Technique Thursday – Avoiding ears when casting on and off

Just a couple of little tricks this week. They might be familiar, but I get the impression that the other ways of doing these are more common, so perhaps this way will be new to you. If so, they’re both little details that can give your projects a neater finish.

Skip the slip-knot when doing a long tail cast on (or almost any cast on that begins with one)

Beginning with a slip-knot gives you something stable to put on the needle, which may help beginners, but otherwise it’s completely unnecessary. The resulting knot can stick out of your work, leaving a bump, an ‘ear’, at the corner.

Instead of starting with a slip-knot, just pull out enough yarn for your tail end and lay the yarn over the needle at that point. Grab the ends and cast on normally.

That first loop makes your first stitch. To avoid it being loose and as unsightly as a knot make sure to snug the first cast on stitch up against it. has a decent video if you are new to the long tail cast on. It can also be worked with one strand in each hand which seems to be the more traditional method here in the UK. It can also be worked backwards, and by alternating forwards and backwards stitches as you cast on you can make an excellent, sturdy cast on for ribbing. I’ll never forget the reaction on my first visit to Iceland when Ragga told her class to just do long tail, but backwards. It was clearly something she’d never realised would require explanation if you weren’t familiar with it!

When doing a regular bind off / cast off, don’t pull the yarn through the stitch left on the needle, pull the stitch

If you break the yarn and pull the end through the last stitch left on the needle, you’re essentially adding an extra stitch that sticks out at the end of your bind off.

The resulting bind off is exactly the length of the knitted piece with no overhang. When binding off in the round I add an extra step to create a smooth join at the beginning and end. When only one stitch is left to be bound off insert the needle into that stitch and under the two legs of very first link in the bind off chain from the beginning of the round and knit them together. Complete the bind off.