The beginning and the end of a beautiful relationship

There is something quite magical about both casting on and casting off a project no matter what the size.  The first is full of promise because you are starting out on a new adventure in knitting.  How long will the project take?  What challenges will you face?  Will you end up loving or hating it?  It’s a bit like a love affair, so exciting as you dive in to the unknown. Casting off, on the other hand, can be both satisfying and tinged with sadness or maybe even relief!  The journey might be over but just look at what you’ve achieved - my, you are clever.

We all have our favourite way of casting on and probably don’t think twice when we pick up our needles.  I was taught the long tail method which is nice and stretchy, great for ribs.  You might prefer a knitted or a thumb cast on.  I have always used a knitted cast off, which is probably the most common, but more recently, because I wanted a really even cast off on a pair of mitts I tried out the crochet cast off.  My goodness what a revelation - it was so even and very stable.

There are very good reasons to use one technique over another and they can have a dramatic effect on the finished look of a project.  Does your project need the cast on to be firm or stretchy?  Does it create a particular effect such as Channel Islands cast on with its bumpy effect or twined with two colours to create a wonderful border?  Here are a couple of new methods you might want to try that I have found really useful.

Learning a provisional cast on for lace is well worth the effort.  A lot of shawl patterns call for you to knit a triangle and then go back to add a border.  The provisional cast on lets you create a seamless effect that makes your project look very professional.  The most common way is to crochet a chain and then pick up the loops to start.  When you are ready to undo the cast on, the crochet chain is easy to unravel.

If you knit your socks from the toe up you might want to try Judy Becker’s Magic Cast On which has no annoying seam at the toe.  If you like to knit bags or purses, this is also a really useful technique. You can see how to do it from Judy herself, here.

With casting off, each method creates a distinctive edge.  Some are firmer than others which might be useful for a shoulder seam but if you are casting off rib, in the case of toe up socks or fingerless mitts, you may want something with a bit more stretch.  Casting off can also be really decorative and there are lots of ways to enhance a project.  The two that I would recommend you try out are the crochet cast off and the decrease cast off.

The crochet cast off uses a crochet hook instead of the second needle.  You use a single crochet stitch and work along all the stitches.  I find I can get a much more professional looking finish this way.

The decrease cast off is great for cable projects whether you need some stability at the end of each part of your garment. You can see this method here.

If you want to know more about all the techniques left to try (and there are over 200 others),you might want to check out a book called Cast On Bind Off by an American author  called Cap Sease.

And if you have your own technique you’d like to recommend please let us know.