Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How I Do Judy's Magic Cast-On...

THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED. Please see new updated post here.

How I do Judy's Magic Cast On is a little different. I start on the bottom needle. (I do this with the purl version too, as you may have noticed already).

This is just personal preference.
Cat Bordhi, Wendy Johnson, and Chrissy Gardiner (and probably others) all teach it the same way, starting on the top, but aside from this my method is nearly the same as theirs. Note that their collective method differs a little from the original 2006 publication, with respect to stitch mount (see the *notable word on my JMCO-purl post, for more about that).

I prefer to start on the bottom for a couple of reasons:

  • I personally find it easier to end on the top needle. I think it makes for an easier transition when you turn your work and continue knitting in the round. And if I end on the top, I want to start on the bottom, so I have an equal number of stitches on the needles.
  • Judy’s Magic Rib (which I *will* eventually get around to posting… it’s taken a lot more time than I expected) transitions between knit and purl after a top-needle wrap.

Starting on the bottom means that the first step is different. The other thing about my method that is a little different from Cat/Wendy/Chrissy is that I rotate the yarn around the needles in big circles with my left arm, rather than rotate the needles around the yarn with my right wrist. Trust me, you end up with the same end result. I just find the bigger motion to be more ergonomically friendly.

Bottom-needle starting position:
Wrap the yarn around the bottom needle like so. The working yarn (black) comes over the front of the needle, held securely with your thumb. Hold the tail (red) in back with your forefinger.

Step 1: Wrap the working yarn around the top needle.

This first step is a little tricky (sorry!) but you only have to do it once. You’re going to arc your left hand in a full circle around your needles, and catch the working yarn (black) with your top needle halfway around.

a. Hold both ends of the yarn securely in your left hand, and hold your needles securely in your right. Swing your left hand up above the needles, in a circular motion towards you.

After you swing your hand up, your yarn is going to cross, like this. Note how the tail (red) now comes around the front of the needle from underneath, and crosses behind the working yarn (black).

b. Slip the top needle just above where the yarn crosses.

c. Now bring your hand back down behind both needles to starting hand position, in a circular motion away from you. Note that when you do this, the working yarn (black) will cross over the top needle, and the tail (red) will cross behind the working yarn.

There. You're done with the hard part -- you’ve just made the first stitch on your top needle. You now have one stitch on each needle.

From here out you can ignore the rest of my instructions and follow Cat/Wendy/Chrissy's (but, remember to end with the top needle). Or, keep reading if you want to see how I get the same end result with a different set of motions.

Step 2: Wrap the tail around the bottom needle.

With your forefinger, bring the tail under and in front of the bottom needle, and then slip it behind the top needle.

The result will look like this:

Step 3: Wrap the working yarn around the top needle.

a. With your thumb, bring the working yarn behind the bottom needle, then in front of the top needle. Swing your whole hand up as you do this.

The result will look like this:

b. Now swing your hand back down behind both needles, in a circular motion away from you, back to starting position.

The result will look like this:
You now have two stitches on each of your needles.

At this point, keep repeating steps 2 and 3 until you have the desired number of stitches on your needles. Here’s what it will look like after you do this three more times:

Let's take a closer look:
You can see in the image above that the end result looks the same as stockinette stitch, and that the stitch mount on the top and bottom needles is reversed. This means that when you turn your needles 180 degrees to knit across your bottom needle (pink)...
...you can knit normally. You don't have to do anything special to secure the tail end, and you don't have to knit through any back loops. Just let go of the tail and knit across the red loops with the working yarn. Yay! :)


  1. I like your modification. I will save it in my techniques folder and practise it a few times.
    And how did you learn to do such clear, helpful illustrations?

  2. You guys have no idea how happy your comments make me. :) I'm thrilled that you find the instructions helpful! To answer your question: I have several excellent mentors (most notably, Cat Bordhi and TechKnitter) whose work serves as great examples for me, and who have provided support and feedback throughout my learning process. I do all the work in Illustrator, and I have been working very hard to get more skilled and more efficient with it. It has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point, and the more I learn, the more I can see how much more I have to learn!

  3. I think it's really great that you went through all the trouble to do illustrate this process. I went through and tried it out for the second sock in a pair, only to realize that somewhere along the way I had mixed up the original instructions and had been doing it with your modifications. It really is a lot easier to do from the bottom needle!

  4. Helloooooo... I also start on the bottom needle and thank God I found you to share the same opinion!!! Your explanation is wonderful! Thank you VERY VERY much!!!