Free EBooks



Crazy for Cast-Ons (Part 1): The Old Norwegian and Some "Tail Tips"

Jan 20, 2010

Remember my list of knitting resolutions? Number 1 was to learn the Old Norwegian Cast-On. Well I did, and I want you to learn it, too. I also learned some really cool tips for "tail management" when casting on, so keep reading to the bottom of the blog!

Back to the Norwegian: This cast-on forms a sturdy, very elastic foundation row. It's worked with two ends of yarn-one that comes from the working ball of yarn and the other that comes from the tail end of that same yarn (just like the long-tail cast-on).

Here's an illustrated tutorial, and if you want a video demo, there's one that follows. (I like the combo of the video and illustration so I can easily refer back to the illustrations if I need to.)

  Step 1: Leaving a tail the necessary length, make a slipknot and place it on a needle held in your right hand. The slipknot counts as the first stitch.

Step 2: Place the thumb and index finger of your left hand between the yarn ends so that the strand connected to the ball is around your index finger and the tail end is around your thumb. Secure the yarn ends with your other fingers and hold your palm upwards, making a V of yarn (Figure 1).
Figure 1
Step 3: Bring the needle in front of your thumb, under both yarns around the thumb, down into the center of the thumb loop, back forward, and over the top of the yarn around your index finger (Figure 2).

Step 4: Use the needle to catch this yarn, then bring the needle back down through the thumb loop (Figure 3), turning your thumb slightly to make room for the needle to pass through. 

Figures 2 and 3

Step 5: Drop the loop off your thumb (Figure 4) and place your thumb back in the V configuration while tightening up the resulting stitch on the needle (Figure 5).

Repeat steps 3 through 5 for the desired number of stitches.
(Instructions from Ann Budd's book Getting Started Knitting Socks)

Figures 4 and 5

My friend Mimi showed me how to do this cast-on, and she let me shoot a video of her doing it for you! There's a lot of "twisty-turny" in this cast-on, so watch carefully!

I've had many comments on the Knitting Daily site about how great this cast-on is for top-down socks, so here is a link to our free sock pattern booklet: Knitting Socks with Knitting Daily: 5 Free Sock Knitting Patterns!  

The Long Tail (and sometimes the not-long-enough tail!)

One of the questions I get a lot on the message boards is how to estimate the length of tail you need for a long-tail cast-on. I once had to cast on 790 stitches for a circular shawl. Eek! I used two balls of yarn to cast on, one for the tail and one for the working yarn, so I knew I wouldn't run out of yarn (I also placed a marker every 50 stitches so I only had to count to 790 once). See the video below for a demo of this technique.

Normally, though, I just leave an inch or so per stitch if I'm casting on to size 5 or larger needles, and a little less for smaller needles.

The following video shows several cast-on techniques and provides some tips, too. The segment is from Knitting Daily TV season 4 (which starts airing TODAY in Spokane, or get the whole season of DVDs here).

Part 2 of Crazy for Cast-Ons will come to you in February. We'll talk about provisional cast-ons in part 2, and I'll give you a couple of patterns to use to practice, too!


Featured Product

Knitting Daily TV Series 400 DVD

Availability: In Stock
Was: $39.99
Sale: $35.99


Join host Eunny Jang and experts Shay Pendray and Kristin Omdahl on Series 400 of Knitting Daily TV, where fiber takes center stage!


Related Posts
+ Add a comment


MollieLazear wrote
on May 8, 2012 12:16 AM

Guess what...the illustration you posted is what we call the German Twisted cast on, and it does NOT match the action in the video.  Look close.

MetteB@2 wrote
on May 7, 2012 12:39 PM

it's similar to what I do (Danish method!).... however have a try ti CO on TWO needles, then slip one off and the first row will easiy be knitted!

mahaka wrote
on Feb 18, 2010 4:21 PM

these are great.  I thought I was good cause I use the knit-on cast on.  Now I have to go play!

BlissBlood wrote
on Feb 12, 2010 10:44 AM

Interesting, I'll have to try it.  For the whole time I've been knitting I just cast on as if making a knit stitch (first in the slip stitch, and then between the two stitches on the left hand needle), twisting around and putting back on the left hand needle.  

CarolC wrote
on Feb 5, 2010 9:00 AM

Wow! What an informative clip. I really enjoyed both guests - they complemented each other's skills, and were able to comment on the pros, and sometimes cons, of each cast on. I was familiar with the long tail and knitted cast on, but the tubular cast on was new to me. I can see using it on lots and lots of kids' hats. Thanks.


gna wrote
on Jan 26, 2010 5:50 PM

what would the Norwegian cast on be better used on?? sweater edges ? socks

Best Regards


Nadeshda wrote
on Jan 26, 2010 8:38 AM

that's how they teach to cast on in German schools. I took home economics there

Peggy@110 wrote
on Jan 24, 2010 11:23 PM

In the past I haven't had any problems viewing the videos, however that is no longer true.  Did you change anything (or do I have a computer problem)?

tangoaclown wrote
on Jan 24, 2010 7:44 PM

WOW!!!  I know how to do the Norwegian Cast On and didn't know I did!!!  AWESOME!

Lois Newton wrote
on Jan 23, 2010 7:06 PM

I've found that when trying to estimate how long to make the "tail" for the long-tail cast-on method, one length of my arm to my collarbone equals roughly 50 stitches on size 8 or 9 needles w/worsted weight yarn.  I estimate from that rule of thumb how much to adjust the length if I'm using larger or smaller needles or thicker or thinner yarn.

kkelly wrote
on Jan 23, 2010 4:54 PM

Have been trying to get this from a book and couldn't figure it out but with the video I've got it - and love it!  Thanks!

LiisaM wrote
on Jan 23, 2010 1:11 PM

Thank you for showing this unique way to cast on AND for the video clip. Would it be possible to have a longer video clip and a picture of the cast on stitches to see what they actually look like? This looks like a challenge for a brand new pair of socks.


LadyKRose wrote
on Jan 23, 2010 12:49 PM

Hmmm.........old dogs can learn new tricks.   I read the instructions, watched the video several times and tried the cast on .................only to get two stitches on the needle without the nice edge on the bottom.  Then, I did it right by accident once.   That did it.   I kept at it until I could do this cast on correctly.   It is stretchy, even on the needle without any rows of knitting.  Then I looked in the "Knitting in the old way" book and found the same cast on which I had tried before without success.  This time it made sense and I was able to do this cast on.  

I plan to use it on the helmet liner for our troops on the next one I do.  I'm sure it will be a better cast on for the heavy use the helmet liners are sure to get.   Thanks.

AnneC@3 wrote
on Jan 23, 2010 8:58 AM

Got it now! The Norwegian Cast-on... if you're ending up with 2 stiches (I was in the beginning), then on step 4 you have to turn your thumb so that the thumb loop slides over the thread on the needle that you just placed from your index finger. I just love your tips and projects...thanks Knitting Daily!

AnneC@3 wrote
on Jan 23, 2010 8:27 AM

The video really helped me understand this. I practiced while she repeated over and over. It seemed like each repetition created 2 stitches. Is that correct?

on Jan 22, 2010 8:38 PM

My grandmother cast on like this and she was from Switzerland. She liked this method because she said it provided a stronger base row.

on Jan 22, 2010 8:34 PM

Wow!  The old Norwegian cast on is the one my mother taught back in the 1970's - it was just the way you cast on stitches (she was a casual knitter).  I knit a sweater that didn't fit (too big) and tried to correct it by fulling (uh, felting?  Yup, too small) and that was the last bit of knitting I did until . . . 2005.  A friend gave me a pair of needles and a ball of yarn, and showed me how to do what I know now as "purse stitch" (a la Mary Thomas),  Ok, so that project qualified as a girl scout bandana ("miniture shawl"?).  

These days, however, I'm a bit wiser and more persistent, and folks (myself included) actually wear what I make.  Where would I be without my Knitting Daily?

on Jan 22, 2010 7:22 PM

My mother taught me to knit many years ago now.  I didn't enjoy the technique she taught me to cast on and even to knit.  I felt it was tedious and slow.  So, I carefully watched how the process went and figured out a way to cast on with one hand.  I since have found out that it is called continental cast on.  It does look very much like the old norwegian technique minus the "twist" and untwist.  I also worked on knitting with most of my work in my left hand: knit and purl.  I found it to be so much faster.  I thought how smart I was to create such a fantastic way to knit.  No one else I knew could knit that way.  The one day I was looking through a knitting book in the library and found that I had "created" the continental method for this as well! It is so intriguing to find so many different cast on and knitting techniques! I enjoy your newsletters!

Zaz wrote
on Jan 22, 2010 1:34 PM

on how to estimate the length of tail you need for a long-tail cast-on:

i've been taught as a child that each length of a needle makes for 20 stitches -the needles then were all 40 cm needles.

it works on approximatively all of my yarns except that i know for a fact i need more than just one length for 20 stitches when it's one that requires a n° 8 mm and above and it's less when it requires a 3 mm number of needles and smaller.

i usually hit right on with around 10 cms hanging and that's what i want.

LadyKRose wrote
on Jan 22, 2010 12:18 PM

I've tried this cast on before and I get so lost in all t he twists and turns.   I know that I'm missing something in t his technique and if someone could help me with that, I'm sure I could do it.   Sort of looks like you're gathering around the yarn before the final loop.  I just get a bunch of loops.   Where and how do you pick up the yarn in the twists?   I don't believe that is covered in this short lesson.   I'd love a better cast on for top down socks.   Thanks bunches and tons.  ;~)))

Annemarie CD wrote
on Jan 22, 2010 5:55 AM

Is the Norwegian Cast On the same as the Estonian Cast On?

I absolutely love the look of this cast on.

Thanks for youe wonderful tutorials.


Minnesota E wrote
on Jan 21, 2010 8:31 PM

jnlfamily asked where to find the written instructions. I found them here:

I taught myself this method this summer from Ann Budd's sock book and really like it. Thanks for the video though it does the end slightly different it ends up the same.

agladewe wrote
on Jan 21, 2010 6:41 PM

Hello! Just like to compliment HaleyL on the great estimation tip! Thanks! Though I'm pretty good at guesstimating-- this seems a surer method!  And glad I could help Ase!   Rachel

ChristineT wrote
on Jan 21, 2010 2:26 PM

I'm having the same problem as Alice.  I can't figure out how to slip it off without two stitches on the needle.  


on Jan 21, 2010 1:54 PM

According to Elizabeth Zimmerman you don't need to start your long tail cast on with a slip knot.  Sometimes that knot shows and doesn't look nice.  Just wrap the yarn around the needle at the point you would have made the knot, cross the two threads to make the v (you want the front thread over your finger and the back thread over your thumb.  The loop you just created is your first stitch.  I have done it for years since I saw EZ do it on one of her videos.

karasgt wrote
on Jan 21, 2010 1:01 PM

I have tried this over and over and I end up with 2 stitches on the needle!!

jnlfamily wrote
on Jan 21, 2010 9:37 AM

How can I receive printed instructions of these cast-ons?

librarymarna wrote
on Jan 21, 2010 9:36 AM

This is fabulous. Just started a pair of socks and now will restart and use this method of casting on. I wanted the socks a little longer on top and with this cast on I know it won't be too tight up higher on my calf. Thanks for the excellent video!

SelahIsrael wrote
on Jan 21, 2010 8:14 AM

I wondered if I was the only one to mark 10 or 20 stitches when casting on over 100 stitches

JennyC@5 wrote
on Jan 21, 2010 6:24 AM

IT would have been nice to see what the finished result of the Norwegian cast on looked like.  The diagrams were good but didn't provide that view.

I couldn't open and download the video's so couldn't get to see the result there either.


�seS wrote
on Jan 21, 2010 2:34 AM

Thank you, aagladew/Rachel for your cast on that I never heard about before. It's much strechier than the German/Norwegian cast on. I am swedish too, but until I started to read about knittig on internet, I only used normal long tail cast on, which I nowadays find much too inelastic. Kind regards Åse

cefa wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 11:45 PM

The old Norwegian... and not-enough-long tail...

First of all: "Norwegian"??? well, might be, I'm Swedish and and this is the way it is done all over Scandinavia.... ;-) and most of Europe (not GB?)

Then to the not-long-enough tail: take two "tails" of yarn, start with the knot in the beginning of those two tails and cast-on all your 700 stitches the same way as shown above, then skip tail number two (skip the first knot as well). This is easier and you may even have two colours in your cast-on this way.

Kind regards, Cecilia

HaleyL wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 8:49 PM

When I do this kind of cast on, I first make a slipknot with a 20 inch tail.  I then cast on ten stitches and remeasure the tail to see how much yarn it took to cast on ten stitches (e.g., if the tail is now 14 inches then it took 6 inches to cast on ten stitches because 20-14=6).  I then divide my total number of stitches by ten and then multiply that number by the number of inches it took to cast on ten stitches (in my example, 6).  So if I had to cast on 230 stitches, then 230/10=23 and 23x6=138.  I need at least 138 inch tail.  (That's a long tail!)  Then I add an extra 4-10 inches or so for good measure and that's how long of a tail I leave.  Hope this makes sense.  It seems a little complicated, but is really quite simple.  

pemasiera wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 8:08 PM

I really appreciate these casting on tips especially the demos as I am a visual learner so it's a great way for me to learn.  

Cnape wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 7:41 PM

Not related to this way of  casting on, but if I have a bunch of stitches to cast on I usually crochet around the needle, then I don't have to worry about guesstimating how long the tail should be.

agladewe wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 7:25 PM

I teach knitting classes at the local A C Moore store; but teach a different long tail or two thread cast-on, in addition to a knitted cast on.  A student told me she learned the Norwegian cast on at another place she had taken a class. I had seen it illustrated in my MARY THOMAS knitting book, but it seemed complicated. YOU have taken out the mystery out of it. I learned knitting as a teenager from my mother (I'm now 57). She taught me the cast on that I now use:  I estimate the long tail and make the first loop with a knot. Then as  I tell my students, grasp the loose tail as if one were going to milk a cow ( the loose tail is hanging down). Then I wrap the yarn over top my thumb twice. Next I insert a needle as if knitting in the back of that loop (my thumb acts as a left needle). Next, "dig" or "scoop" for the yarn coming off the skein side, as if doing continental style knitting and pull a loop through. The left thumb and hand tensions the thread properly on the needle. Then the wrapping process begins again for the next stitch and so on. I find this a neat cast on with plenty of elasticity, although I shall certainly try this new-for-me cast on. Thanks for the help in teaching an old dog a new trick!   Rachel

cagey812 wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 6:43 PM

Thank you!  I crochet and am just learning to knit so this information is invaluable to me right now.  This past weekend I tried the Old Norwegian with a friend - she got it and I didn't.  I was dreadfully tired at the time, however.  This has given me the initiative to try again.

kelli-louise wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 6:19 PM

wow.. I am learning so much from this website.  I live in Australia and I only knew of two cast-on techniques, the fully knitted cast-on in the video, and mine which uses a long tail but a combination of twisting the tail around the left thumb and knitting it on with the needle and yarn from the right hand. What is that technique called???

JillS@3 wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 4:14 PM

I LOVE THE VIDEO. thank you i think i got this by doing it from a book but i never felt sure i did it right. i now know instantly i am doing it right. it was really hard to learn from the drawings but bang got right away from the video YEA! think i will only use this method from now on for casting on.

MikkiB wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 4:14 PM

I have  a question, please.  If you do the long tail cast-on with the two ends of one ball as shown in your YouTube demo, do you cut one of the ends and begin knitting?  I don't understand - thanks Mikki

lkromo1 wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 4:05 PM

Looking at the action closely, this is the start of the German twisted, but the twist that she makes with her thumb untwists it so it finishes like the long-tail.  Interesting.

s.clyatt wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 3:09 PM

oh boy I think Im gonna reaaly learn something and its fun!

Jamie wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 2:52 PM

Years ago, I was taught a terrific way of estimating the proper tail length for a long tail cast-on.  It is pretty infallible and doesn't require a second ball of yarn (and TWO tails to work in).  Wrap your working yarn around the needle 10 times.  This is the amount of tail you'll need for casting on 10 stitches.  Divide your total cast on number by 10 and then make a tail the length of your wrapped yarn times that number.  For example, if you need to cast on 48 stitches, round up to 50, and make a tail 5 times the length of your 10-wrap piece.  Add 4-6" to make sure you have enough tail to hold onto.

This works much better than 1/2" per stitch or 3x the width of your knitting, because it adjusts automatically for larger and smaller stitch size.  100 stitches in chunky weight yarn requires a much longer tail than 100 stitches in lace weight.

I'm pretty sure I learned this in a knitting class, but can't for the life of me remember who taught me (Meg Swansen?  Lily Chin?).

RachelB@48 wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 2:45 PM

Thank you so much for the Norwegian cast on video!  I was taught how to knit by my friend's Norwegian grandmother taught me how to knit many years ago and I knew I was doing the cast on "wrong"!  It's so similar to the long tail cast on that my LYS showed me, it just felt wrong compared to what my fingers were trying so hard 15 or so years later to remember.  :)

DMLyles wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 2:25 PM

I've never seen this thumb-twirl method. The Twisted German cast-on that I use is the exactly the same except you don't have to do calisthenics with your thumb. You just bring your needle back through the "v" on your thumb from left to right and pull the stitch tight. Not as much chance of losing the loop while you twist your thumb.

HeatherM@2 wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 2:20 PM

I learned this variation on the long-tail 2 summers ago at a nice shop in Myrtle Beach, SC while on vacation. It is nice and stretchy and makes a much neater cast on edge. LOVE it. She called it a German Cast on, too. Either way, it ROCKS!

on Jan 20, 2010 2:06 PM

I'm so confused - I've been doing this cast-on all along and calling it the Long-Tail is this different?

(Also, when I'm teaching this cast-on, I like to refer to the shape as a heart, not a V.  It seems to help folks envision where the needles are supposed to go.)

Tillie Cobb wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 1:55 PM

This is European cast on. I have always cast on like this and was taught by my Mother. I was born in Holland and have seen German people use this method as well. Wonder where it originated?

carol@16 wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 1:49 PM

I didn't know any other way to cast on except with a tail. Will you be showing the other way. I don't tie a slip knot but the pictures look like what I do.

TieDye wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 1:45 PM

It looks like what Elizabeth and Meg call the German Twisted cast on.