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Choosing a cast-on for your knitting - it matters!

person wearing lace shawl fanning out the front panel to see the lace detail
Marigold stole with stretchy bind-off.

Choosing appropriate cast-on and matching bind-off methods can make all the difference in your knitting. 

Have you ever spent precious time, energy, and money on a knitting project only to have your beginning and ending edges be wonky? You know, you knit an awesome hat but your cast-on is so tight that you can't get the hat to fit comfortably on your head. That kind of wonky.

When your cast-on is too tight or too loose

I had a cast-on/bind-off mishap during the designing process for Marigold. It was sort of a case of 'you don't know what you don't know' in that I didn't realize that lace knitting requires a very stretchy cast-on method so that the yarn-overs and knit togethers inherent in lace can expand into their intended pattern.

Actually, it wasn't that I didn't understand I needed a stretchy cast-on. I swatched my motif and could see that was the case. I just didn't do the right type of research as to how to achieve a truly stretchy cast-on for lace.

Using a larger needle does not yield a stretchier cast-on

Cast-on method restricted the lace, not allowing it to expand.

When I swatched for Marigold, I actually could see I needed more give in my cast-on, so when I proceeded to my actual project, I cast my stitches onto a knitting needle about twice the diameter of the required project needles. It wasn't until I was done knitting and had washed and blocked the scarf that I saw how my cast-on edge was still restricting my lace edge. On top of that, my cast-on and bind-off didn't match because on the bind-off edge, the lace was allowed to expand into its intended design.

lace edge of Marigold, a lace shawl knit in June Cashmere, showing that how a loose bind-off method allows the lacework to bloom

Bind-off method allowed lace to expand.

Research cast-on and bind-off methods

It was then that I did some extensive reading about cast-ons and bind-offs. Turns out that those dedicated to lace knitting already have discovered that using a larger needle for casting on only increases the size of the stitches in your first row of knitting. Doh! That explained why my cast-on was still too tight - increasing my needle size for casting on didn't address the problem.

Experienced lace knitters readily explain that lace knitting requires a far stretchier cast-on than the norm so that the fabric can do just what my bind-off had done - expand with the stitch pattern. Double Doh! Those same experienced lace knitters also offer tutorials for stretchy cast-ons and bind-offs for lace knitting so we don't have to learn by trial and error. 

So what's the moral of this knitting design story?

1. First, trial and error are okay. We get excited and want to press forward in our knitting, not realizing that we really don't know what we don't know. My own trial and error led me to research and yield better results that I included in my pattern. 

2. Research can save time. Enjoy the process of knitting. Expanding skills is part of that process. I hadn't worked with lace knitting before and a bit more research before starting would have paid off. 

3. This post highlights lace knitting and cast-on/bind-off methods that give the stretchiness needed to show off lace edgings. Many expert knitters offer insight into many types of cast-ons and bind-offs that have their individual uses. Explore them, learn what they can do, and have fun incorporating them into your knitting. 

Jeny's Stretchy Cast-on and Bind-off Methods

For my Marigold pattern, I recommend using Jeny's Stretchy Cast-on and Bind-off methods. It is what I used when I knit the wide version of Marigold and you can see the results here:

Jeny's stretchy cast-on.

Jeny's stretchy bind-off.

Knitting technique resources 

I've included written instructions for Jeny's cast-on/bind-off methods in my Marigold pattern. There are many tutorials online to help as well. Here are two that I found helpful. 

Jeny's stretchy cast-on as it has both video and written instructions with photos.

Jeny's stretchy bind-off 

Make Marigold

Now that you're hankering to try out these new techniques, head on over to our Marigold kit to knit your own lace stole. Knit in our fingering weight cashmere yarn, you can opt to make a narrow version (2 skeins) or a wider version (3 skeins). The pattern also explains where you can adapt the width of the stole to fit your needs. 

Until next time, find joy in making with our yarn! --Amy

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