Blog


How To...

Published on September 3rd, 2014 | by Amy Kaspar

29 comments

The backward loop cast-on

Which cast-on is your favourite?  Do you use different methods for different projects?  Amy Kaspar introduces the backward loop cast-on…

We all have our favorite cast-ons, right? (Newer knitters, if you do not have one yet, then you will soon.) I am a knitted-cast-on girl, myself…I am m0st comfortable with it. Some cast-ons are better for some projects and not as nice for others, however. The backward loop cast-on is arguably the easiest one to do, but it is definitely not the right cast-on for everything.

Do you know how to backward loop? Grab your needle (you only need one for this cast-on) and some yarn. Here we go!

How to do the backward loop cast-on - LoveKnitting tutorial

First, like almost all cast-ons, make a slip knot. Place the slip knot on the needle with the tail facing the back. This is not crucial, but it is a good habit to get into.

The backward loop cast-on - LoveKnitting blog

Then, hold your working yarn in your right hand and twist it to the left, or counter-clockwise, so that you see a backward loop. Get it? Backward loop! You will end up with the working yarn behind the loop, which should be facing you. Your yarn should look like this.

The backward loop cast-on - LoveKnitting blog

Then just finish twisting it and throw that loop on your needle, so that the working yarn is in between the previous loop and the current one. You do not want to keep twisting the loop like a bread tie; just one half-twist will do the trick. The working yarn is “trapped” on the needle. Keep doing this until you have the number of stitches you need. When you are finished, looking from left to right, you should have a slip knot and then a bunch of backward loops.

The backward cast-on - LoveKnitting blog

As you go, give the yarn a decent tug so that the loops get snug on the needle. This particular cast-on has nothing to make it stable, so it tends to give an inconsistent edge unless you yank the yarn tight onto the needle. You will find that when you knit onto it, the loops get tight and the yarn separating the loops lengthens. This will even out a bit as you knit that first row, but honestly, it is not perfect.

Because of its super-simple construction and lack of stability, the backward loop cast-on tends not to be the best choice for a garment piece. It is an excellent cast-on for button holes, since it is very stretchy, and it is also a good choice for beginning knitters if the knitted cast-on is not sinking in right away.

Another good application for this cast-on is to begin in the centre and knit out. Backward-looping four to six stitches to start knitting gives you the opportunity to pull on that slip-knot tail and suck everything in when you join in a circle. The stitches will also fluff out a bit and close any hole left behind. Finallly, if you are making a basic scarf, this is a good option because attaching fringe to backward loops is easy with their wide-open construction.

The backward loop cast-on - LoveKnitting blog

If you have your heart set on this cast-on for an entire garment, then a few things to keep in mind:  the more stitches you are casting on, the looser the cast-on will ultimately be. To tighten up the stitches, you can cast onto a needle size one to two sizes smaller than your knitting needle. The swatch on the left, below, was both cast on and knitted on size 4.5mm/US7 needles. The swatch on the right was cast on using size 3.75mm/US5 needles, and knitted with size 4.5mm/US7 needles. See how much tighter and cleaner the one on the right looks?

photo 5 (2)

One great thing about this cast-on is it is more invisible than both the knitted and long-tail cast-ons, yet another reason why it is ideal for button holes. If you do not want a harsh seam, you can backward loop your way to a beginning. You can also use it for a decorative increase, as you will be both adding a stitch and leaving an ever-so-teeny hole that is smaller than what you would leave with your average yarnover.

The backward loop cast-on is simple in construction and logistics, and it is a great quickie for small lines of knitting. If you are just needing a few stitches, or you are using a yarn that is difficult to cast on (such as mohair), try out the backward loop cast-on and see if it works for you. If not, no worries…you are only on the cast-on row! It hurts way less to pull out a cast-on than it does to pull out several rows of knitting.

Read more blog posts about casting on.

Tags: , , , ,


About the Author

Amy lives in Chicago and can either be found knitting, writing about knitting, designing knitted things, or watching professional hockey while knitting. There is also a necessary cup of coffee nearby at all times, Follow her on Twitter @thefiberfriend for more yarny bits.


Last updated: February 19th, 2015.

29 Responses to The backward loop cast-on

  1. Kay Santi says:

    Good to know.

  2. Brenda says:

    When I decided to learn to knit I would follow what ever the book told me. I remember doing a backwards loop cast on when I was a kid trying to learn. I had forgotten after all these years. I may go back to using it. It’s so much easier.

  3. Sandra says:

    It’s great to see a Tutorial on this method.
    I have attempted it numerous times and thought the less than neat result was something I was doing wrong. I am glad to know after all these years my results were just typical of the method.
    One less of life’s conundrums to sort 🙂
    Sandra. Sydney Australia.

    • Amy Kaspar says:

      Miss Sandra…Amy here…thanks so much! And I used to live in Chippendale, just one block south of the bus depot. 😉 ‘Struth!

  4. jamie Kennedy says:

    This website and yourself sound like you discovered knitting in 2014 ????? . Your ideas are not new it has all been done before yes before . People like myself have been knitting for nigh 65 years . There is nothing I have not knitted from socks, bootties to dressing gowns and bedspreads .I really think you are trying to make us professional knitters suck eggs

    • Mrydjeski says:

      Not sure where the bitterness is coming from. Just because someone is a professional doesn’t make newbies less grateful for some coaching. Nowhere in the post does the author criticize or deride professional knitters. Maybe you should create a blog for professional knitters and quit dumping on people who are just trying to he helpful to those less proficient.

    • Amy Kaspar says:

      Jamie…Amy here…Thank you so much for the feedback! I really appreciate hearing from knitters of all levels; it is difficult to find balance, as I am a professional knitter myself and there are times I receive negative feedback on the tutorials that fly over the heads of beginner and novice knitters. I mean no offense when I teach a beginning technique, and the bottom line is that we cannot please everybody. We can, however, offer a breadth of information so that there is something out there for knitters from beginner-novice to seasoned-expert. I thank you for reading and would love to hear your ideas on what I should highlight in future blog posts…my email address is amy.e.kaspar@gmail.com. Happy knitting!

      • michelle heath says:

        hi.. just want to say that I am so glad you have this website…I was fascinated about the backward loop cast on…amazing bit of info..which I have to admit..i do not know everything..i am an intermediate knitter and more experienced crochetter.[ I taught myself actually..which I inherit that capability from my grandma….even tho I have managed to date with following patterns etc..I have to improvise in a way..because I am a left-handed knitter..are there any instructions or hints that would make it easier 4 me to knit…please xx 🙂

        • Amy Kaspar says:

          Miss Michelle…Amy here…I myself am left-handed, but I knit right-handed. Shoot me an email to amy.e.kaspar@gmail.com so I can ask my friend Mrs. Bing (she is too classy to call by her first name), who is a sixty-year left-handed knitter!

    • Cynthia says:

      Yikes…..meanie!

    • Irenin says:

      Why are you reading this then if you know everything there is to know about knitting? Like you, I have been knitting for a long time (just over 60 years) but one never knows everything, one can always learn new tricks and it’s nice to learn them. You mustn’t forget that there are people who are newbies to knitting – so what’s wrong with a site like this for them to learn from? BTW – what makes you a professional knitter – the fact that you have been knitting for a long time? No – you have a lot of experience, but that doesn’t make you a professional. Hobbies are something that should be enjoyed – and something to share with others who have the same interests. We all have a lot to learn from each other surely?

  5. Can you show me how to make the twirly scarf that uses the new yarn .. The instructions are not very clear and I can’t see how to do this. Thank you and keep the hints coming. I have been knitting since I was 13, self taught from a beginners book and am still knitting – at 80!! Love your
    ideas…

    • Amy Kaspar says:

      Miss Ruth…Amy here…to be sure of which yarn you speak, can you send me a photo to amy.e.kaspar@gmail.com? I am happy to help you. Thank you also for the kind words!

      • michelle heath says:

        AMY YOU ARE A STAR..KEEP THE HINTS COMING ..AS I WILL READ THEM AND TAKE THEM ABOURD.. I HAVE LEARNT FROM A YOUNG GIRL….[AND I AM 57 YRS OLD NOW] THAT YOU ARE NEVER TOO OLD TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW!!! THAT IS SO TRUE..AND SORRY I AM USING CAPS…BUT I AM REALLY NOT YELLING!! JUST EASIER TO READ THE PRINT LOOL 😉 <3 XX

  6. LouiseWallace says:

    This is my first time seeing your post and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I have been knitting for years and can always use some ideas either new or old. Was saddened to read the negative post from the previous reader. Guess she was just having a bad day. Not me though! I will continue reading. Thank you. Louise

  7. Butter says:

    Hi Amy!
    I learned the backward loop cast on while knitting the oh-so-beautiful Modern Miters afghan by Lion. You need to add stitches while picking up stitches from the previous row to make the complete rectangle, so you’re adding stitches to the left of the stitches you just picked up (kinda backwards from what you have demonstrated here). But it works beautifully and is so easy! Thanks for the tutorial!

  8. Judy says:

    Hi Amy, I have also been knitting for almost 70 years and have tried my hand at many things over the years. I am now knitting for my great grandchild. However this is not a cast on method I have used before. I thing it would be a very useful way to cast on when doing a picot edge which you intend to knit up rather than sew later. Keep the tips coming, we are never to old to learn something new!
    Kind regards Judy

  9. Marie Coleman says:

    hi Amy, many thanks for the demo on casting on using the backward loop, I’ve been knitting for so many years too! I’ve never heard of this way to cast on! I was shown as a child to cast on using the thumb method and this is the only method I’ve ever used!!
    It is very good to see different methods to do any kind of knitting, I’m sure we can all learn something about knitting so all comments should be gratefully received as you have done 🙂
    Keep the knitting going is all I can say and as soon as my grandaughter is old enough I shall be teaching her 🙂

  10. VALERIE says:

    COULD YOU SHOW HOW TO DO THIS ON CAMERA AND TALK TO US ON HOW TO DO THIS PLEASE

    • Amy Kaspar says:

      Miss Valerie…Amy here…I do not currently have video but I will do my best as soon as I can access any equipment for that. Otherwise, I am sure you can do a search for it on a video site as well…this is a pretty common cast-on, so the instructions are most likely out there. Be well, and happy knitting!

  11. Judy says:

    i just learned this while making an after-thought heel in a pair of socks. It created a seamless opening, to be picked up later. The cast-on itself was easy. What was difficult for me, was knitting the first row after casting on. I think I made my cast-on loops too tight because it was a real struggle to knit that first row. I haven’t done the heel yet and am hoping picking up stitches will be easier. I’m always amazed at the ingenuity of knitters to come up with various techniques that resolve problems. This cast-on is supposed to NOT leave a bumpy seam, which would be uncomfortable, in the bottom of a sock. Too clever!

    • Amy Kaspar says:

      Miss Judy…Amy here…you can always use a smaller needle to pull those first-row stitches through that loop. If you tighten the stitches, then they will be smaller, but if you see that first row as the set-up row, you will be loosey-goosey enough to match your tension on the next, larger-needle row!

  12. Jane McLaughlin says:

    I get a very neat cast on edge when putting the needle behind the stitch and knitting the new stitch on i.e. behind – over – through and off instead of in – over – through and off, this edge is very even doing this.

    • Jane McLaughlin says:

      Sorry this should have said – behind – over – through and on to needle instead of in – over – through and on to needle, this edge is very even doing this.

  13. Jane McLaughlin says:

    i.e. behind – over – through and on to needle instead of in – over – through and on to needle, this edge is very even doing this.

  14. Tina T. says:

    I was interested to read about your backward loop cast-on but it seems an awkward thing to have to make a loop with your fingers for each stitch, just twisting it around the thumb as we do in UK seems the same, but is the thumb cast-on basically the same as backward loop?

    I do agree it’s best for small numbers of stitches as the yarn between the stitches seems to “grow” as you try to knit across so mostly I prefer the knit cast-on through both loops of each new stitch, very neat.

  15. Tess says:

    This is a method advocated by the famous late Elizabeth Zimmermann. She called it “half hitch” and recommends using when increasing in garter stitch. As she says in her books “remember, you’re in charge”.

Back to Top ↑