Two Double Knit Cast Ons

One of my knitting fantacies is to make a sock using double knitting. An even steamier sock fantacy is to make a sock within a sock using double knitting, but one step at a time, right?

Double knitting is a technique that lets knitters make a tube on a straight needle. In a nutshell, the idea is to cast on an even number of stitches then * slip one, knit one * on an even number of rows, as two rows make one round. I’ll go into more details in a future post. For now, I’ll cover two methods of casting on for double knitting: one that is suitable for the open cuff end of a sock and another that is suitable for the closed toe end.

Open Cast on for Double Knitting

This is really just the simple cast on worked with two strands of yarn.

1. Use the yarn to tie a slip knot around the needle, leaving a long tail. The tail should be a little more than three times longer than the circumference of the item you’re going to make. If the sock is 8 inches around, the tail needs to be a little over 24 inches long.
2. Hold the needle in your right hand. This is the only needle you will use.
3. Position your left hand as you do for the long-tail cast on: your thumb and fingers are holding an imaginary glass of water.
4. Hang the tail end of the yarn on your thumb so that it goes over the top and down in front (nail side). The needle is pointing left between your thumb and index finger. The free end of the tail is on the side of your thumb that is closest to your wrist.
5. Hang the ball end of the yarn on your index finger so that the yarn goes under your index finger and away from you, behind your index finger (nail side) and up toward the ceiling, over the top of your index finger and toward you, and in front of your index finger and down. The needle is pointing left between your thumb and index finger. The ball end of the tail is between your palm and the strand that goes from needle to index finger.
6. Close your middle, ring, and little fingers around both hanging strands of yarn. The needle is pointing left, resting on your left hand. The yarn in your left hand does not form the triangle of the long-tail cast on because the yarn is wrapped around the index finger differently.
7. Make a loop with your thumb.
a. Twist the needle counterclockwise so that it points to you.
b. Point the tip of the needle down, stopping when it touches the fleshy part of your left hand.
c. Slide the tip of the needle up your thumb, stopping when you reach the tip of your thumb. The yarn around your thumb has formed a loop, and the tip of the needle is inside it.
d. Pull your thumb out of the loop, and tighten the stitch by catching the yarn with your thumb and straightening it.
8. Position the needle as in Step 6.
9. Make a loop with your index finger.
a. Point the needle down so that it’s pointing into the palm of your left hand.
b. Rest the tip of the needle at the base of your middle finger.
c. Slide the tip of the needle up your index finger, stopping when you reach the tip of your finger. The yarn around your index finger has formed a loop, and the tip of the needle is inside it.
d. Pull your finger out of the loop, and tighten the stitch by catching the yarn with your index finger and straightening it.
10. Position the needle as in Step 6.
11. Repeat Steps 6-9, ending with Step 7 for an even number of stitches.
12. Twist the working yarn and cast-on tail once.
13. Hold the needle with the stitches in your left hand.
14. Work the first two rows as follows: * k1, sl1 *.

Instead of a slip knot, you can just twist the yarn around the needle in Step 1.

Closed Cast on for Double Knitting

The official double knitting goddess is Beverly Royce. I have a scan of the 1981 edition of her book Notes on Double Knitting, but I don’t have complete publication information to share though I suspect the publisher is Schoolhouse Press. The book is generally very readable and clear, but I had an incredibly difficult time with the cast on instructions, whose details I almost understand. The instructions for Invisible Cast On 1 read as follows:

Make a fist with your left hand. Then make a letter “C” with the thumb and forefinger. Hold the “C” parallel to the floor. Leave the other fingers in a closed position. Pick up the end of the yarn in the right hand and lay it over the left thumb and on over the forefinger. Let the yarn extend about 12″ beyond the forefinger, or more, depending on how many cast on stitches are required. Then, grasp the two yarns in the other three fingers. Insert the needle, from front to back, under the yarn, from left to right and turn the needle counter-clockwise half a turn. This loop, or twist, is the first cast on stitch. You now have a yarn coming from the thumb to the twist on the needle, and a yarn coming from the forefinger to the twist. The needle, then goes over the yarn toward you, picking up a loop from the yarn coming from the thumb. Then it picks up a loop from the yarn coming from the forefinger by going over the yarn away from you. Now the needle goes under the yarn coming from the thumb. Two stitches have been cast on. Then, take the needle *over the yarn of the forefinger – over the yarn of the thumb – again over the yarn of the forefinger – then under the thumb yarn.* Four stitches have been cast on. Repeat the instructions between *’s for the required number of stitches. Always end with an “under”, as this places an even number of cast on stitches on the needle. Secure the last loop by twisting the two yarns, then begin P-S [pattern stitches] in rounds.

I spent weeks trying to trace the course of the needle and figure out how it picked up loops on its way. I finally came up with an interpretation that made sense to me and produced good results, but as I compare my instructions with Royce’s, I’m not really sure we’re saying the same thing.

Nevertheless, being an optimistic soul, I offer this alternative set of instructions. Royce suggests using a smaller needle for the cast on and first 2 rows. That makes sense. The round next to the cast on is a little looser than the rest, but not too bad.

Ana’s Instructions:

As you work this cast on, keep in mind that the stitches don’t keep their shape all that well, so it helps to hold the new stitches between the thumb and index finger of the right hand.

1. Put a slip knot on the right needle, leaving a long tail. Once you get the hang of this pattern, you can just twist the yarn around the needle as the official instructions describe.
2. Position your hands as for a long-tail cast on. The fingers of your left hand are holding an invisible glass of water. The yarn is laid over your thumb and index finger. The dangly ends are tucked into your middel, ring, and little fingers, which are curled closed. You’ve got an up-side-down triangle of yarn that goes from the middle finger upt to the thumb, over to the index finger, and down to the middle finger. The needle is in your right hand. It’s lying on the horizontal top of the triangle. One stitch is on the needle.

For the remaining instructions, the thumb yarn is the strand that goes from the thumb to the needle, and the index yarn is the strand that goes from the index finger to the needle. Those are the only strands you’re concerned with. the strands that go from thumb or index to the middle finger do not figure at all:

3. Move the needle toward you, and put it under the thumb yarn. This is the starting point.
4. With the tip of the needle, describe a circle that goes around the index strand: away from you and over the strand, down and behind the strand, and toward you and under the strand. Stop when you reach the starting point.
5. Move the needle toward you, then up, and back to where it was in step 2, the top of the horizontal part of the triangle. Once you get the hang of it, you’re really just moving the yarn with your thumb to ankor the stitch.

Bravo! You’ve cast on one stitch. the next stitch will be the same process in mirror image.

6. Move the needle away from you, and put the needle under the index yarn. This is the starting point.
7. With the tip of the needle, describe a circle that goes around the thumb strand: toward you and over the strand, down and in front of the strand, and away from you and under the strand. Stop when you reach the starting point.
8. Move the needle away from you, then up, and back to where it was in step 2, the top of the horizontal part of the triangle. Once you get the hang of it, you’re really just moving the yarn with your index finger to ankor the stitch.

Bravo! Another stitch has been cast on.

9. Repeat Steps 3 through 8 until you have the desired number of stitches, ending with Step 5 for an even number of stitches. Remember to work from one strand, then the other.
10. After the last stitch has been cast on, twist the tail and the working yarn once.
11. Work the first row as follows: * sl1, k1tbl *. The stitch will be twisted, and the ktbl untwists.
12. Work second row as follows: * sl1, k1 *.

With these two cast ons, I’m one step closer to making my double knit socks happens.

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