How to Do a Cable Cast on When Knitting

Woman cast on knitting
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Overview
  • Total Time: 20 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

There are many ways to create the foundation loops of a knitting project. One of those cast-on options is known as the cable cast-on. It is very similar in method to the knit cast-on, but the final result has an entirely different appearance and a much firmer hand. Its inelasticity means this is not the best cast-on choice for edges on projects like hats or socks, which need a stretchy edge. Its handsome look may present the perfect look for a pillow or sweater, however.

Notes

The key to the cable cast-on is to keep your stitches loose. Knitters who tend to knit with a good deal of tension will find it a bit more of a challenge. If you are a tight knitter, you will have problems with not just the cast-on but also the first row of knitting. If you have to, cast on with a needle that's one size larger and switch to the pattern needle on the first row.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Knitting needles in size appropriate for yarn

Materials

  • Smooth yarn in light or bright color

Instructions

  1. Preparing to Cast on

    Starting the cable cast-on is like starting many cast-ons: make a slip knot and slide the loop onto a knitting needle, pulling gently and not too tightly. You should be able to slide easily up and down the needle.

    Unlike the long-tail cast-on, your tail just needs to be long enough to easily sew in later, say 4-6 inches in length.

    Slip Knot
    A slip knot on the needle. Sarah White licensed to About.com, Inc.
  2. Make the First Stitch

    The slip knot loop always counts as your first stitch and this is no different with the cable cast-on. The second stitch is made using the knit cast-on technique.

    • With the needle holding the slip knot at left, insert a second empty needle from front to back and left to right into the slip knot on the left needle.
    • Wrap the yarn around the inserted needle.
    • Pull the new loop back through the stitch as when making a knit stitch.

    You now have one loop on each needle.

    Forming the second stitch.
    (c) Sarah White licensed to About.com, Inc.
  3. Slip New Stitch Back

    The new loop on the right needle needs to be moved to the left needle. There are two possibilities; here's the right one to use.

    • Insert the left needle from the front and under, into the new loop on the right needle. If you look at the stitch from the front, with the top to its left and body of the needle to its right, you take the left needle to the right before inserting it upward.
    • Slide the right needle out of the stitch, leaving it on the left.

    You now have two stitches on the left needle.

    The second stitch
    The second stitch is slipped onto the left-hand needle. Sarah White licensed to About.com, Inc.
  4. Making the Next Stitch

    From this point on, the cable cast-on differs from knit cast-on. All subsequent stitches are made after inserting the right needle between the top two stitches on the left needle, not into the top stitch itself.

    Insert the right needle from front to back between the two stitches on the left needle.

    Tip

    If you have trouble inserting the right needle between the stitches, they are too tight. Slip them off and start again. Stitches should always be able to slide easily up and down a needle.

    The needle between the stitches.
    The right-hand needle between the stitches. Sarah White licensed to About.com, Inc.
  5. Draw Through a Loop

    Wrap the yarn around the right needle as when making a knit stitch, and pull the wrap back through the space between the needles.

    Third stitch.
    Forming the third stitch. Sarah White licensed to About.com, Inc.
  6. Finish and Reset

    Once again, the new stitch needs to move to the left needle.

    • Insert the left needle from the front and under, into the new loop on the right needle. If you look at the stitch from the front, with the top to its left and body of the needle to its right, you take the left needle to the right before inserting it upward.
    • Slide the right needle out of the stitch, leaving it on the left.

    You should now have three stitches on your left needle.

    Third stitch
    Finishing the third stitch. Sarah White licensed to About.com, Inc.
  7. Cast on to Desired Number of Stitches

    Keep forming stitches in this manner, making new stitches by drawing through loops from between the previous two stitches, until you have the specified number of stitches. Remember the slip knot loop counts as a stitch!