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.

  28. Miss Ophelia Rose Reply to Miss

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s ingenious!

  29. thank you, thank you, thank you! I have cast on and ripped out so many times. this is pure genius!!!!!

  30. I’ve never done long tail cast on and don’t like the look of the other one. I’ve taken to casting on off the back end of a crochet hook after chaining the cast on number and picking up the stitches tunisian crochet style, then slipping the stitches onto my needles for a very clean look. Now you have inspired me to try long tail cast on. Thank you.

  31. Actuality the easier way – that doesn’t require 2 balls of yarn is figure out how long you want your tail…say 6 inches. So starting 6inches from the end of you yarn – wrap your yarn around your needle as many times as you are supposed to cast on. (60 cast on…wrap the yarn 60 times). Where you end is where you create your slip knot. No more guessing how much yarn you need and no need for 2 balls of yarn

    • Personally, I’d rather use two ends. I find the wrapping for every stitch a pain. But every knitter should do what works for them- I only share these tips because it’s what works for me and if it helps someone else, great!

    • Tricia, I agree. That is the method I have used for years. If I have a large number, like 100 or more, I wrap a portion of those stitches (say 25 percent), to get the length. Then I double that length of yarn to get the length for 50 stitches, and then double it again for the 100 stitches. Don’t see the big excitement over this 2 strand of yarn method.

      • Again, I just offer tips that I have found useful. If you don’t find them useful you don’t need to use them. It’s your knitting, do what works for you.

  32. …thank you! I posted this to “Addicted to Sock Knitting” but after over 100 likes and shares it was removed, because it didn’t (correctly) refer to knitting socks. Lots of knitters saw it there, so while it may not have gone viral, it’s getting quite a bit of pub. Genius! 😀

  33. Wow.. Finally a solution. Brilliant

  34. Sonja Kuvik Loyd Reply to Sonja

    I havent had a pattern until today for a long tail cast on,What does a long tail vs.a regular tail do?

    • I have no idea what a “regular tail” CO is.

    • Sonja, if by “regular tail” you mean that you cast on with a standard “cable” method, FYI I’ve found that the long-tail method is stretchier, so better to suited to rib edgings (eg socks, sleeve cuffs, back & front bands of jumpers/sweaters, cuffs of gloves etc). A “regular” cast on is firmer, so better suited to edges of blankets, dishcloths, jackets, shawls etc.

      • SonjaKuvik Loyd

        Thank you Sue, I have only been Knitting since October and I sure love a challenge and I now understand long tail CO .
        Thank you again

  35. Gee! Why I didn’t think of that?

  36. Genius! I love long tail cast on as well. Some yarns don’t like to get ripped out, like mohair or chenille.

    Thank you!

  37. This also worked for my twisted german cast on that I use for socks. What a genius. It really looked great with two different colors for the top of my socks (since the socks were striped also). Ta Da

  38. maureen starr Reply to maureen

    Please add me to your email list for new posts. Love this idea and can’t wait to share with my knitting friends.

    • Hi, Up at the very top of the website pages you’ll see “newsletter”. Click on that to sign up for e-newsletters where I try to keep up with what’s new….emphasis on try;-)

  39. I usually just measure an arm’s length for every 25 stitches but this is so much more clever going to give it a try.

  40. That’pure genius. Thank you!

  41. Thank you! Had to rip my cast-on 3 times already… This is a great help

  42. Great tip….for years I’ve been wrapping the yarn around the needle 20 times, then taking it off and measuring that length out to as many (x20) lengths I need for LTCO.

  43. Thank you so much ! No more running out of yarn and having to start all over again…

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