How to Long Tail Cast On without Estimating Tail Length

Long Tail CO creates a neat edge but you are often left with too much tail or run out before you have enough stitches. When a pattern requires you to CO 200 stitches, how do you estimate how long a tail to leave? You don’t.


Here’s how to CO without having to estimate the tail length:


Step 1

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


Step 2

Leave at least 3" on each tail, tie the ends together with a slip-knot


Step 3

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


Step 4

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


Step 5

With left hand wrap yarn around finger and thumb (as seen in photo and video)


Step 6

With right needle, come under thumb loop of left hand


Step 7

Then come over finger loop and draw a loop of yarn from the finger loop through thumb loop


Step 8

Release, tighten up that stitch, and reposition fingers/ hands for next cast-on stitch.


Step 9

When you have all stitches CO (do NOT count the initial slip-knot), cut one of the working strands, leaving a tail that you can later work in.


Step 10

Begin knitting with knitting with the un-cut strand of yarn and when you come to the other end of your CO, get rid of that slip-knot, just slide it off the needle and pull out the knot.

If you are casting on fewer stitches, check out the traditional method.



What do you do at the end of casting on? Now that there are two strands of yarn at the end, do you just cut the one you don’t use and have two tails?


I always slip the 1st and knit the last stitch – no matter what the pattern says. When working increases/decreases I always work my increases/decreases after the 1st or before the last stitch. It gives a better finish and makes it easier for sewing together when finished.

Suzanne Cooper

All I can say is WOW! Thank YOU!!!

Paula Bogert

Hello: am working on the Maude tunic (beautiful design) and have begun and then ripped out twice where shaping begins. The problem: I am not pleased with how I work the sloped BO with slipped stitch at beginning of sequence when turning the work. Is the some way I can tighten up and make those slipped stitches—where the sloping begins—tidier? Thank you!

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