Technique Tutorial - Judy's Magic Cast On Beyond Sock Toes

A Provisional Cast On for Many Purposes!

Judy's Magic Cast On, first published in Knitty's Spring 2006 issue, was presented as a new way to start toe-up socks.  The beauty of this cast on, compared to other methods of beginning toe-up socks, was that it neatly and evenly put stitches on both needles while forming a perfect row of purl bumps on the back of the work.  If you do not already know how to execute Judy's Magic Cast On, the photo tutorial on Knitty is, of course, an excellent resource, as is Cat Bordhi's demonstration video where she shows how to eliminate the problem of half the stitches being mounted backwards on the needle.

However, this fabulous cast on is good for much more than just sock toes.  It can substituted for nearly any provisional cast on.  It does not need to be unpicked to access the other set of stitches, and it has exactly the correct stitch count, as opposed to many provisional cast ons, which leave you one stitch short.

Good opportunities to substitute Judy's Magic Cast On for other provisional cast ons include:  anything with a hem - hats, sweaters, socks; scarves and stoles worked from the center out; cowls knit flat and seamed - simply cast on with Judy's Magic Cast On, then graft the seam at the end with Kitchener Stitch.

Skacel and Knit Purl Hunter are currently running a free Knit Along with the perfect opportunity to try out this technique.  Ambiguous is a stranded cowl knit in the round using Sueño, a new yarn by HiKoo.  Details about prizes are on Skacel's website - enter pictures of your finished project by 29 February 2016 to be eligible.

Here is how I cast on for my Ambiguous Cowl:

Sueño Yarn

I chose my colors of Sueño - the pink will be my main color, and the orange will be my contrast color.

ChiaoGoo Needles

I gathered my needles.  I'm using ChiaoGoo Twist interchangeable needles.  Because I'm making the smaller size, I'll be knitting on a 16" circular, so I need 4" needle tips in the size to give me gauge and an 8" cord.  I also need a cord that is longer than the needle I'm knitting with - in this case I used a 22" cable.  If I were making the larger size, knitting with a 24" circular, I would use a 30" cable.  I also gathered end stoppers and a tightening key.

If you don't have interchangeable needles, you can always use two fixed circular needles of the same size - one longer than the other.

Needles ready to go

I put together my needles like this:  one tip on each cable, one end stopper on each cable.  That way stitches don't fall off the ends of my cables as I'm casting on.

Determining Tail Length

Since Judy's Magic Cast on requires a long tail, I like to estimate the amount of yarn I'll need by wrapping it around a needle.  I wrap 10 times, then measure that length.  That gives me the information I need to make a good guess about how long of a tail to leave.  In this case I need to cast on 144 stitches, so I took the length of 10 wraps and multiplied it by 15 - 150 wraps' worth.  Of course, I always leave several inches more than my estimate dictates - it really stinks to run out with only a few stitches to go!

Preferred Set Up

Put the needle tip that you want to knit on first on top.  For me, that's the short one.  I like to make sure that the yarn that goes to the ball is over my thumb so that it is wrapping the top needle.  That means it will spiral cleanly into the first round of knitting.  However, it doesn't make a big difference which way you hold the yarn, so don't be too worried about it.

Casting On

Ok, time to cast on!  Follow the pictures on Knitty or Cat Bordhi's video.  Make sure that you have the same number of stitches on each needle.  To cast on the 144 stitches I need for this project, there will be 144 stitches on the top needle and 144 stitches on the bottom needle when I am done.

Cast On Complete

Ta da!  If you are using fixed circulars instead of interchangeable needles with end stoppers, you may want to put some kind of point protector on the end of your shorter needle.  As you can see, the stitches are filling the shorter cable completely.  If you don't have point protectors, even just wrapping a rubber band around the tip of your needle several times will create enough of a bump to stop the stitches from sliding off.

Ready to Knit

At this point, I need to rearrange my needle tips to be ready to knit.  The shorter cable needs to have both needle tips attached, and the longer cable needs stoppers at both ends.  Remember that because Judy's Magic Cast On forms purl bumps on the back, the first row or round of knitting has been completed.  Start your project on the second row unless the first row is patterned.  If the first row is patterned, your project will simply have one more row in it than the pattern calls for - this is rarely problematic.

Ambiguous Begun

Here is the beginning of my Ambiguous Cowl.  I have started with Row 2 of the border chart, and I am working on the 16" circular needle.  When the pattern calls for me to tear out my provisional cast on and put new stitches on the spare needle, I will simply put needle tips on the longer cable - the stitches are waiting for me!

I hope this tutorial has been clear and helpful.  If you have any questions, please post them in the comments.  I would also be interested to hear what other applications you have found for Judy's Magic Cast On!

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