Knitting Blog

The Simplest Cast-On in Knitting

There are so many ways to cast on, but the simplest, most straightforward is the thumb cast-on. You may have heard it called the single cast-on, e cast-on, wrap cast-on or the backward loop cast-on.

Whatever you call it, this cast-on is so easy to learn and is so versatile. There aren’t any complicated loops to form, and it’s so easy that you’ll often see knitting instructors use it when teaching new knitters.

Thumb Cast on Demonstration

When to use the backwards loop cast-on

While the thumb cast-on knitting is easy, the results can be a little frustrating depending on what you’re knitting. If your cast-on tension is too tight, the loops can be difficult to knit into when you knit your first row. If your tension is too loose, you might have a very loopy first row of knitting.

This cast-on will give you a loose, thin edging on your work, so it’s not recommended if you need a super stable edge on your knitting. It is useful, however, for certain types of lace work that would benefit from a looser edge.

A lot of knitters also use the thumb method cast-on when they have to cast on in the middle of a project and only need to add a couple stitches to the beginning or end of a row.

How to make the single cast-on

Step 1:

Red yarn slip knot on knitting needle

Make a slip knot and place it on your right-hand needle. Leave just enough of a tail to weave in later; this isn’t one of those cast ons that require a long tail.

Step 2:

Tension and grip for backward loop cast-on

Grab the working yarn (not the yarn tail) with your right hand, and hold the needle in your left hand. Wrap the yarn around your thumb from front to back and grasp the ball end of the yarn with your right-hand fingers.

Step 3:

Creating loop for loop cast on in knitting

Flip your right hand over to create a loop around your index finger. (See how the yarn wrapped around your fingers looks a little like a lowercase e? That’s where the name comes from!)

Placing loop on needle

Then slide your needle into the loop you just created.

Step 4:

Drop the loop from your hand. The loop will look like a loop around your needle, as shown above.

Pull cast-on stitch taut

Pull taut to tighten the stitch. The tension here is very important. If you pull too tightly, you will have difficulty knitting into the cast-on stitches when you start your first row. If you don’t pull tight enough, you’ll have a very loose first row. You may have to test the cast on a few times to get the tension just right.

Another grip option for the backward loop cast-on

This cast-on is also called the thumb cast-on for a reason! If you can’t get the hang of the grip shown above, there’s another option that puts your thumb in charge.

Thumb grip for basic knitting cast-on

Grip the working yarn in your fist, with your thumb pointing up. Wrap the working yarn around your thumb, as shown above…

Insert needle into loop on thumb

Then slide the needle into the loop, right along the left side of your thumb.

Finishing one cast on stitch with thumb method

Drop your thumb from the loop and pull taut.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2013 and was updated in April 2018.

8 Comments

Jenn

Not my favorite way of casting on to start a project as it makes a sloppy edge, but it’s a GREAT cast on to use when you need to add stitches while knitting, such as for buttonholes.

Reply
Nana

I don’t like to use this method to cast on because the edge does not end up very neat, but it is useful when you need to add stitches for some reason.

Reply
ikky786

I know right. I learnt to cast on from my nana and she does it different… a much easier way to cast but I learnt to knit at school… my teacher showed me… sorry just got carried away their… I love telling stories about my life… I know its a bit weird… sorry xx

Reply
Betsy

I was taught this cast on when I learned to knit. If you do it regularly, you will learn to ge the right tension….I find it works great when you are doing shawls or other projects with fringe. The loopy edge makes fringing, easy.

Reply
Penny

I use a similar cast on, but I knit the stitch created with the loop (at step 4) It helps to resolve the problems with tension and leaves a tidy edge.

Reply
Linda

I have been using this cast on for 45 years. Never had a problem with the edge being less than neat with sloppy loops.

Reply
Minnette Reeder

Very helpful to me, as I was confused by the term thumb method of casting on, I had not seen that in a pattern before. I knit, but haven’t in a long time, and probably need a little bit of help here and there. Great information and nice clear pictures—Thank you

Reply
Linda

Thanks for sharing. I’ve watched several Youtube videos but haven’t been able to get the hang of this method. But your illustration has now helped me to master it 🙂

Reply

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