Mrs. Roosevelt’s mittens”. I had come to the point of having to cast on stitches for the thumb hole, something I had never done before. I googled it, and your tutorial came up. I followed your instructions with ease and it worked perferctly! Thanks so much for taking the time to put the tutorial together. – I’m also a contential stitcher.


Comment by Joseph Jezewski

February 13, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

It only goes to show where there’s will there’s a way. Keep on trying.


Comment by Maia

March 15, 2010 @ 11:11 pm

Thanks so much for this! I was working on a pair of vintage gloves and was stumped as to how to add some stitches for the fingers without messing up. This really helped, very nice and clear tutorial!


Comment by Lynn

April 1, 2010 @ 11:21 pm

Fabulous! Thank you so much for this clear information.


Comment by Laura

July 4, 2010 @ 8:13 pm

OMG!!!! Thank you soooooooo much!!!! I finally got how to cast on while knitting in the round, continental style!!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!


Comment by KnitPurlGurl

August 6, 2010 @ 4:38 pm

Thanks! I’m knitting these in magic loop right now and the backwards loop CO was really too tight. So I did the cable CO after reading your post!!


Comment by connie

September 7, 2010 @ 8:53 am

Very well presented technique. I am working on a sample of the 7 Circles Necklace on Ravelry and the backward loop cast on recommended was impossible. I am going to bookmark your website and let my students know about it.


Comment by Kathy

October 11, 2010 @ 8:16 am

Thanks for the clear instructions! I have avoided patterns in the past that called for casting on mid-work because I couldn’t find instructions that were understandable – no more!


Comment by Tiffany

October 28, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

Very nice, clear tutorial! I made a hat for one of my babies years ago that I just loved, but the casting on looked akward. I was going to make the same one in boy colors for the new baby. The last one was a pain when it came to casting on the stitches between the ear flaps. This is so much better. Thanks so much. I have this page bookmarked for reference now!


Comment by dorothy

January 10, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

thank goodness I decided to google co in the middle of knitting. It works well. I have made miniature sweaters that required and increase and made up something but they were a little lopsided. now I can make them correctly.. Glad you posted this helpful tidbit. I also knit in the continental method. I mostly taught myself toknit around 22 years of age. love love it. so relaxing. keep posting great info.


Comment by SDHeather

February 23, 2011 @ 7:33 pm

Thank you! I’m a new knitter and was struggling with how to do a mid-row cast on for a pair of fingerless mitts….THANK YOU!!!!!!


Comment by reiko

November 13, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

Thank you!!!! Thank you for showing me how to do mid row cast on in a round. I too am making a pair of gloves and am closing the gap of the thumb hole area (cast on 5 stitches). I knew to do cable cast but did not know to turn work over to backside to cable cast on. Thanks again for the WONDERFUL tutorial and GREAT pictures!!!!! I learned a whole, whole lot!!!! I just googled and your site came up. The easiest and the most clearest one to understand (after reading and watching a few other videos and sites). Made my frustation on doing this go way, way down!!!! THANKS!!!


Comment by petra

November 21, 2011 @ 11:47 pm

Thank you so much for publishing these instructions in a manner I can understand them. I also knit the continental way and your explanation made perfect sense. You kept me from getting totally frustrated 🙂

Comment by Jacob

October 12, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

thank you for this, I’ve made oven mitts using backwards e and I HATED it before. Sometimes my backwards e’s would come off the left hand needle and I’d have to start over (UGH!!) and I think I might even try this method with my next pair of socks (thinking around the ankle hole). I’m what you call a modified English knitter, and I’m left handed, but I knit in both directions (forwards and backwards) Turning your work to me seems too fiddly. Also, I don’t throw, I “Flick” my yarn on the edge of my index finger.

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