The long-tail cast on is my second favorite method for beginning a project, right after the cable cast on. I love that if I’m working in the round, my working end is right there on my right needle, ready to go — no special maneuvers needed to join. I love that it’s firm, but still slightly flexible. I love that it often counts as your first row of knitting, leaving you ready to work row 2 (usually the first wrong-side row of a flat knit). But I HATE IT when I underestimate the length of tail I need to cast on. And I REALLY HATE IT when I waaaay overestimate, then run out of yarn during the project and have to use that extra-long tail to make up for it. Yes, I’ve tried estimating by wrapping my yarn once around the needle for each stitch and then casting on; by working 10 or 20 or 30 cast on stitches and then tearing them out to estimate how much I’ll need for my full cast on; by measuring out 1″ of yarn for every stitch. . . I’ve tried them all. At the end of the day, I just want to cast on and get started on that awesome throw. Or bottom-up shawl. Or sweater. And I don’t feel like estimating (guesstimating?)
The solution is an elegant, why didn’t I think of that sooner, smack-on-the-forehead gobstopper of a knitting trick that came up while chatting with Betty Balcomb, knitwear designer extraordinaire: work the long-tail cast on using two tails so you never run out, run over, or go crazy. Here’s how:
1. Grab two ends of your yarn, either from two different balls or the inside AND outside pull of your single skein or yarn cake. Tie them together (how doesn’t really matter because you’ll be taking this knot out, but I like a simple overhand knot).
2. Drape the knot over your needle, one working end on either side.
3. Cast on using the long-tail method as usual, but don’t count the knot as a stitch. Remember, you’ll be taking it out!
4. When you’ve cast on all your stitches, cut one of the tails leaving a 6″ tail for weaving in. The remaining tail will be your working yarn.
5. Untie the knot (I’m pointing where the knot used to be), and you’re off! Begin knitting! You’ll have two extra ends to weave in, but no headaches. The knitters I’ve taught this to all swear that the extra ends are worth it!