Long Tail Cast On Hack

The long tail cast on is one of the most common cast ons used in knitting. For many knitters, it’s the first one they learn when starting their knitting journey. The key to the long tail cast on is all in the name—you’ll need a long tail to start. But how long should this tail be?

There are a lot of factors that can affect the tail length, such as yarn composition or your gauge, just to name a few. However, you can use this quick trick to estimate the length of your yarn tail so that you can be sure you have enough yarn to complete your cast on.

Starting with the needles and yarn for your project, leave a tail of six to eight inches, then wrap the yarn around the needle 10 times. This is going to represent 10 stitches.

Pinch the yarn at either end of the needle and unwrap it from the needle. That length of yarn is what you’ll need in your tail to cast on 10 stitches.

Now that you have that length of yarn, you can fold the yarn over itself to estimate more stitches. Fold it over again to represent 20 stitches, again for 30 stitches, and so on. Continue this process until you have estimated for the total number of stitches the cast on calls for.

If you need to cast on a lot of stitches (for example 300 or more for a bottom-up shawl), I would suggest adding a little extra yarn into your tail as an extra insurance policy. It’s always better to have a little extra yarn leftover in your yarn tail than to run out of yarn when casting on a lot of stitches.

Once you have your yarn tail estimated, make a slip knot and place it on the needle—this counts as your first stitch. From there, you can work the long tail cast on for the number of stitches you need. Easy!

If you need a refresher on how to work the long tail cast on, check out our free video here.

Do you have any tips for the long tail cast on you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

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7 Responses to “Long Tail Cast On Hack”

  1. Friederike Andre

    When casting on a lot of stitches it may be quicker to use a second ball of yarn for the long tail. Or the other end

  2. Betty Sprecher

    great info!

  3. Ellie Settle

    Similar to Nancy Lingerfelt’s hack, using a second skein tied together with the first will work as well.

  4. Sara

    Very good idea. Once I’ve decided how long the tail needs to be to cast on, I put a slip know in the middle of that tail. After I’ve reached the halfway point of casting on, if I haven’t reached that slip knot yet, I know I have enough yarn. If I have reached it, I know I won’t have enough yarn, and need to start over with a longer tail.

  5. Nancy Lingerfelt

    You can also use both tails of the skein of yarn..tie them together, make a slip knot and proceed with long tail cast on. when you are finished, decide which is to be the working yarn (inside or outside of skein) and cut the other yarn. My personal recommendation is to wait until you have knit a few rows before cutting the yarn , in case there's a problem and you have to frog and cast on again.

  6. Kathleen Mark

    This was VERY helpful! I am a long time knitter, but get frustrated with casting on over and over to get it right

  7. Gail Lowe

    Brilliant! I will be using this measuring tip on my next project. I don't know how many times I have had to start over with the casting on step because I didn't have a long enough tail. Thanks. This is going to save me so much time. :)