Before you knit, you have to get the yarn onto the needle. This process is called “casting on.” There are lots of ways to cast on, but the most common method is the Long Tail Cast On.
And even under the rubric of Long Tail Cast On, there are several variations! Below you’ll find two: the Slingshot Method and the Thumb Method. They look exactly the same in the end, but perhaps the Thumb Method is a little easier for beginners. Try them both and tell us which you prefer!
Sling Shot Method
To figure out where to tie your slip knot, first measure out a length of yarn 3½ times the width of what you plan to make. So for a 6-inch wide scarf, measure out approximately 21 inches of yarn, and at that point, make a loop.
Bring the yarn that is on top around to the back of the loop.
Slide the knitting needle under the yarn that is behind the loop.
Pull both lengths of yarn so that the slip knot is just grazing the needle. Try to resist the temptation to tug on the yarn, making your stitches too snug around the needle. If your cast on is too tight, your first row of knitting will be quite unpleasant and your finished piece will have a taut edge, so be gentle.
Loop the terminus end of the yarn (the “tail”) around your thumb. The tail should come from the needle, around the back of your thumb to the front of your thumb.
With the tip of the needle, pick up the front strand of the loop in an away-from-you motion (i.e. from front to back), sliding the needle up your thumb.
With your right hand, bring the yarn that is coming from the ball (the “working yarn”) behind and around the needle in a counter clockwise direction.
Now, with a toward-you motion (i.e. from back to front), bring the needle through the loop on your thumb, allowing the loop to pass over the tip of the needle.
Slip your thumb out of the loop and pull both strands of yarn to gently secure the stitch on the needle.
Position a new loop on your thumb and continue to cast on in this manner until you have the correct number of stitches. (All patterns tell you how many stitches to cast on.)