Gone are the days of seaming sock toes!
Some techniques I’ve learned were used for one project and then lost in the chaos that is my mind. Judy’s Magic Cast On (JMCO) is not one of them. It had such a great impact on me, and I’ve used it so many times on multiple projects. It is most well-known for toe-up sock knitting, but comes in handy for any edge being knit in the round that is meant to be closed shut.
The concept behind it is to be able to cast on a foundation row of stitches and work outwards on both sides (in the round) instead of leaving two edges that need to be stitched shut later on. It leaves a seamless edge (or lack of edge altogether, really), giving your project a neater look both inside and out.
As I have delved into the world of pattern designing and this is a common technique I use, I wanted to write out a step by step set of instructions with clear pictures to use for reference. I have seen a lot of video tutorials that demonstrate the cast on incredibly well, but I realize there are times when you are not in a position to watch a video, and looking at pictures is your only option. I’d also like to note that there are variations on this technique, and this is just the method I have found to be the easiest and best looking.
Here we go!
*Note: I am using circular needles and the magic loop method of knitting in the round. If you prefer to use DPNs, you may do so and redistribute the stitches onto 3 needles when knitting the first round.
Step 1: Hold two needles next to each other with your right hand so you have a ‘front needle’ and a ‘back needle’.
Step 2: Place your yarn over the back needle so the tail end is closer to you, between the two needles (make sure the tail is the right length for half of the circumference of what you are casting on).
Step 3: Bring the tail end towards the back, counterclockwise behind the end that is attached to the skein, causing the yarn to form a twist around the needle.
Step 4: Tighten the twist around the needle by holding the yarn with your index finger and thumb with your palm facing downwards towards the table/ground. The tail end should be resting on your index finger, and the skein end resting on your thumb (opposite from long tail cast on).
Step 5: Using your index finger, bring the yarn to the front of both needles from the bottom and carry it over the front needle and down between the two needles. That creates one stitch on the front needle. You now have one stitch on each needle (including the twist made when setting up).
Step 7: Repeat step 5. You should now have 2 stitches per needle.
Repeat this process until you have casted on the appropriate number of stitches needed for your pattern, alternating between using your thumb to make a stitch on the back needle, and your index to make a stitch on the front needle. End with a stitch on the front needle. This should result in an equal number of stitches per needle.
For visitors who are here looking for help on one of my patterns (Winter’s Weather Knits), “JMCO” stops at this point, and you can start the first step of the pattern instructions. If you need help with knitting the first round, continue reading below.
Knitting the First Round:
Step 8: Hold both needles with your left hand such that the front needle with the tail end is now in the back. Hold the tail down towards the back.
Step 9: You are now ready to start knitting the first round by inserting your needle into the first stitch that is now on the back needle (the tail end you are holding down). If using circular needles, pull the front needle through to knit with. If you are using DPNs, use a third needle for the first half of the row, and a fourth needle for the remainder (distributing your stitches across 3 needles). Knit across the row.
Step 10: Rotate your work to continue knitting in the round on the other side. If using circular needles, slide the stitches on the wire onto the free needle, and pull the other one through to use to knit. Knit across the row.
Your finished cast on should look like two rows of stitches between two rows of live stitches. As you continue to knit in the round, it will look less flat, and a tube will form as if you had been knitting in the round and sewed the cast on edge flat.
Please let me know if you are confused at all and I will clarify and provide updates to these instructions!
Good luck with your projects (: