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by Ysolda November 01, 2019 2 min read

An alternating cable cast on is a useful, stretchy cast on for ribbing that’s less fussy to work than a tubular cast on. It’s worked like a regular cable cast on, but instead of casting on each stitch knitwise stitches are alternately cast on knitwise and purlwise.

This tutorial includes both step by step photos and videos so you can use whichever suits you better.

Begin with a slipknot, leaving a short tail.

Place the slipknot on the left needle tip. The cast on will be worked with the ball end of the yarn.

Insert the left needle into the slipknot from front to back, as if to knit,

and wrap the yarn around.

Draw the loop through the stitch.

Bring the left needle tip towards you and insert it into the new stitch from right to left.

Slide the new stitch off the right needle

and onto the left.

Cast on the next stitch purlwise. Insert the right needle between the stitches, from back to front, as if to purl, and wrap the yarn around.

Draw the loop through the stitch

and slip it to the left needle,

with the same twist as before.

Continue casting on knitwise, then purlwise, always inserting the needle between the first 2 stitches on the left needle. Slip each cast on stitch to the left needle by bringing the left needle towards you and inserting it from right to left into the stitch.

For an even number of stitches end with a knit stitch. If you’re working in the round you’ll probably want to begin your ribbing with a knit stitch so I recommend working the first row of ribbing before joining in the round.

Here's a video if you prefer to see how the stitches are moved:



Alternating cable cast on for 2x2 rib

To work an alternating cable cast on for 2x2 rib you need to work the cast on for 1x1 rib and then rearrange the stitches on the first row. This will be familiar if you’ve ever worked a tubular cast on for 2x2 rib.

The cast on is set up knit one, purl one.

The first stitch is a knit stitch. Knit this stitch.

The second stitch on the left needle is now a knit stitch.

Insert the right needle tip into this stitch at the front, from right to left.

Slip the first two stitches off the left needle. At the back, scoop up the free stitch

and then slip the knit stitch back to the left needle.

Knit the next stitch. Purl two, then knit the next stitch.

Repeat the process to rearrange the next two stitches.Continue in this way to the end of the row.

Here's a video if you prefer to see how the stitches are moved:


Alternating cable is a really useful cast on to have in your repertoire. It's almost as good a match for ribbing as a tubular cast on, and I think it's more or less as elastic. The alternating cable cast on is particularly useful for socks, hats and sweaters.

Give it a try and if you have any questions please ask in the comments.


Ysolda designs knitting patterns, spent years teaching at events and loves to find new yarns and books to share.

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