Learn Something New: The Tubular Cast-On

Most of us use the long-tail cast-on for just about everything we knit.

There are a few things, though, that benefit from a special cast-on, and it’s good to have a few in your repertoire.

The tubular cast-on is one of those. It’s very stretchy, so it’s useful for socks, mittens, gloves, and hats. It’s also the perfect beginning for ribbing, which it mimics. The edge looks rolled over; it appears to have no real beginning, so it’s very attractive on hats and cuffs of all sorts.

This cast-on is aptly named, because it forms a tube as it’s knitted. The knits stay in front and the purls go to the back. You achieve this by alternately knitting and slipping each stitch, creating two layers of fabric. Be aware that the edge may flare undesirably if it’s worked in bulky yarn, so you might need to go down a needle size when casting on.

Here’s a video tutorial from Knitting Daily TV to show you how to knit the tubular cast-on.

I think this cast-on is pretty ingenious. It looks so nice and it’s really easy to work! Below are some written directions, too. These differ slightly from what Eunny shows in the video, but both methods work equally well.

The Tubular Cast-On

Figure 1
Figure 2

The tubular cast-on is worked with waste yarn that is later removed; it is ideal for setting up k1, p1 ribbing. It forms a rounded edge that is both strong and elastic.

With contrasting waste yarn, cast on half the number of stitches required using the backward-loop method. Cut the waste yarn.

With the main color yarn, knit 1 row, purl 1 row, knit 1 row.

Next row (WS): P1, bring yarn to back, insert tip of right needle into main-color loop at edge of first main color row (Figure 1). Place this loop on left needle and knit it. *P1, bring yarn to back, insert right needle into main-color loop 3 rows below (Figure 2), place loop on left needle and knit it; rep from * to end.

Work in k1, p1 ribbing for several rows before removing waste yarn.

A couple of tips for you:

  • Make sure you use a contrasting colored waste yarn that is relatively smooth so it’ll be easy to pull out. I use yarn with more of a contrast that what was used in the video, but that yarn worked out just fine, too.
  • Don’t make your cast-on too tight or you’ll lose the elasticity that this cast-on is famous for. As I mentioned above, though, it’s best to use a size smaller needle for bulky yarn.
  • Using needles with sharp points makes it easier to pick up the purl bumps.

I hope you enjoy working and using the tubular cast-on. I think you will!

And for more knitting tips, techniques, and in-depth knitting instruction, order our Ultimate Knitting Daily TV DVD Kit! It’s a valuable knitting library that you’ll use for years to come.


P.S. What’s your favorite cast-on? Leave a comment and let us know!

Other Things You May Like to Check Out:


Cast on, Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

16 thoughts on “Learn Something New: The Tubular Cast-On

  1. I don’t know the name of my favorite cast-on. I don’t use the long tail cast-on, but I use both needles, and knit the stitches onto the needles. This makes a nice neat edge.

  2. I don’t know the name of my favorite cast-on. I don’t use the long tail cast-on, but I use both needles, and knit the stitches onto the needles. This makes a nice neat edge.

  3. Wow! This is a new one to me and I regularly use several cast- ons. I knit chemo caps for charity and think this would excellent for ribbed edge ones. Always looking for ways to make them more comfortable.

  4. I will certainly try this cast on but I have two other favorites, Old Norwegian which I use most often and Estonian when I want a slightly fancy cast on. Since I knit a lot of socks these cast on’s are also very stretchy.

  5. Hi Kathleen,
    I had no trouble following your video and the written instructions matched perfectly. Thanks for adding this to my repertoire.

  6. Had to look this one up as I normally do a tubular cast-on very differently! I found out that there are numerous ways to do a tubular cast-on, well, who knew?! Thanks for giving me a new way to do the tubular.

  7. Belle Purl,

    No the demo Yuni gives does not match the written instr. K gives. For one thing, Yuni picks up the stitch with her left hand needle, once placed there she knits the stitch off. K’s written instr. & diagram say and show her pick the stitch with right hand needle, then place it on left needle, The arrow shows it grabbed from one side while Yuni picks it up from other side changing the stitch orientation. Although you and I had no trouble doing the Tubular, still it may be aggravating to see it performed one way and reading it another way, for a newer knitter. So it did NOT MATCH perfectly as you say. Read it it’s right there.

  8. Yuni also says work a few rows with the waste yarn “ending” with a RIGHT side row then with main color yarn start with a purl side row. K says start work with main color by (RS) knit 1 row, purl 1 row, knit 1 row. Yuni says start main color with a purl side row, knit at least 4 rows.

  9. Love the tubular cast on and have been using it for years. Machine knitters use a product called Ravel cord for tubular or open cast on. It is a very strong, usually nylon, cord which pulls out easily to remove the waste yarn. Just knit a few rows of waste yarn, then 1 row of ravel cord. Continue per the directions. Ravel cord is great to work with as the stitches to be picked up are easier to see and the cord doesn’t split. A card of 5 colors is approximately $6 and lasts a long time. My ravel cords are over 20 years old. Another trick is to use knitting rags. A rag is a strip of knitting, about an inch long and as wide as you need and bound off. I have several lengths. Just pick up and knit with the ravel cord the number of stitches from the rag and you are on your way. Knitting rags are used over & over saving the time of working waste yarn every time you start a new project.
    I hope you find this useful.

  10. Me encanta este punto, lo encuentro algo difícil, lo voy a practicar mucho.
    Estoy haciendo algunas labores con los puntos que descargue de los patrones de obsequio, muchas gracias, estoy fascinada con las labores.

  11. You’re right, Zass. The written directions aren’t identical to the video. I changed the blog to reflect this. I don’t have written directions that exactly match Eunny’s demo, but both methods work well, so I’m leaving them both in.

    Thanks, Kathleen

  12. Eunny picks up the purl bump so that it is backwards on the needle, then knits it through the back of the loop to create a standard knit stitch. At no point in her demo does she mention this.

  13. Hi
    thank you so much for such a wonderfullY useful cast on. I have a question – can it be applicable for a round knitting or only in back and forth one?? if yes could you give me please some hints how. i tried it not once – it is not going well. thank you.

  14. Can you help me? I’ve watched the video a few times and tried it. I like it! Now my problem is that my cabled fingerless mitts are in a 2 x 2 rib. How do I set this up? If you could answer promptly I would really appreciate it. I really want to get started on them 😉