Cast-on knitting too tight or too loose? Try these expert tips

We’ll bet there are many of you who are “crossover crafters,” immersed in not only quilting, but other fiber arts as well. How do we know? Well, we feel like the people in our office are a microcosm of quilters everywhere, and none of us have only one passion when it comes to creativity!

Cast On, Bind OffRight now some of the staffers in the Martingale office are nuts about trying knitting for the first time. Others have been knitting for years. Both groups benefit from a best-selling book about how to cast on and bind off in knitting: appropriately, its title is Cast On, Bind Off!

No matter whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, every knitter starts with step one: casting on. If you’re new to knitting, you might find that your cast-on stitches are too tight or too loose. Today we’re sharing some helpful tips from best-selling author Cap Sease that are crucial to getting your next knitting project off to a great start—from the very first stitch!

Cap SeaseTips for Casting On

Excerpted from Cast On, Bind Off by Cap Sease

Everyone knits differently. Although patterns call for a needle of a certain size, you may find that you cast on more tightly or loosely than a project specifies.

If your cast-on stitches are too tight, many people recommend casting on with needles one or two sizes larger than the needles called for in the pattern. Doing this does loosen the stitches, but it can also cause the first row of stitches to be elongated and look different from the rest of your knitting. It can be more effective to space the stitches farther apart on the needle as you cast on. This will give you a little extra yarn, allowing the stitches to become slightly bigger when knitting the first row.

Cast-on examples
Three of more than 120 cast-on examples from
Cast On, Bind Off

If your cast-on stitches are too loose, you can try using needles a size or two smaller. But make sure you don’t overcompensate and make your stitches too tight. You can also try to space the stitches closer together on the needle as you cast on.

SlipknotMost cast ons start with a slipknot (right). Although the knots generally end up in the seam of your garment where they don’t show, many people simply do not like slipknots in their knitting. If you’re in this group, choose a method such as a loop, knit, or cable cast on where the knot is at the beginning of the row of stitches.

Twist start cast onAfter casting on, you can undo the knot and easily remove it from the needle. However, there are many methods for which this won’t work, including the long-tail cast ons. For these, you can use the twist start technique (left), which you’ll find in Cast On, Bind Off.

Get more practical tips, along with 211 cast-on and bind-off techniques, in Cast On, Bind Off—pick up your copy wherever books are sold or at our website, The book’s available in softcover or in hardcover with a concealed-spiral binding, so you can pick your favorite format!

What kind of creative pursuits do you have other than quilting?

  • Sewing bags, clothes, or home-decor items
  • Knitting
  • Crocheting
  • Embroidery
  • Have a seat . . . listing them all is going to take a while!

Tell us in the comments!

28 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I have been enjoy redwork lately. I like to knit in the winter, but have only done scarves and once, a prayer shawl. Quilting, however, is still my favorite. Thanks for taking the time to blog. I enjoy reading it.

    Thank you Donna, that makes our day to hear that you enjoy the blog! –Jenny

    —Donna on February 22, 2019
  • Garment sewing, knitting, crocheting, embroidery — I enjoy them all.

    —stitching mom on February 22, 2019
  • Quilting is my first love, but I also love machine embroidery and sometimes crochet. I tried knitting, but I wasn’t good at it. I used to make my own clothes, but that got expensive. I do have a problem of my cast on being tighter than the rest of my crochet. I taught my friend to crochet and now she is great and I am still at a beginning level.

    —Kay on February 22, 2019
  • I am 72 years young, years ago I decided I wanted to teach myself to sew. I used discarded jeans that I would launder then tear and rip into pieces to use to create the designs I saw in my head. As my skills improved I started being stopped on the street, when wearing my creations, by people who wanted me to make them a full length or jacket length coat in my FRAYED styles. Hear I am now teaching my own daughter to make these items. She loves this BOHO style and is getting ready to launch a website for me next month (SewAlabama). Once this is up and going, please look it over and let me know what you think. Never be afraid to color out of the lines or be different. If you can see it in your mind’s eye…you can make it. If I can do it…anyone can. Love each and everyone of my fellow creative friends out there. You are NEVER too old to feel YOUNG again! If you don’t step out there and try it now then WHEN?

    We love your approach to creativity, Penny – thanks for sharing your story! –Jenny

    Penny Dudley on February 22, 2019
  • I have done just about everything at one time or another. Sewing my own clothes, knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking, quilting lots of types of different projects, and wool work as well. Right now, I’m focusing on quilting and knitting! I’m in the process of knitting a hooded sweater for my one year old granddaughter. Can’t wait to finish it and see it on her!!

    —Phyllis Beneditz on February 22, 2019
  • I admit I have an obsession with fabric and yarn🙋🏼‍♀️ I enjoy quilting,sewing,knitting weaving,embroidery,applique and even heat transfer vinyl! It is crazy fun!

    —Rebecca on February 22, 2019
  • Quilting is my first choice go to but also do knitting and machine embroidery. Over the years have tried almost any hobby you can name.

    —Peggy on February 22, 2019
  • Besides quilting I do totes, coasters, soup cozies and other things for around the house. I also do wool applique and embroidery. I do some crochet, but knitting still makes me nervous. I would love to be able to knit when the other projects won’t work.

    —Patty F. on February 22, 2019
  • Definitely have a seat, I do all of the above plus rug-hooking and braiding, reproduction cotton batting ornaments, wood refinishing, plastering, beadwork and odds and ends of other crafts. Have sampled many things but these are the ones that keep me most occupied.

    —patricia vastine on February 22, 2019
  • Yes, I do quilt… along with making pillowcases and placemats for charity. I knit baby blankets for the women’s shelter. I knit hats for the shelter in MN near our cabin. I knit tiny hats for the grief support office at the hospital (these are for miscarried and still born babies). I tat — it’s just so portable. And I’ve been in and out of the bobbin lacemaking community for decades.

    There is no wasted time… there’s always a person or a cause or an institution that can use our fiber rich life-styles.


    —Kay on February 22, 2019
  • Pull up a chair…I enjoy everything fiber related. My mother taught me to embroider when I was very young. Began sewing my clothes in junior high and went on to sew everything from prom dresses to a deer skin coat for my brother. Taught myself to knit and crochet. Later took lessons to learn to spin and weave. There are just not enough hours in the day or days in the week!

    —Pearl on February 22, 2019
  • I see that I am not alone in having many creative endeavors! Besides quilting and knitting, I also crochet, do counted x-stitch and needlepoint. I have also dabbled in many other crafty pursuits. When lists come up, most likely I have tried every one mentioned.

    —Linda Towers on February 22, 2019
  • Pull up a chair – besides quilting,(traditional quilting and have started doing Judy Neimeyer paper piecing patterns), I knit, crochet, weave, do red work, embroidery, Brazilian Dimensional Embroidery, craft sewing. wool applique, fusible applique, needle turn applique, make kennel quilts for animal shelters around the U.S. and Primitive Rug Hooking. I have projects going in each category so I never get bored, just move from one to another and as one is finished, you must start another.

    —connie in florissant on February 22, 2019
  • Ironically, I had done all of the others before learning to quilt but since becoming Quilt Obsessed, have a hard time making room for anything else (I’m talking about you sock knitting)! However, what I’ve found over time is that I now want to get back to those other crafts too. More often than not a knitted, crocheted or embroidered item can either complement a quilt project or embellish one.

    Vivian B. on February 22, 2019
  • I nit, crochet, needlepoint, have done cross stitch and still love smocking, heirloom sewing and just about anything that had a fiber involved!

    —Judi Reiss on February 22, 2019
  • I enjoy knitting as well as quilting. I feel I am more confident with quilting

    —Mary Lou on February 22, 2019
  • I dabble in embroidery and wool applique in addition to quilting. I know how to knit and crochet, but they have definitely taken a back seat since I took up quilting.

    —SandyMay on February 22, 2019
  • I’ve been sewing since Jr High (’64-’66). I sew apparel, doll clothes, bags and totes, and so many quilts which are in various stages of progress. I also taught myself to knit and crochet (many many years ago), and have made sweaters to afghans. I do jewelry making, and have also done a lot of silk flower arrangements. Never enough time!

    —Wendy B on February 22, 2019
  • Besides quilting, sewing/mending, beginning knitting, paper crafts, and music and gardening.

    —Susan on February 22, 2019
  • Pull up a chair – I don’t do all at the same time…I seem to go through phases. Traditional quilting, crazy quilting, embroidery, beaded embroidery, garment sewing, home decor sewing, craft sewing, handspinning, weaving, knitting, crochet, dyeing, needle tatting, felting, fine oil painting, craft painting, glass painting. I probably forgot a few! Sadly, I have no aptitude for woodworking.

    —Sandy on February 22, 2019
  • I’ve made bags and done crochet and embroidery. I’m working on learning knitting, but it’s not going so well. I just bought supplies today to try watercolor painting on white fabric to use in a future quilt.

    —Verna A. on February 22, 2019
  • My list is long!

    —Robin on February 22, 2019
  • Besides quilting and applique — I do general "crafts" in that I teach crafting things to children (volunteer), I read, and garden, bake

    —Geri on February 22, 2019
  • Have a seat, this will take a loooong time. At this stage of my life I am trying to limit myself. I do applique, but really like to do it and listen to football. Alas that is over til Aug.

    —Stephanie on February 22, 2019
  • I used to knit before my girls were born. I think I may take it up again. I was pretty good but I can’t knit anymore. I do some embroidery if my quilt calls for it. But I’m not good at that either. So I keep quilting which I am good at doing.

    —Barb Walsh on February 22, 2019
  • Besides quilting i like knitting cross stitch and embroidery. The book would be very helpfull since my bind off is sometimes not loose enough

    —A. Bouwman on February 23, 2019
  • Ummmm, we need to add paper craft, macramé, and well, I guess I’m just a jill of all trades! This book looks great!

    —Jackie on February 25, 2019
  • Quilting, knitting, cross stitch, wool applique, crochet. I am not an advanced knitter at all, only making scarves with the garter stitch.

    —Nancy on February 26, 2019

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