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February 03, 2022

The Long Tail Cast-on method is a classic knitting technique that’s known for its speed and stretchiness. It's one of the most popular ways to teach new knitter's to cast on, and for good reason!

This method uses a long tail of yarn along with one needle and your hand to establish the stitches that you’ll knit from. The Long Tail Cast-on is structurally identical to a backwards loop cast on plus a row of knitting, making it sturdier and less prone to stretch out as you knit than a simple loop cast on. You can use the Long Tail Cast-on for just about any knitting project. If you’re just learning how to cast on and knit, the Long-tail cast on is an indispensable skill for your toolkit! 

The long tail cast-on is worked onto one needle. If you're using circular needles hold one tip in the right hand and let the other dangle. 


Step-by-step tutorial

Set up for Long Tail Cast-on

Pull a length of yarn from the ball.

a short length of yarn is held between two hands

Getting just the right length of tail can be tricky, but it’s better to have more yarn than not enough! To estimate the yarn tail length, measure out about 1" / 2.5cm per cast-on stitch in worsted weight yarn. You’ll need a little less in thinner yarns, a little more in chunkier yarns. An alternative rule of thumb is to use 3 times the width of the project you're casting on for, plus about 6" / 15cm extra. 


a slipknot on a knitting needle, which is held in the right hand


Make a slipknot and place it on the right-hand needle (easier for beginners) OR lay the yarn over the right needle without a slipknot.

a knitting needle is held in the right hand, with the yarn draped over it

The ball end of the yarn should be away from you and the tail end closer to you.

Holding the needle in your right hand, use your left hand to grasp the two tails hanging from the needle. Insert your left index finger and thumb between the tails.

both strands are in front of the left hand, which is held with the palm open and index finger and thumb at the top
the yarn is gripped in the left hand, with the index finger and thumb being inserted between the two strands

Open your index finger and thumb, letting the yarn slide down onto your thumb and finger to create the “slingshot” or a V shape. You’ll return to this hand and yarn position after each cast-on stitch.

the thumb and index finger are opened into a slingshot shape

Cast on with Long Tail Cast-on method

Step 1. Bring the right needle tip slightly towards you, then insert it into the left thumb loop from below.

Step 2. Grab the strand from your index finger with the right needle, from right to left.

Step 3. Draw the index finger strand down through the loop on your left thumb.

Step 4. Release the yarn from your left thumb.

Step 5. Use your thumb to tighten up the stitch and return to the slingshot position.


Repeat steps 1–6 to continue the Long Tail Cast-on until all of your stitches have been cast on.

Learning how to cast on for knitting is one of the very first things you learn as a knitter, and the Long Tail Cast-on is a versatile and easy method that’s perfect for hats, shawls and sweaters. 


  • Avoid pulling the yarn too tight when casting on so the bottom edge of your project doesn't pull in and pucker. Make sure your stitches can move smoothly and easily on the needle, and aim for about a needle's width of space between each cast-on stitch. 
  • For a very stretchy cast-on space the stitches further apart. 
  • For looser stitches that are easier to knit into on the next row, try casting on with a larger needle, or both of your needles held together. 




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