I begin by measuring out a length of yarn. The length will vary depending on the project. Basically, I estimate I'll need about an inch per set that I will cast-on to the needle plus some extra for the tail, usually about 3-5 inches. For instance, for 20 sets I'll need about 25 inches of yarn. I recommend measuring this off until you're more comfortable with your lengths and knitting.
After measuring your tail length, go up about an inch and pinch the yarn at that point. Take the yarn coming off the skein and wrap it around the back of your first two fingers, still pinching the yarn tail, palm facing you. Unpinch your fingers and let the tail end fall between your thumb and palm and repinch it there. Continue wrapping the yarn from the skein around your pointer finger, gently separate your pointer and middle finger and stick the yarn from the skein through the loop you have created. Pinch the piece of yarn you put through the loop and and pull your loop tight. Then place the loop you made on to your needle. Make sure that your knot will slide on the needle otherwise it's too tight. You have created your slip knot! HOORAY!
** Note ** If you don't like the long tail cast-on method simply leave a 3-5 inch tail and follow the same steps as noted above. I like the long-tail because I think it's sturdier as you cast-on the entire tail and tie back on to your skein end when ready to start knitting. This way you'll never lose the cast-on unless you choose to and if the tail gets caught and starts to pull out stitches it won't ruin the entire project! I also make my cable & knit cast-ons long-tail.
Now that you have your knot you need to determine how you'd like to cast-on the remaining sets. You'll need to consider whether or not this will be a permanent edge, if it needs to be an elastic edge or tight, etc...
The most common types are:
- Backward loop or E Cast-On - for shaping, unstable edge
- Long-Tail Cast-On - (noted above - also called the Continental Cast-On) firm, but elastic edge that appears to be knit on one side and purl on the other
- Cable Cast-On - very firm, twisted appear, good for scarves, afghans and sweaters for a nice edge detail
- Knitted Cast-On - soft, elastic edge, good for stitches that will be sown later
- Crochet Chain Provisional Cast-On - temporary cast-on, usually in a contrasting color
- Invisible or Open Cast-On - temporary cast-on, not very sturdy
Here are some links you might like to try for the cast-on or slip knot:
Here is a slip knot and cast-on instruction from YouTube that I really like. She shows you the Long-Tail Cast-On noted above. -
Good luck and happy stitching!