The backward loop cast on on a knitting needle with a notebook with a description

The Backward Loop Cast-On

Also known as the Single Simple Wrap, the Single Cast-On, the E-Wrap, or the Half-Hitch Cast-On

The backward loop cast-on is a quick and easy cast-on technique, perfect for the impatient knitter, but it’s best used for adding a small amount of extra stitches at the end of a row, or in the middle of a row, not as a general cast-on. Because it’s so easy to learn this cast-on, many beginners learn this method first – that’s a mistake, because it’s difficult to knit from this cast-on.

Read on to learn how to make the backward loop cast-on, when to use it, how to get it right, and what happens when you get it wrong.

Good for

  • Adding stitches at the ends and middles of rows
    • The underarm of top-down sweaters
    • The base of a mitten’s thumb
    • Similar knitting situations
  • Impatient knitters, making a gauge swatch or something similar

Bad for

  • Beginners!
  • Button holes (not sturdy enough)
  • General project cast-on

The Backward Loop Cast-On step by step

Making a slip knot

To begin the backward loop cast-on you first make a slip knot and place it on a knitting needle. A slip knot is the foundation stitch for many types of cast-ons, so it’s a useful knot to know. There are many ways to remember how to make it, but I quite enjoy this crocodile approach by Davina from Sheep & Stitch:

Wrap, pick up, slide off and repeat

Once you have your slip knot, slide it onto a needle, and follow these steps to cast on the backward loops:

steps 1 and 2 of the backward loop cast on
Steps 3 and 4 of the backward loop cast on
Steps 5 and 6 of the backward loop cast on

Getting it right – Be careful knitting the first row

The backward loop cast-on amounts to simply wrapping loops loosely on the needle. The loops are not really stitches yet, and it’s not surprising that the cast-on can come apart when you start knitting from it. Therefore you need to be very careful when you knit the first row. You will want to work close to the tips, without pulling the needles apart, to prevent excess slack. When tightening a newly formed stitch, be sure to only tighten it with the working yarn and never with the yarn between the two needles.

No matter how careful you are, an excess of yarn will build up between the needles. That’s why this cast-on technique is best suited for a small amount of stitches. However, there’s a neat little trick that will allow you to cast on more stitches with the backward loop method without worrying about that excess yarn.

Cast on fewer stitches than you need

If you need to cast on more than a few stitches with the backward loop method, then cast on one stitch less for every five or six stitches you need. Say you need 12 new stitches at the end of a row, then you cast on 10 stitches with backward loops, and turn the work. Then on the first row knitting those new stitches, you increase with two stitches, using the increase method Make 1. Keep in mind that Make Ones are always done between two stitches. So, in the example, you turn the work, knit five stitches, and from the excess yarn that has built up between the needles you Make 1. I would choose to Make 1 Left, but you can Make 1 Right if you prefer. Then you knit five more stitches, and between the new stitches and those that were already on the needle before you began casting on with backward loops, you again Make 1 Left.

Make 1 Left

To Make 1 Left, pick up the running thread between the needles with the left needle tip, from front to back, and then knit into the back of the loop, creating a new stitch. If you are on a purl row, then you make one with a purl stitch.

Illustration of Make 1 Left

Backward Loop Cast-On for top-down sweater underarm cast-on

If you are making a top-down sweater, then the backward loop cast-on is an excellent choice for the underarm cast-on. This is an example of casting on stitches in the middle of a row, and more than just a few stitches. The join between the cast-on and the existing stitches will tend to be loose, but you remedy this with the trick above: Cast on two less stitches than required, then on the following row/round work a Make 1 at each end to take up the slack. If you experience a lot of slack, then you can replace more of the cast-on stitches with M1 increases.

Getting it wrong – excess yarn between the needles

If you use the backward loop cast on without paying attention to keeping the needle tips close together when knitting the first row, then you will soon realize something is wrong. With every new stitch the running thread connecting the needles will grow longer. The backward loops are not real stitches, and they are not secure, so when you pull the needles a little apart to tighten the newly knitted stitch, you are creating a slack of yarn, and it will build with every stitch. After several stitches it will look something like this:

Excess yarn between needles from cast on mistake
If you experience excess yarn between the needles when knitting your first row, and it’s getting worse with every stitch, then it’s a combination of two things: Your choice of cast-on method, and you are pulling the needles apart rather than keeping the tips close together when you knit.

This is a very common issue for new knitters, and it happens because they get bad advice on which cast-on technique to learn. The backward loop cast-on may be the easiest cast-on to learn, but it’s the hardest to knit from. If you are a new knitter, and you are experiencing this problem, please read my Knitting SOS guide Problems Knitting Your First row, and I will help you learn a better cast-on method.

What’s your favorite cast-on method?

I can think of more than 20 cast-on methods from the top of my head. Some like the long-tail cast-on are great because they can be used for almost any type of project, others are more elastic, or decorative. Some are used for knitting a circle flat, from the inside out, or has two or more colors, some are provisional, and some are tubular. What’s your favorite cast-on method, and when do you use it? Please join the discussion and leave comments and questions below.

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