How to Knit With the Long-Tail Cast-On Method

long-tail cast-on knitting method

The Spruce

Project Overview
  • Total Time: 10 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Many knitters choose to begin their knitting projects with a technique called the long-tail cast-on. This easy method is one of the fastest ways to get stitches onto the needles. There are a few tricks to it, but once you get it, you'll have no problems.

The long-tail cast-on method is versatile and will work for almost any knitting project. Better yet, the cast-on makes a row of bumps that count as a row of knitting. If you're working the stockinette stitch, you can start with a purl row instead of a knit row when you cast-on with this method.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Knitting needles


  • Yarn


  1. Set up for a Successful Long-Tail Cast-On

    As with many other cast-on methods, such as the German twisted cast-on method, the long-tail cast-on begins by forming a slip knot.

    Unlike the knit cast-on or cable cast-on, this one does not begin near the beginning of the ball of yarn. Instead, you have to start with a long tail, and the stitches are formed using both the tail and the yarn attached to the ball.

    The trick is to make sure that the tail is long enough for your project. There are a variety of ways that you can estimate how long your tail needs to be. Yet, it never fails that at some point you will underestimate and have to begin again and that's OK. It happens to everyone.

    Once you've measured out how long your long-tail needs to be, ​you can form the slip knot. After the slip knot is secured, hold the needle in your right hand.

    Position the work so the yarn attached to the ball is in front. Wrap this strand around your left thumb, so it goes counter-clockwise around the thumb. The tail should go over your index finger and be held loosely between the two fingers.

    Some knitters wrap the ball-end yarn around the thumb as described, but many also do it with the tail end around the thumb. You basically get the same result.

    Beginning the long-tail cast on.
    The Spruce / Sarah White
  2. Make the Loop

    To make the loop in​ a long-tail cast-on, slip the tip of the needle under the thread that is around your thumb (the yarn attached to the ball). 

    Stretch the needle back over the other strands and behind the yarn around your index finger (the long-tail).

    Slip the needle under the long tail thread and then through the loop that is formed around the thumb.

    Essentially, you're going back over the thread that is around the back of your thumb and under the loop that is around the front of your thumb.

    Making the loop.
    The Spruce / Sarah White
  3. Finish the Stitch

    The final step in making a stitch for the long-tail cast-on method is to simply slide the loop of your left thumb and pull the thread so that the loop holds onto the needle. Make sure not to pull too tightly. 

    To continue making stitches, loop the yarn that is attached to the ball back around your thumb and repeat as many times as needed for your project.


    Remember that the slip knot loop counts as a stitch.

    The great thing about the long-tail cast-on is that once you get the hang of it, you can complete the stitches very quickly.

    Two stitches cast on using the long-tail method.
    The Spruce / Sarah White

Are You Struggling?

It can, admittedly, be tricky to figure out the needle movement at first. There is really only one way to twist around the pieces of yarn to successfully get a closed-loop onto the needle. If you don't weave the needles around the yarn correctly, you will end up with a loose wrap of yarn around the needle. The goal is to get a sort of knot.

If you're struggling, start over with the slip knot, reset the yarn on your fingers, and try again. Once you get it, it's truly an AHA! moment. You'll see.