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A Better Cast-On

Aug 27, 2014

A friend's 5-year -old has been diagnosed with leukemia, and in the next couple of weeks, as a side effect of her treatment, she'll begin losing her hair.

What can a knitter do, but knit a slew of cute hats for this little princess?

As I was beginning a top-down hat, I became frustrated because the cast on left a hole larger than I though was necessary. So I turned to the Knitting Daily Glossary to find a better circular cast on.  

I remembered Emily Oker's Circular Cast-On, which I thought would fit the bill perfectly. Here's how you work it:


Make a simple loop of yarn with the tail hanging down (Figure 1, above left). With a crochet hook, *draw a loop through main loop, then draw another loop through this loop (Figure 2, above center). Repeat from * for each stitch to be cast on (Figure 3, above right). After several inches have been worked, pull on the tail (shown by arrow) to tighten the loop and close the circle.This technique comes from Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac (Dover, 1981).
This method is magic! The hole is tiny; it looks like the finished top of a brim-up hat. I'm much happier with how the hat looks now.

A few years ago an identical technique took the crocheters by storm. In the crochet world, it's called the magic ring. I've borrowed some photos from Crochet Me editor Toni Rexroat, because I wanted to show you another visual for this technique.

Step 1. Leaving a long tail, create a loop by placing the tail behind the working yarn. (The working yarn is the end of the yarn that is coming from your working skein or ball.) When you begin working the magic loop, it is a good idea to leave a tail of 6" or longer. It may seem like wasted yarn, but it will really help you keep your loop from coming undone as you work the first few stitches. As you become more practiced, you can decrease the length of your long tail.


Step 2. Insert the crochet hook through the ring and yarn over with the working yarn. Continue to keep a firm hold on the long tail and loop.


Step 3. Pull up a loop through the magic ring.


Step 4. Chain 1 by yarning over and drawing through the loop on the hook.


Repeat Step 4 for as many stitches as you need to cast on.


I really like this method of casting on for a circular project. You can use this for anything that starts from a circle—a hat, a shawl, a washcloth, or whatever else you can think of.

Since I'm firmly in hat mode for the next week or so, I'd like to recommend a wonderful new video resource to you: Structure and Design of Knitted Hats with Tanis Gray. From casting on to creating a pompom, Tanis clearly walks you through every step of hat knitting and designing.

I used many of Tanis' ideas to design a hat for my little friend, and I know you'll find lots of helpful information in Structure and Design of Knitted Hats, too.

Cheers,

P.S. I tried a quick bit of research to find out who Emily Oker is/was, but I came up dry. Does anyone out there know? If you do, leave a comment below. 

    
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LL Howard wrote
on Aug 30, 2014 8:25 PM

OOPS! I forgot my name, (I wrote re: ease) also, I'm a petite,4' 10", and that may be part of the problem.

Thanks,

Knitaratti

'

LL Howard wrote
on Aug 30, 2014 8:07 PM

Sorry, I've heard of Emily, and read her articles, but that's the extent of my knowledge. Backing up, I also use a crochet needle for one of my cast-ons, but can't quite explain it, I have severe arthritis and at times, casting on is almost impossible! But, in a pinch.......  Thanks for the two new ideas for casting on, I'll give them a try.

Knitaratti

wirthc2001 wrote
on Aug 30, 2014 4:14 PM

When my daughter lost her hair due to cancer at the age of 15, she wore a wig to school because she did not want to look different.  But at home she wore hats.  Winter in Minnesota is not place to have a bare head.

I found the softness of the yarn is very important.  Her skin was sensitive to fibers that might be a little stiff or itchy.  The best for her were angora-like, silky, and the plush synthetics.  She seemed to prefer ones that were more the color of hair.  Once in a while a bright color would work, but mostly brown-ish.

Teens can be a challenge to please.

On the other hand, ANY pediatric oncology department will love hats of any sort.  Kids newly diagnosed probably wont have a hat yet, and all the ped-onc seem to have a big bucket of hats from which new kids get to choose.  The variety found in the bucket is huge, all the better to please the huge range of kids.

Bless everyone who makes and donates hats for kids with cancer.  You can also ask Google for patterns for Chemo-Caps to make lovely options for your adult friends suffering from hair loss of any type.

wirthc2001 wrote
on Aug 30, 2014 4:14 PM

When my daughter lost her hair due to cancer at the age of 15, she wore a wig to school because she did not want to look different.  But at home she wore hats.  Winter in Minnesota is not place to have a bare head.

I found the softness of the yarn is very important.  Her skin was sensitive to fibers that might be a little stiff or itchy.  The best for her were angora-like, silky, and the plush synthetics.  She seemed to prefer ones that were more the color of hair.  Once in a while a bright color would work, but mostly brown-ish.

Teens can be a challenge to please.

On the other hand, ANY pediatric oncology department will love hats of any sort.  Kids newly diagnosed probably wont have a hat yet, and all the ped-onc seem to have a big bucket of hats from which new kids get to choose.  The variety found in the bucket is huge, all the better to please the huge range of kids.

Bless everyone who makes and donates hats for kids with cancer.  You can also ask Google for patterns for Chemo-Caps to make lovely options for your adult friends suffering from hair loss of any type.

DonnaF@19 wrote
on Aug 30, 2014 9:04 AM

Information on Emily Ocker can be found in Marianne Kinzel's Book of Lace Knitting (can't remember if it's Vol 1 or Vol 11).  Very good information there.

mickeyspal22 wrote
on Aug 30, 2014 8:17 AM

This is just like the magic loop cast on

on Aug 28, 2014 7:16 PM

Kathleen,  please let us know if you find Emily Ocker!

leah13 wrote
on Aug 28, 2014 11:55 AM

Hope your neighbor does well with the chemo for leukemia.  I have donated baby hats for newborns, but I never thought of hats for chemo patients.  I think I will check with the hospitals in Chicago and see if any would want funny kids hats.  That was a sad lead in to the circular cast-on.

I like Emily Oker's Circular Cast-On but it always takes me a long time to get it right, because my fingers get tangled up.  I revented ( is that the word you use?) another way to do Emily's cast-on.

Hold your yarn as for a long-tail cast-on, but do not use a slip knot for the first stitch.  Use a twist instead.  (Put needle down between yarn and fingers. Pull yarn away from hand and twist your needle 180 degrees, so you end up with a twisted loop around your needle.)

Start to make first long tail cast-on, but stop at the point where you would normally drop the yarn off your thumb.

You will have 2 stitches on your needle, a loop around your thumb and the ball yarn over your

index finger.

As you do the following,  make sure you keep more tension on the thumb loop than on the stitches.

***Take your needle and pick up a loop from the index finger yarn to make the third stitch.

Fourth stitch is made by pushing your needle down through the thumb loop and back around the index finger yarn to pick up another loop.

Bring the needle, with the new loop on it, back up through the thumb loop to create the fourth stitch.

Repeat from *** for the number of stitches needed.  Pull the tail  to close the loop and you have your circular cast-on.

The result is exactly the same as Emily's cast-on except the loop that tangled my fingers is held tight in my hand almost exactly like other long tail cast-ons which I can do in my sleep.

Here is another circular cast-on I have never seen on-line or in books.  Cast-on the number of stitches by long-tail method.  (Other cast-on methods would probably work too.)  Put your tail yarn on a tapestry needle and thread the yarn through the stitches on your needle, starting at the stitch farthest from the tail.  Do not pull the stitches off the needle.  Pull the tail tight and you have a circular cast-on.  And if you crochet, pull  the tail even tighter and drop the stitches off the knitting needle.  This can be used as a foundation chain for circular knitting projects.

on Aug 28, 2014 7:44 AM

I'd say your best bet is to get in touch with Meg Swansen and/or Barbara Walker

IsiAngeni wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 6:26 PM

I was moved to read in this week's issue about the leukaemia diagnosis of your friend's daughter, and your kind decision to give her something lovely to wear when she loses her hair.

My own daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia (ALL) when she was 1 1/2 years old, back in 2007. Whenever I read about another child with leukaemia it takes me straight back to that time. All the worry, grief, fear and.... well, more worry!, returns to my conscious mind.

In our case, my daughter was so young she didn't mind losing her hair. But I still remember my own tears the first morning I woke up to find her little fine hairs all over the pillow. Once all the hair had gone, though, her natural beauty and huge beaming smile showed through even more, so I grew to accept it. The only thing that bothered me was when people would mistake her for a boy, despite the bright pink clothes I dressed her in to make it clear that she was a girl!

I remember a lot of head scarves being made available to the older girls on the ward and of course wigs and such. What concerned me a bit was that the girls probably wanted to wear something in line with current fashion trends, to be as close to what their friends were able to wear as they could. But often what was on offer was not very young or trendy!

Your friend is lucky to have a friend like you, who is so thoughtful and practical, to help her through the different phases of treatment to come, and the difficult days ahead. My daughter has just turned nine: we finished the chemotherapy treatment when she was four, and I don't know how but it is a time which I have managed to largely forget, and that my daughter doesn't remember at all! I even sometimes look back fondly at all the special one-to-one time we had together in hospital.

Please pass on my best wishes to your friend, and let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

peacockmom wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 5:21 PM

I really enjoy your emails, but somehow today's pictures directly under

yours covered the directions making them impossible to read and I realized

that Emily Ocker's name is misspelled so maybe that has been part of the

problem of researching her.

She does have a "c" after the "O".

Best wishes for your friend's treatment for her leukemia.  I'm sure the love

you put into knitting her hats will help her as well as her mother conquer

it.

on Aug 27, 2014 3:50 PM

Try these, too:

www.whitepages.com/.../Emily-Ocker

Karen Sharp

on Aug 27, 2014 3:31 PM

Kathleen,

Try this:

Emily K. Oker-Blom

6883 McBeth Court

Woodberry, MN 55125-2409

651-714-5931

harndor wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 3:00 PM

According to the information I have  Oker is misspelled ..... it should be spelled...  OCKER......Elizabeth Zimmerman named the stitch after Emily OCKER who taught it to her.......

on Aug 27, 2014 2:56 PM

Kathleen maybe this will help you track down Emily Ocker, woolbearers woolbearers.blogspot.com/.../emily-ocker-where-are-you-it-all-began.html explains that Emily is a neighbor of Elizabeth Zimmerman.

She found a link with photos of this remarkable and illusive lady at a Knitting Camp in 2006 sanityknit.blogspot.com/.../camp.html if you scroll down she is pictured with her daughter Medrith Glover (Emily's daughter, and a wonderful designer!) who has designs posted on Ravelry.

laura@140 wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 2:26 PM

I've taken to casting on 8 sts (or the required number) using Judy's Magic Cast On, distributing them on my double points and then following the pattern.  It makes a nice solid start for any hat.

laura@140 wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 2:24 PM

I've taken to casting on 8 sts (or the required number) using Judy's Magic Cast On, distributing them on my double points and then following the pattern.  It makes a nice solid start for any hat.

laura@140 wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 2:24 PM

I've taken to casting on 8 sts (or the required number) using Judy's Magic Cast On, distributing them on my double points and then following the pattern.  It makes a nice solid start for any hat.

LeslyeB wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 2:01 PM

This method looks good and I will try it soon.  However, the method I use also works well and doesn't leave that pesky hole.  What I do is cast on the 9 stitches on a double pointed needle.  Knit the first row, usually increasing in each stitch and dividing the stitches on to 3 double pointed needles.  I mark the center, and then when I'm ready to begin Row 2, I slide the first stitch from needle one on to needle 3 and slide the last stitch from needle 3 over that stitch on to needle 1 and continue knitting.  Knitting the first row prevents twisting and this overlap closes the hole.  It is a bit awkward managing the double pointed needles at the beginning of a top down hat, but you have to do that anyways.

LeslyeB wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 2:00 PM

This method looks good and I will try it soon.  However, the method I use also works well and doesn't leave that pesky hole.  What I do is cast on the 9 stitches on a double pointed needle.  Knit the first row, usually increasing in each stitch and dividing the stitches on to 3 double pointed needles.  I mark the center, and then when I'm ready to begin Row 2, I slide the first stitch from needle one on to needle 3 and slide the last stitch from needle 3 over that stitch on to needle 1 and continue knitting.  Knitting the first row prevents twisting and this overlap closes the hole.  It is a bit awkward managing the double pointed needles at the beginning of a top down hat, but you have to do that anyways.

SonjaS wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 1:33 PM

Emily Ocker's cast on is great for somethings, but there is a modified form of this cast on that can be better at times.  Think lace on cobweb with tiny needles or anywear that you don't want the little bit of extra bulk from the single chrochet round.

This is a little fiddly until you get the hang of it/ get a couple rows done especially if you are using size 0 or 1 needles and only need 2 or 3 stitches on each so I put a fluffy pillow in my lap to provide a soft raised surface that allows the ends of the double point to just touch and drag so they don't fall out or cause the work to flip before I get the first 2-3 rounds done.  

Make your loop as for the oiginal cast on (if Ineed a good firm start say for a garment that will be worn a lot I may do a double loop but treat it as a single strand) with the free end behind the working yarn.  Useing your double point reach through the loop and pick up he working yarn and pull it through (as if you were knitting a stitch if you pick (continental), yarn over, go through the large loop and "pick" the working yarn stitch, yarn over.  Continue this until you have as many stitches as you need, but end on a "picked stitch".  So an odd number, if this gives you one too many do a knit 2 together on the first round ( I usually do frist and last myself just to tie the 2 ends together better).

Now you start carefully transfering your stitches to your chosen number of double points, I have done anywear from 2-4 depending on my number of stitches and my yarn, snug down the center hole by pulling on the tail a little to keep it managable but wait to pull it all the way closed until you have done a couple rows and have all your double points in play.

This results in no hole at all and does stay closed.  Much easier to do (after the frist couple tries,) that to explain on paper.

Since i do most of my knitting on circulars using the magic loop as needed after about the first 3-5 rows (again depends on pattern and yarn) I switch from my double points to the circ.  You could do this start with a circular needle, I just personally have never been able to do it that way to my satisfaction.  

Hope someone finds this useful.

Sonja St. John

SonjaS wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 12:13 PM

Emily Ocker's cast on is great for somethings, but there is a modified form of this cast on that can be better at times.  Think lace on cobweb with tiny needles or anywear that you don't want the little bit of extra bulk from the single chrochet round.

This is a little fiddly until you get the hang of it/ get a couple rows done especially if you are using size 0 or 1 needles and only need 2 or 3 stitches on each so I put a fluffy pillow in my lap to provide a soft raised surface that allows the ends of the double point to just touch and drag so they don't fall out or cause the work to flip before I get the first 2-3 rounds done.  

Make your loop as for the oiginal cast on (if Ineed a good firm start say for a garment that will be worn a lot I may do a double loop but treat it as a single strand) with the free end behind the working yarn.  Useing your double point reach through the loop and pick up he working yarn and pull it through (as if you were knitting a stitch if you pick (continental), yarn over, go through the large loop and "pick" the working yarn stitch, yarn over.  Continue this until you have as many stitches as you need, but end on a "picked stitch".  So an odd number, if this gives you one too many do a knit 2 together on the first round ( I usually do frist and last myself just to tie the 2 ends together better).

Now you start carefully transfering your stitches to your chosen number of double points, I have done anywear from 2-4 depending on my number of stitches and my yarn, snug down the center hole by pulling on the tail a little to keep it managable but wait to pull it all the way closed until you have done a couple rows and have all your double points in play.

This results in no hole at all and does stay closed.  Much easier to do (after the frist couple tries,) that to explain on paper.

Since i do most of my knitting on circulars using the magic loop as needed after about the first 3-5 rows (again depends on pattern and yarn) I switch from my double points to the circ.  You could do this start with a circular needle, I just personally have never been able to do it that way to my satisfaction.  

Hope someone finds this useful.

Sonja St. John

jesslin wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 12:10 PM

I guess this is one of those things you never knew other people didn't know - I've been casting on for knit and crochet like this since at least the '80s, when I first learned to knit!  I figured everyone already did it :)  I don't bother with chaining into the ring, though, for either method. To knit, I just knit 1, yo (or purl 1) into the ring for the number of cast on stitches. For crochet, just start your first pattern row right into the ring, no chaining needed. If you want a very sturdy closure, you can double the initial yarn wraps; just be careful when pulling it closed that both wraps are snugged close.

kate@118 wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 11:59 AM

Different topic:

When demonstrating stitches it would be MUCH easier to follow demonstrations when dark yarn is used by someone with light skin, and a light yarn when someone has dark skin.  

mbemz wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 11:58 AM

First off very cool technique - that hole at the top is annoying - I usually end up sewing it closed or adding a pom pom - this is much better..  

Second - I was diagnosed will leukemia (ALL)  at 18 and am now 10 years in remission.. My  time in chemo got me back into knitting and yarn in general. That your friend is so young means she has a better success rate and will be able to bounce back from treatment faster. Which isn't much comfort right now but will be in time.  

Best of luck  Merry

on Aug 27, 2014 11:26 AM

Looks like everyone beat me to it! Emily OCKER is the lady you are looking for.  Googled Oker and up came Emily Ocker! Regards Marilyn

Ja-knit wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 11:23 AM

Did you mean: Emily Ocker

Search Results

Emily Ocker's Cast On - YouTube

Video for Emily Oker► 8:48► 8:48

www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCftljy6OGw

Jan 19, 2009 - Uploaded by Kelley Petkun

Kelley Petkun demonstrates Emily Ocker's cast on for a circular lace knit shawl.

Jan Alterman

on Aug 27, 2014 11:11 AM

IIRC from way back in the Knitlist days, Emily Ocker was Medrith Glover's mother.

mljackowicz wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 10:59 AM

good job knitting hats for the little girl.  I wish her the best.  

It's named for Emily Ocker because that's who Elizabeth Zimmerman reports that she learned it from. However, EZ says in one of her books (I think its her Almanac) that Emily says she just thought that's how everyone did it.

Kristi@2 wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 10:47 AM

It's Emily Ocher.

gsh wrote
on Aug 27, 2014 10:42 AM

Found this about Emily Ocker (Note spelling difference) http://tiajudy.com/ocker.htm