Avoiding Bumps on the Cast-On Edge

cast on with purl bumpsWhen it comes to those ugly bumps at the cast-on edge, my skin crawls. Those bumps are a common knitting problem — dare I call them an “error”? However, it’s easy to avoid them once you understand that your cast-on has a right side and a wrong side.

The following explanations and video apply to right-handed knitters. Left-handed knitters, you may be casting on and knitting differently, but you should read and watch the video to understand the concept. Adapt it as necessary to fit your knitting technique.

Long-Tail Cast On

closeup of long tail cast on
Right side of long-tail cast on

When you cast on stitches using the long-tail method, the stitches are on the right needle at the completion of the cast on. You are looking at what is generally considered the “right side” of the cast on.

closeup of wrong side of long tail cast on
Wrong side of long-tail cast on

When you turn needle to put it in your left hand in preparation to work the first row, the purl side of the cast on is facing you. It’s usually considered the “wrong side” of the cast on.

If you knit that first row, you are knitting a wrong side row. This is perfectly fine if you are working garter stitch or reverse stockinette stitch, but stockinette stitch is “knit right side rows, purl wrong side rows”.

If you knit the first row after a long-tail cast-on, you’ll get a series of purl bumps on the right side (the knit side).

Instead of knitting the first row, simply purl the first row (a wrong side row), and continue with stockinette stitch.

Cable Cast On

close-up of cable cast on
Right side of cable cast on

When you cast on stitches with the cable cast on method, the stitches are on the left needle at the completion of the cast on. The right side of the cast on is facing you, and you don’t have to turn the needle around to start the first row. Therefore, knit the first row to avoid the bumps.

Knitted Cast On

Right side of knitted cast on
Right side of knitted cast on

The knitted cast on works the same way as the cable cast on. The cast on stitches are on the left needle, so just knit the first row and there won’t be any bumps.

The Solution

stockinette stitch with smooth cast onNo matter which cast on you use — and there are many more than these to choose from — pay attention to whether it has a smooth side and a bumpy side. In most cases, choose the smooth side as your right side and work the first row accordingly. You’ll avoid those bumps on your cast-on edge, and the State Fair knitter in you can be proud.

For more knitting tips, visit Knit: Basics & Beyond.



The Skills You Don’t Know

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 My 75-year-old neighbor called me one day and said, “Do you still do that knitting thing?”

I admitted that I did, and she asked if she could come over for some help. The sweater she had knit for her grandson wouldn’t fit over his head. I expected that it would be any easy fix: I would just show her how to do a more flexible bind-off for the neckband, and she’d be all set.

She arrived with a beautifully knit pullover. Unfortunately, the solution to her problem was not so simple. The cast-on edge at the bottom of the sweater was too tight to stretch over the child’s shoulders as it was being put on.

Me: What cast-on did you use, Helen?
Helen: The cast-on, like I’ve done for over 60 years.
Me: Which one is that?
Helen (spoken slowly and with a look of incredulity that a “professional knitter” would ask such a thing): You know, The Cast-On. The one where you don’t have any stitches on the needle and you put stitches on the needle so you can knit them.


Long Tail Cast On
Long Tail Cast On

It was at that moment I realized that not only did Helen know only one way to cast on, she didn’t realize that there were other ways of putting stitches on the needle. I explained to her that there are many different cast-ons, one of which might have resulted in a stretchier lower edge. She was both amazed and chagrined to find out that there were alternatives to a technique that she had been doing her entire knitting career.

M1-R and M1-L
Make 1-Right and Make 1-Left

Learning What to Learn

We’re all a bit like Helen, I think. Whether it’s knitting or crochet, there’s always something new to learn, but sometimes we don’t know what that something is.

Just last week, I watched an online class** taught by Sally Melville and learned a tweak that will help me remember, without experimentation (my previous method), which increase is M1-R and which is M1-L. I’m always trying to continue my education and figure out what I don’t know. To that end, I’m compiling a list of knit and crochet techniques that I want to be sure I’ve mastered. Check out my page Knit: Basics & Beyond and Crochet: Basics & Beyond as resources.

What’s on your list? Where do you go to learn new techniques and how do you determine what you don’t know? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below or via Facebook.

Cast On Resources


40 Ways to Cast On & Bind Off

More Ways to Cast On & Bind Off