No more estimating tail length for a long tail CO

I like long-tail CO. I like the neat edge of what would be considered the “purl” side. But how often have you CO 200 of 220 and run out of yarn, ripped, CO again only to have 3 yards of extra tail at the end?

grrrrr… When a pattern (Liesl and Gretel come to mind) requires you to CO 200+ sts how do you estimate how long a tail to leave?

The answer: don’t.

Here’s what to do.  Use two tails of yarn, either from two separate balls of yarn or a tail from the inside and a tail from the outside of a center-pull ball.  Here I have two separate balls of yarn:

Leaving at least 3″ on each tail, tie the ends together with a slip-knot:

Slide the slip-knot onto your needle and tighten it up:

Now separate the two working strands as if they were one long strand and work long-tail CO as usual.

When you have all 500 +/- sts CO (do NOT count the initial slip-knot), cut one of the working strands, leaving a tail that you can later work in.  Begin knitting with the un-cut strand of yarn and when you come to the other end of your CO, get rid of that end slip-knot, just slide it off the needle and pull out the knot.

No more frustration!



  1. AWESOME! I have never used a LTCO because I was afraid of mis-calculating and wasting precious yarn. Now I think I’ll give it a go ;) Thank you.

  2. connu depuis longtemp mais fort pratique

  3. Ingenious! Thanks! I’ve taught knitting, and love the long-tail method for helping beginning knitters get the right tension, but try explaining how to “estimate” the tail! It’s exhausting.

  4. You have provided such a good solution to my frustration – thelong tail cast on. I am a visual learned and this is really the solution to my probem. THANK YOU!

  5. J Hunt Reply to J

    I suggest that you don’t cut the 2nd yarn until the 1st row has been knit. That way, should you drop a cast on stitch you don’t have to recast on the entire number of stitches, you only need to tink back to the dropped stitch.

  6. Thank you – this is genius!
    I am getting ready to do a 603st CO with beads and I was nervous, but now I have no worries. You may be a life saver.

  7. On my gosh – this is brilliant! No more pulling my hair out!!

  8. I went searching for a solution and found this – awesome!!!!
    Thinking I might try it with two different yarns ;)

  9. Honey, you have saved my sanity! Thanks!

  10. arrrggghh you can be sure this is what I’ll do the next time. Five hours ago I cast on 126 and had 5 feet, yes 5 feet left over!!!

  11. Thank you!!! Genius! I am needing to cast on 217 stitches in cashmere, I do NOT want to waste any!

  12. I was on the search for a fix for this and watched a YouTube video showing this exact method. BUT I didn’t get it till if read this..the pictures were better than the video..thanks!

  13. Wow! Talk about a light bulb moment! That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Carol A. Reply to Carol

    WOW! Terrific idea! I will be sharing this as I’m currently tiring to help a friend learn to knit! What a GREAT way to eliminate wasted yarn from estimating yardage needed! Thank you for sharing with us! :)

  15. I am so glad you posted this! I too love the long tail cast on and so many times have had to rip it out to start again because I ran out of the tail. Thank you so much! Keep up the Great Work!

  16. This IS the next best thing to sliced bread! Thank you for sharing!

  17. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You get a gold star for this! If I had a buck for every time I ripped my COs out and started again, I’d be wealthy.

  18. This is a “duh-why didn’t I think of this” solution. How simple. LTCO is my favorite and I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to cope with do-overs. THANK YOU.

  19. Brilliant!! I absolutely agree with Elizabeth ( Mar. 24,2014). I was going to write exactly what she wrote. I can’t wait to try it.

  20. Laura Chutny Reply to Laura

    That is SO awesome. I have never gotten the long tail correct. I am doing a dance of Joy now!! Thank you!

  21. I like the look of LTCO for its neat, tidy appearance, but dread the trial-and-error method of getting the amount right for large numbers of stitches. You are my HERO!!!

  22. Fantistic! What a great idea. I have spent over 65 years pulling out or wasting extra long tails. This is a life saver. Thank you so much.

  23. So Genius! I love you!

  24. You just made my day.. thanks for the tip ;)

  25. Love it but how do you handle that first slip knot when joining to work in the round?

  26. Cindy Wheeler Reply to Cindy

    This technique is amazing! Thank you!! I would so love to see what you made with the demonstration yarn. :)

  27. this is brilliant! Thank you so much for this great idea. I have ripped out so many time and re-cast on because I could not waste yarn – I even tried to make a chart for various patterns I reuse for charity knitting in different sizes. Now, I never have to guess again. And knitting for the big guys in the family (CO a million stitches, be careful not to twist when joining…. !) Can’t wait to try this idea.

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