How to Cast On Stitches
All knitting begins with a cast-on, which creates loops on the needle. Long Tail Cast-on is a favorite. Cable Cast-on (or the similar Knitting On) is also quite nice, and good to know for buttonholes at least. After the cast-on, you can work the knit stitch or the purl stitch, which are the foundation stitches of knitting.
Also known as Double Cast-On or Continental Cast-On
This is my favorite cast on method, I use it almost exclusively. It creates an even, stretchy edge that works well for stockinette stitch or for ribbing. It's easy to knit from, easy to pick up stitches from, and is also the fastest cast-on I know, once you get the hang of it. It's even faster than Single Cast-On when you take into account that this method creates an already knitted row (technically, anyway...but patterns don't count this row).
Tip: When a pattern calls to "cast on loosely" (like sock cuffs and turtle necks), I will do this cast on over two needles held together as one. Results are a cast on that is literally as stretchy as your ribbing.
I usually give myself 12" of tail for every 20 stitches, more generously if it's bulky yarn. Do what works for your tension. (1/2-1" of tail per stitch.)
I specify to dangle the tail from your thumb for two reasons: 1) Your tail length will not fluctuate with the needle size, so it's easier to estimate yarn. 2) The yarn on the thumb side will tend to "untwist" as you go, but since it's not attached to the ball end it's easy to reintroduce the twist as you wish.
There is another method of working longtail cast-on, which is a slower to work, called the thumb method. Here's a video: view video
Also known as Backward-Loop Cast-On
Easiest method to learn, but tricky to knit from evenly.
See also Knitting-On, which can be substituted view continental video
view english video
A gorgeous, flexible cast-on. Stay loose, or it can be quite difficult to get the yarn through. Can also be done with a crochet hook in the right hand.*
Start with a slip knot: view video . Knit into slip knot, leaving the stitch on the left needle. Place the new stitch onto left needle, by slipping it knit-wise. *Knit into gap between last two stitches on left needle. Place knitted stitch onto left needle by slipping it knit-wise. Repeat from *. Note: you can also place the stitch on the needle purl-wise. The results are virtually identical.
*Thanks to Jean A. in NC for writing in this tip.
Knitting-Onview continental video view english video
This is a nice method for teaching a new knitter, since it's just the knit stitch, repeatedly made into the last stitch and kept on the left needle. Personally I find this far easier to work than cable cast-on, and often substitute it when Cable Cast On is called for.
Start with a slip knot: view video . *Knit 1, leaving stitch on left needle. Transfer new stitch onto left needle by slipping it knit-wise. Repeat from *.
German Twisted Cast-On
Also known as Old Norwegian Cast-Onview video
Worked in a similar way as Long-Tail Cast-On, but trickier and using a longer tail. This inserts an extra twist into the thumb loop, and there is more drag and difficulty when snugging up each stitch.
Try to avoid over-tightening in your attempt at making this even. When done at a good tension, this can gave a nice springy edge. Some sock knitters love this CO.
Invisible (Provisional) Cast-On
Also known as Looped Cast-On
This is a provisional cast-on: one that can be easily undone to expose live stitches, and then knit from seamlessly. Usually done with a second piece of yarn that is ultimately removed, I sometimes do it with the flexible cable of a cable needle. When done with a cable needle, the picked up stitches can be knit directly from the needle.
Start with a slip knotview video for the working yarn. Skip the first wrapping of the working yarn on the first cast on stitch, and go directly to wrapping the provisional yarn or cable, as shown in the video (coming soon).
Note: When you go to knit off of this bottom edge, every other stitch (ie. on the cable needle) will be twisted. You must knit (or purl) through the back loop of the twisted stitches. (see "k tbl," and "p tbl" in the abbreviations explained page)
Provisional Crochet Cast-On
There is more than one way to work a provisional crochet cast-on. This is my favorite. Start it with a slip knot. Use scrap yarn for this, then knit off of it with your working yarn. When you want to later expose live stitches, just unravel the crochet from the completed cast-on end. Use a smooth cotton yarn, or similar, for the CO edge, to make it easier to remove. (Alpaca and other fuzzy yarns can actually begin to felt in place, making them difficult to remove).
Alternate Cable Cast-On
This has a very discreet edge against k1 p1 ribbing.
In the video I comment that it's tricky to work. For me, it's because I tend to work it too tightly, and need to focus on keeping it loose. It also requires some clumsy movements as a Continental knitter. Sorry English knitters, I don't have a demo in English. As one viewer commented, it certainly would be more straight forward to an English knitter, although I would still stress that you want to work it loosely.
Start with a slip knot: view video . Knit into the slip knot, leaving the stitch on the left needle. Place the new stitch on left needle by slipping it knit-wise. Then *Purl into space between last two stitches. Place stitch on left needle by slipping knit wise. Knit into space between last two stitches. Place on left needle by slipping knit wise. Repeat from *, ending with the knit stitch, so there's an even number of stitches (including the slip knot). *k1, p1* on the following rows for ribbing.
TIP: Using a crochet hook in the right hand can make this cast on easier. (Thanks to Jean A. in NC for writing in this tip.)