How to knit tutorial: the tubular cast-on method for 2 x 2 rib (for knitting right-handed)

The 2 x 2 Tubular Cast-on Method Starting With a Stocking Stitch Foundation

The 2 x 2 tubular cast-on method is extremely satisfying because it creates a beautiful cast-on edge which rolls from the right side of the rib to the wrong side. Tubular edges are quite elastic, so are suitable for hats, mittens and socks.

Tubular cast-on for 2 x 2 rib: use a knitting needle to remove the waste yarn one stitch at a time.

The following explanations and images are for those who knit right-handed, that is, your right hand is your working hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and you move your stitches move from the left to the right needle as you knit. If you knit left-handed, then take a look at my blog post How to Cast On: The 2 x 2 Tubular Cast-on Method (for knitting left-handed).

Needle Sizes

Remember, 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

Since this cast on is for a 2 x 2 or double rib, I’m going to assume that you will always want an even number of stitches. Either you will start with k2 and end with p2 (or vice versa), in which case your number of stitches is divisible by four, or you will start and end with k2 (or vice versa), in which case your number of stitches is divisible by two, but not four.

The 2 x 2 tubular cast-on method always makes an odd number of stitches, so you will decrease one stitch in the first rib row. To calculate the number of stitches to cast on in waste yarn, divide by two then add one.

Example 1: if you want 20 stitches in your rib (20 ÷ 2 = 10; 10 + 1 = 11), so cast on 11 stitches.

Example 2: if you want 18 stitches in your rib (18 ÷ 2 = 9; 9 + 1 = 10), so cast on 10 stitches.

Instructions for the 2 x 2 Tubular Cast-on Method

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 20 stitches in my 2 x 2 rib).

Row 1: knit.
Row 2: purl.
Row 3: knit.

Then, 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.

2 x 2 tubular cast-on method: knit the first part of the foundation strip in waste yarn

Pick up Your Project Yarn

Change to main yarn (mine is pink), then work two more rows as follows:

Row 4: purl.
Row 5: knit.

In the photo below, you can see two rows of stocking stitch in project yarn.

2 x 2 tubular cast-on method: knit the next part of the foundation strip in garment yarn

Set Up the 2 x 2 Tubular Rib

With the purl side facing you, identify the lowest row of purl bumps in the project yarn. These have purl bumps in waste yarn above and below them. It’s easier to identify the correct purl bumps if the two colours contrast well.

2 x 2 tubular cast-on method: knit the first part of the foundation strip in waste yarn

Using the smaller needle purl the first two stitches on the left needle.

2 x 2 tubular cast-on method: purl the first two stitches.

Then, with yarn at back insert the right needle into the first purl bump from top to bottom. This is the lowest horizontal strand in project yarn which lies below and between the first two stitches that you’ve already purled.

2 x 2 tubular cast-on method: insert the left needle through the first purl bump from top to bottom.

Slip this loop onto the left needle, taking care that it is not twisted …

2 x 2 tubular cast-on method: place the purl bump on the right needle without twisting it.

and knit the loop.

2 x 2 tubular cast-on method: knit the purl bump.

Then insert the right needle into the second purl bump from top to bottom. This purl bump lies below and between the last stitch you purled (on the right needle) and the next stitch on the left needle.

2 x 2 tubular cast-on method: insert the left needle through the next purl bump from top to bottom

Slip this loop onto the left needle, taking care that it is not twisted, then knit it.

2 x 2 tubular cast-on method: and knit that purl bump.

You may find it easier to insert the left needle bottom to top, in which case, it’s already on the left needle, so just knit it. I usually use one needle for the first purl bump and the other needle for the second one.

Continue to work across the row, purling two stitches from the left needle, then picking up and knitting the next two purl bumps. If you started with an odd number of stitches in waste yarn, you’ll end the row by purling the last stitch. Whereas, if you started with an even number of stitches, you’ll end by knitting a purl bump. Either way, you will finish with an odd number of stitches.

Here is the wrong side.

2 x 2 tubular cast-on method: carry on purling two stitches, then knitting two purl bumps to the end of the row

Work the 2 x 2 Rib

In all cases, you work the rib by knitting the “knits” and purling the “purls” as established in the set-up row.

For a number of rib stitches divisible by four

Remember, I said that, If you wanted your rib stitches to be divisible by four, then you had to cast on an odd number of stitches in waste yarn (eleven in my example). Therefore, if you wanted 20 stitches in your rib (20 ÷ 2 = 10; 10 + 1 = 11), you had to cast on 11 stitches. You will have made 21 stitches. So without decreasing the first two rows will be:

Row 1 (RS): k1; * p2, k2; rep from * to end. 21 sts.
Row 2 (WS): * p2, k2; rep from * to last st, p1.

You could decrease at the beginning of the row:

Row 1 (RS): p2tog, p1, k2; * p2, k2; rep from * to end. 20 sts.
Row 2 (WS): * p2, k2; rep from * to end.
Row 3 (RS): * p2, k2; rep from * to end.

or at the end of the row:

Row 1 (RS): k1; * p2, k2; rep from * to last 4 sts, p2, k2tog. 20 sts.
Row 2 (WS): p1, k2; * p2, k2; rep from * to last st, p1.
Row 3 (RS): k1; * p2, k2; rep from * to last 3 sts, p2, k1.

For a number of rib stitches divisible by two, not four

Remember, I said, that if you wanted your rib stitches to be divisible by two, but not four, then you had to cast on an even number of stitches in waste yarn. Therefore, if you wanted 18 stitches in your rib (18 ÷ 2 = 9; 9 + 1 = 10), you had to cast on 10 stitches. You will have made 19 stitches. So without decreasing the first two rows will be:

Row 1 (RS): p1, k2; * p2, k2; rep from * to end. 19 sts.
Row 2 (WS): * p2, k2; rep from * to last 3 sts, p2, k1.

And again, you could decrease at the beginning of the row:

Row 1 (RS): k2tog, k1; * p2, k2; rep from * to end. 18 sts.
Row 2 (WS): * p2, k2; rep from * to last 2 sts, p2.
Row 3 (RS): k2; * p2, k2; rep from * to end.

or at the end of the row:

Row 1 (RS): p1; * k2, p2; rep from * to last 2 sts, k2tog. 18 sts.
Row 2 (WS): p1, * k2, p2; rep from * to last st, k1.
Row 1 (RS): p1; * k2, p2; rep from * to last st, k1.

Below, you can see what the 2 x 2 tubular cast-on looks like after a few rows. The stocking stitch worked in waste yarn is still attached.

2 x 2 tubular cast-on method: work the first row of the rib, k1, p1.

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.

2 x 2 tubular cast-on method: use a knitting needle to remove the waste yarn one stitch at a time.

You don’t need to undo all the waste yarn, just the row 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.

2 x 2 tubular cast-on method: the finished rib.

And here you can see how the knit stitches roll round the tubular edge. It’s not quite as effective as the 1 x 1 tubular cast-on method, but it’s still very knitterly!

2 x 2 tubular cast-on method: the finished rib rolls beautifully from front to back.

Remember to change to larger size needles for the rest of the project!

Want to Learn More?

Take a look at my other tutorials. Choose from:

Tutorials for knitting right-handed

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.

Tutorials for knitting left-handed

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.

Tutorials for crocheting right-handed

You crochet right-handed if your right hand is your working hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and you crochet from right to left or anti-clockwise.

Tutorials for crocheting left-handed

You crochet left-handed if your left hand is your working hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and you crochet from left to right or clockwise.

Or maybe you’d like to come to one of my short courses or workshops or book a special personalised one-to-one tutorial.

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