The Stocking Stitch Tubular Cast-on Method for a 1 x 1 Rib
Tubular cast-on methods are extremely satisfying because they create a beautiful cast-on edge which is indistinguishable from the rib itself. These edges are quite elastic, so are suitable for hats, mittens and socks.
The following explanations and images are for those who knit left-handed, that is, your working hand is your left hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and the stitches move from the right to left needle as you knit. If you knit right-handed, then go to my blog post How to Cast On: The Stocking Stitch Tubular Cast-on Method for a 1 x 1 Rib (for knitting right-handed).
kNormally when you knit an item with a rib, you use needles a size or two smaller for the rib than the garment. This keeps the rib nice and elastic. When you work a stocking stitch tubular cast-on, you will also use the larger needles to knit a foundation strip in waste yarn. This type of cast-on method is much easier if the foundation strip is looser than the rib that follows.
Number of stitches
Look at your pattern and determine if you need an even or an odd number of stitches.
For an odd number of stitches, add one then divide by two. For example, if you want 21 stitches in your rib (21 + 1 = 22; 22 ÷ 2 = 11) cast on 11 stitches.
This method always makes an odd number of stitches, so if you want an even number of stitches make one more stitch than required, then decrease in the first rib row. Therefore, for an even number of stitches, divide by two then add one. For example, if you want 20 stitches in your rib (20 ÷ 2 = 10; 10 + 1 = 11) cast on 11 stitches.
Instructions for the Stocking Stitch Tubular Cast-on Method for a 1 x 1 Rib
Start With Some Waste Yarn
Using the larger needles, a smooth waste yarn in a contrasting colour (mine is a yellow cotton) and any cast-on method, cast on the required number of stitches (I’ve cast on 11 stitches, because I want 21 stitches in my rib).
Row 1: knit.
Row 2: purl.
Row 3: knit.
Cut the waste yarn leaving a tail about 15 cm | 6 inches long.
In the photo below, you can see three rows of stocking stitch in waste yarn.
Pick up Your Project Yarn
Change to main yarn (mine is pink) and work two more rows as follows:
Row 4: purl.
Row 5: knit.
In the photo below, you can see two rows of stocking stitch worked in project yarn, as well as the three rows in waste yarn.
Set Up the 1 x 1 Rib
Holding the foundation strip with the purl side facing you, identify the lowest purl bumps in the project yarn. These will have waste yarn purl bumps above and below them. You will be using these soon.
Using the smaller needles purl the first stitch on the right needle.
With yarn at back insert the left needle into the first purl bump from top to bottom. This is the lowest horizontal strand in project yarn (pink) which lies between the first two stitches.
Slip this loop onto the right needle, taking care that it is not twisted …
and knit the loop.
Alternatively, you might prefer to insert the right needle bottom to top, in which case, it’s already on the right needle, so you just knit it. Sometimes I find using the left needle is easier; sometimes the right.
Continue to work across the row, purling one stitch from the right needle, then picking up and knitting the next purl bump from the lowest row worked in project yarn. End the row by purling last stitch from right needle. You will have an odd number of stitches.
You can see what this looks like from the wrong side below. I now have 21 stitches (you can’t quite see them all).
Work the 1 x 1 Rib
Work the rib by knitting the “knits” and purling the “purls” as established in the set-up row. The first two rows are:
Row 1 (RS): * k1, p1; rep from * to last st, k1.
Row 2 (WS): p1; * k1, p1; rep from * to end.
Remember that I said if you wanted an even number of stitches you make one more stitch than required, then decrease in the first rib row. You could decrease at the beginning of the row:
Row 1 (RS): p2tog, k1; * p1, k1; rep from * to end.
Row 2 (WS): * p1, k1; * rep from * to end.
or at the end of the row:
Row 1 (RS): * k1, p1; rep from * to last 3 sts, k1, p2tog.
Row 2 (WS): * k1, p1; rep from * to end.
You can see what the rib looks like, below, after a few rows. The stocking stitch worked in the waste yarn is still attached.
You can see how the knit stitches roll over the edge of the rib without removing the waste yarn.
Remove the Waste Yarn
Use a spare needle to remove the waste yarn. Start at the cut end of the waste yarn and tease it out of the rib one stitch at a time.
You don’t need to undo all the rows of stocking stitch in waste yarn, just the one you worked last. If you are going to be casting on a second piece with the same number of stitches, you could pop the stocking stitch band onto a stitch holder to reuse later (you would need to rework row 3).
Here’s the finished rib with that lovely tubular cast-on edge.
And here you can see how the knit stitches roll round the tubular edge. Very satisfying! Very knitterly!
Remember to change to the larger size needles for the rest of the project!
Want to Learn More?
Take a look at my other tutorials. Choose from:
You knit right-handed if your right hand is your working hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and you move your stitches your left to right needle as you knit.
You knit left-handed if your left hand is your working hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and you move your stitches move from your right to left needle as you knit.
You crochet right-handed if your right hand is your working hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and your new stitches are on the left of your old ones.
You crochet left-handed if your left hand is your working hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and your new stitches are on the right of your old ones.