No More Estimating Tail Length for a Long Tail CO

I like long tail cast on. 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:

Long Tail Cast On // Start with two strands of yarn

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

Long Tail Cast On // Join two strands with a slip knot

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

Long Tail Cast On // Slide the slip knot onto needle

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

Long Tail Cast On // CO as if the two were one strand of yarn

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. Veronica

    Brilliant! So simple. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Beryl Fishman

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You !!!!

  3. Edith Fisher

    Absolutely genius. Why didn’t I think of that?

  4. Lacy

    Gee, that’s so simple. Why didn’t I think of that.
    I’ll be using this method from now on.
    Thank you!!!

  5. Monica

    I prefer the long tail CO for a number of reasons . . . and now I have no reason not to use it for just about every project. Thank you!

  6. Barbara

    OMG! Brilliant! Thank you so much for that tip!

  7. Rosi

    Genius….if you came up with this idea, thank you!!!! If not, thanks for passing it on and kudos to the person who did!!!!

  8. Awesome!!!!!! Thanks for the tip!

  9. Donna Anderson

    Absolutely brilliant! I wish I had read this before I ended up casting on 3 times for one of the lovely cocoknits long tanks.

  10. Wow, how easy is that? Can’t wait to try this. Thanks for the info.

  11. Ethel Hess


  12. Julie Mann

    I just tried it for a 220 st. project. So easy, it’s my new long-tail cast on.

  13. I watched this tutorial a few days ago and couldn’t believe how easy this is, and how very helpful. It will truly save us from forever ripping out just for being a few stitches short.
    Thank you for the tutorials that are keeping us crafting, and we know that we all need help sometimes!

  14. This is brilliant, going to try it on my next project. Makes so much sense.

  15. Stephanie Wolmer


  16. Heather Mortimer

    Absolute bl***dy genius!!!!

  17. Clarinda Flannery

    I love ingenious ideas, and this is one of them. On more occasions than I can count, I have been frustrated with running out of yarn, yet having a long piece of yarn left over from casting on. Thanks for solving this problem!.

  18. Sandra Clark

    That is so neat. I have often added an extra length when I run out on a LONG cast on but this is so much more efficient and professional looking. Thank you!


  19. Bonnie K

    WOW!!! This forever puts an end to the long-tail CO frustration! THANK YOU for putting energy into solving this dilemma and sharing the result with us.

  20. Lori Schwartz

    An experienced knitter mentioned this method to me about a year ago and it works SO great. I just couldn’t figure out why I suffered for so long without having figured it out for myself? Sometimes great ideas are right in front of you!

  21. sharon jester

    Thank you, Thank you!!!!!! For this great tip, saves a lot of frustration.

  22. eneurian

    brilliant!!!! i had given up using the long tail cast on (just too frustrating) but i can now add it back into my knitting repetoire. thank you. it seems so simple and obvious but never thought. great ‘out of the box’ thinking,

  23. Estelle Liley

    Thank you so much for this ingenius solution. I am one who always ends up with too much or too little yarn when I have previously used this method.
    Next time I start a new project casting on with the long tail I’ll try this.

  24. Patocenizo

    This one is a keeper for my files!! Thanks.

  25. This is wonderful! I love knitting afghans and always hate casting on so many stitches because I never have enough yarn to finish the CO. I can’t wait to try this. Thanks so much!!!

  26. Virginia

    Genius! Thank you so much!!!

  27. Susan Berger


  28. Isabel

    thanks for sharing this! can’t wait til I have to cast on for a new project.

  29. Elizabeth

    I’m not understanding this from the pictures. Do you have a video to show exactly how this is done?

    • No, I don’t. Don’t over-think it, just do exactly what is written and I think you’ll see how it works, it’s pretty straightforward.

  30. Elizabeth

    Thanks for replying. I tried it again today with a clearer mind (no children to distract me;)) and was able to figure it out. So easy! Thank you so much, this has ended a lot of frustration for me. The LT CO is the easiest CO and I like to use it but got too frustrated trying to calculate how much I’d need. This has solved the problem. ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. Liz Walsh

    You must have been looking over my shoulder! I have been knitting for YEARS and this could have saved me so many duplicate cast on’s!! Thanks : )

  32. Johna Wrzosek

    I have just learned this method from my knit instructor and I love it. Why don’t they put this method in “Beginner” knit books?

  33. Marny CA

    Loved this method and will use it from now on for high number cast on stitches.

    Thank you!

  34. Marta

    Great idea. I think that Meg Swanson also spoke of this at one time. My knitting group was just talking about this. Thanks for the nice tip.

  35. This is brilliant…… glad I stumbled on it….

  36. Swanee

    As the ole saying goes; say it with a KISS (keep it simple stupid). The most obivious are usually the simplest. Great idea. Thx!!!!!

  37. Monique

    Oh so cool! This has changed my knit cast on life forever! Thank you and fantastic. Can’t wait to share with my knit group.

  38. Lynn

    Absolutely brilliant! I hope to be using this method later today.
    Thanks so much.

  39. Barb

    So simple. Thanks for a much needed solution.

  40. Shannon

    This is quite possibly the greatest knitting trick I’ve learned yet. Thanks so much!!

  41. Diane DiVito

    This is sheer genius. Thanks. Was concerned because I had to cast on 200+ stitches and was sure I would screw up with too much or too little tail. You saved me a ton of work.

  42. Wendy

    Genius! Love all the tips on your website! Keep them coming!

  43. Barbara Margolis

    I made up a version using two skeins of yarn but your way makes much more sense. Thanks for sharing.

  44. Rona

    Love this! Brilliant! Thanks for sharing! ๐Ÿ™‚

  45. Linda Kraft

    Why didn’t I think of that? Great suggestion.

  46. dmw

    thank you…. thank you… thank you… and the people around me thank you because they won’t have to hear me having a meltdown when i miss-estimate any longer! Simple solution to an age-old problem – this is wonderful!

  47. Catherine

    Sorry for typo in first post.

    Thank you! The link to this page was posted on Knitting Paradise this morning in response to a question about the best way to determine the length of yarn used for the long tail cast on method. One woman actually uses the inside and outside ends from one ball of yarn, and then when she has cast on the required number of stitches, cuts the outside end of yarn and carries on using the inside end. Equally brilliant!

    • Yes, I show it with two separate balls of yarn as it’s easier to photograph but if you read the first sentence I say you can do it either way.

  48. So simple… and smart!!!!
    Thanks ๐Ÿ˜‰

  49. Suzanne

    I’ve been using this technique for years and everyone is always amazed when I share it. Thank you for getting the word out to the masses!

  50. Theresa

    Bloody hell! Why didn’t I think of that?! I’ll just join all the others who’ve used the first word that came to my mind: Brilliant!

    And Thanks!!

  51. Barbara

    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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank you.

  52. connu depuis longtemp mais fort pratique

  53. Patty

    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.

  54. marti

    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!

  55. J Hunt

    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.

  56. Melissa

    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.

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

  58. Eve

    I went searching for a solution and found this – awesome!!!!
    Thinking I might try it with two different yarns ๐Ÿ˜‰

  59. Jenny

    Honey, you have saved my sanity! Thanks!

  60. Robin

    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!!!

  61. Melanie

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

  62. Mandy

    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!

  63. Regina

    I like this!

  64. Hope

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

  65. Carol A.

    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! ๐Ÿ™‚

  66. 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!

  67. Annette

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

  68. Lindy

    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.

  69. Elizabeth

    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.

  70. 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.

  71. Laura Chutny

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

  72. Airyknot

    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!!!

  73. Dorothy

    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.

  74. beke

    So Genius! I love you!

  75. Mariclode

    You just made my day.. thanks for the tip ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Gail

      Brilliant. I plan to do a Channel Island cast on with three strands of yarn. This should work for that as well. Thank you!

  76. Tina

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

    • 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.

  77. Cindy Wheeler

    This technique is amazing! Thank you!! I would so love to see what you made with the demonstration yarn. ๐Ÿ™‚

  78. Arlene

    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.

  79. Miss Ophelia Rose

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

  80. linda

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

  81. Stephanie

    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.

  82. Tricia

    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!

    • Brenda

      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.

  83. Nancy

    …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! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • thank you, Nancy;-)

    • Sue

      I always use the Long Tail CO for socks because of the better stretchiness than a cable CO. I can’t see why it should have been booted off that sock forum. As an obsessive sock knitter, I’ve found this method to be a revelation. Good on you for sharing it with them in the first place, Nancy.

  84. Susan

    Wow.. Finally a solution. Brilliant

  85. Sonja Kuvik Loyd

    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.

    • Sue

      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

  86. Dolly

    Gee! Why I didn’t think of that?

  87. Lee

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

    Thank you!

  88. Kat

    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

  89. maureen starr

    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;-)

  90. Betty

    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.

  91. Lorraine

    That’pure genius. Thank you!

  92. Shirley


  93. Adriana


  94. Olya

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

  95. Judy

    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.

  96. Andrea

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

  97. alicia

    Great tip!

  98. Val

    Definitely using this tip. Thanks muchly

  99. Liz

    Great tip, thanks. Some truly useful tips on your website, wish I had found it years ago! Off to try the bias bind off on my latest creation…

  100. Betsy

    Wow! This will be a lifesaver for my next project. I love the LTCO and have had way too many of those “I’m 5 stitches short” or a really long tail that I just do not want to snip short.

    Thanks for this, and all the rest of your tips. Well presented and useful.
    Betsy in the Seattle suburbs

  101. Ema

    Great one! I wouldn’t have thought of this! Thank you!

  102. Obrigada, pela excelente dica, de montagem de cauda longa.

  103. Glenda

    That’s probably one of the best knitting tips ever!! Thank you.

  104. Deb


  105. Marsha

    Brilliant! Learned two things: 1) How to do the long tail cast on without all the frustration! and 2) to not count the slip knot as first stitch. It always bothered me to knit it, but wasn’t clever enough to just slip it off. Thank you so very much!

  106. Linda

    This is brilliant. Life changing….Thank you for sharing this..

  107. Lee

    I used this tip the other night to CO 225 stitches. It’s a beautiful thing! ๐Ÿ™‚

  108. So lovely to see this – my mother showed me this technique when I was little (16!)
    xxx B

  109. Why are the simpliest solutions to ANYTHING the hardest to find. Thank you for solving this frustrating problem for us all. I seldom CO over 100 but any CO with too little or way too much is a pain; redo or waste.

  110. Kelly

    Just one note on singles or loosely plied yarns, it might be wise to test it out a little as I have had yarn unwind on me using the normal ltco. Most yarns this little untwist is absorbed by the yarn but some are a bit more “sensitive” especially lightly spun single plies.

  111. Love this. Once cast on 1256 st of a 1300 cast on. I could have cried. This is brilliant. An ah-ha moment. Thanks

  112. Cameron

    I have used the following technique for years: if the pattern tells you to cast on 20, wrap the yarn around your needle 20 times. Placing your thumb (to mark the spot) on the end, slide the yarn off the needle, make a slip know where your thumb is… and voila. Your long tail will have enough to cast on, usually with a little left over for good measure.

    • Yes, I have no problem with using standard LTCO for 20 stitches. The point of this post is to help people when 200, 300 or more stitches are to be CO. Personally, I would never take the time to wrap, then unwrap, then CO anything over 150 stitches. This method eliminates the need for estimating tail length of any kind.

  113. Jax

    I am confused by this written instruction. Is there a video counterpart? Thank you.

    • Not yet but I will probably show it in my Knit Stars video: along with my other top tips!

    • Jax

      Thank you Julie! Now if you have a trick for keeping the interchangeable cables from unscrewing, that would be another great tip. It is so frustrating to tighten the cables with the little wire and still they unwind during the course of knitting.

    • That’s why I’m an Addi Click fan. Expensive and worth EVERY penny if you knit a lot, which I do;-) No screws to come un-done, they click on and STAY on until you un-click them!

  114. Kathleen

    Thanks so much for posting this. I was taught this method when I first started knitting, but could not recall exactly what I was taught and have been looking for this information online for a long time:)

  115. Karen Stanley

    Why was I not told this year’s ago! THANK YOU!

  116. Anne

    How do you keep the tail yarn from winding on itself and knotting? I have trouble when the tail isn’t a separate, short piece that I can dangle to let out the kinking.

    • If I’m using this method, I keep each skein or ball well away from each other. But even at that if you are using high-twist yarns they will want to wind together. I stop every so often and un-twist- and just soldier on…

  117. Marion Tysnes

    Amazingly simple – and it solves one of my biggest peeves about knitting… Thank you!

  118. Staci L


  119. Loretta

    Brilliant! Thank you.

  120. Judy Phillips

    Well, thanks for that!

  121. LZ

    This is brilliant! Thank you!!

  122. Denise Wilson

    When I am casting on or starting a new ball and have a long end to cut off, I use it for sewing it up at the end.

  123. Marny CA

    I have used this method and it’s the best way to go for lots of stitches to cast on.

    There is a knit method, too … which I’ve not yet tried.

  124. Susan

    Thank you very much. I look forward to using this very soon.

  125. OMG ! Thank u ! After good 10years then I saw this !!!

  126. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Glad I finally saw this.

  127. dara hollingshead

    never learned the long tail cast on. but if i had this would make my day. may even learn it now just to use this trick.

  128. Vicki

    I have been using this method for some time. I don’t cut off the second ball of yarn. I use both alternating every two rows.

  129. Deb

    You rock!

  130. Jo-Anne

    You are just amazing!!

    Thank you:-) I was so frustrated trying to guess how much wool i would need to CO.

  131. Liz Cummings

    Great idea. Wish I had read this 3 days ago, still there is always the front to try it out on. Many thanks

  132. Kalpna

    Wow ! That’s so brilliant . It sure saves trouble . Thanks for sharing

  133. Marny CA

    A couple of years ago I tried this method and what a treat!

    Now it’s my go-to for long tail CO for a lot of stitches.

  134. gian kiran

    Really wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  135. Libby O

    I am new to knitting and this will help so much. I cast on and ran out of thread and then cast on and had way too much left over. This is a great idea!

  136. Ann M,

    Can’t wait to show this to my Monday “Stitch ‘n’ Bitch” group! Of all the pointers I’ve picked up on Pinterest, this has to be the most brilliant. Thanks!

  137. Amy

    I didn’t use the longtail cast on because of always running out of yarn. This is brilliant. I will be back to the nice looking longtail cast on yeah. Thank you for sharing Amy

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