T is for Tubular Cast On

I cast on a hat for my brother today in Malabrigo Finito, yarn so soft it’s practically criminal. As soft as cashmere, if not softer! Inevitably the colours come out muted and subdued – perfect for this purpose. I wanted to make this hat really neat and professional looking, as well as having a brim firm enough to counter-balance the softness of the yarn, so I turned to the tubular cast on.

A tubular cast on is an excellent stretchy but firm cast on for hat brims and cuffs on sleeves, socks, gloves etc. It takes a bit more work than the usual cable cast on but it’s neater and keeps it’s shape better. Designed for 1×1 ribbing but easily adaptable for 2×2 ribbing. It looks great from both sides so especially good for cuffs or brims that are likely to be turned up, especially good for items that children will gradually grow into.

The tubular cast on is so called because it makes a little tube of knitting from which you then continue knitting from.

There are four main types of tubular cast on: the standard tubular, provisional tubular, yarnover tubular and Italian tubular. The first is similar to the turn-down picot cast on where you provisionally cast on half the stitches, knit twice the height of the tube and then interlace the live stitches with the stitches from the provisional cast on.

The second type starts with provisionally casting on all of the stitches you will need. On each side of the work you knit every second stitch, slipping the other stitches. This forms two pieces of fabric, joined at the bottom, each half of the tube. When the tube is the right size you simply purl the stitches you had been slipping, while still knitting the others and that’s plain 1×1 ribbing. Finally snip out the waste yarn from the provisional cast on.

The yarnover tubular combines a crochet-provisional cast on of half the stitches and yarnovers to create the remaining stitches. It then proceeds similar to the second type. It’s especially suited to knitting in the round.

Today I tried the Italian tubular for the first time and I think it’s my favourite as it doesn’t require messing about with waste yarn. It’s a little like the standard longtail cast on in technique. You alternately cast on purl and knit stitches then continue as for the second type again. It’s best to cast onto a straight needle as at first it can twist about on cables, not unmanageably though.

For 2×2 ribbing a little jiggery-pokery is needed first before it’s plain sailing. Nothing more than changing the order of the stitches though. Some people prefer to use a needle smaller for the tube than for the ribbing that follows. Personally I find it you’re using a size smaller for the ribbing than for stockinette (as is best!) then the same size will do perfectly for the tubular cast on. With the possible exception of the yarnover tubular.

As always there are plenty of tutorials and demonstration videos available on the web. My go-to resource however is ‘Cast on Bind off’ by Leslie Ann Bestor, a lovely small ring-bound book with excellent diagrams and instructions. It’s one of my favourite presents ever and I look forward to learning more techniques with it.


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