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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Last updated: February 19th, 2015.