What is a Cast on Rag?
Updated: Sep 4, 2022
A cast on rag is an easy to make “tool” used in machine knitting to increase the speed of casting on a new piece of knitting. It also reduces the wasteful feeling when using waste yarn.
Why use a Cast On Rag?
A cast on rag reduces the usage of “waste yarn”. We hate wasting waste yarn so we prefer to avoid it, at least for cast ons
A cast on rag gives you a convenient place to hang the weights and are FAR easier and faster to use than a cast on comb
A cast on rag allows you to cast on more “even” stitches and avoid the difficult “too tight” cast on
A small cast on rag will provide support for just a few cast on stitches when making little trims or smaller projects (try using a claw weight for casting on 3 stitches and you’ll understand why we love our mini-cast on rags
How to Make a Cast on Rag
Supplies for Making a Cast on Rag:
Cheap cotton yarn that will knit at approx tension 3 or 4. Don’t use wool or any yarn that is very splitty because it’ll become harder to rehang the stitches. You need yarn in two different colors
Ravel Cord (optional during construction, required during usage)
Directions for making a Cast on Rag:
Use waste yarn or another cast on rag to create an open cast on using tension 3 or 4 (which ever gives you a normal, not overly tight or loose sample). How many stitches should you cast on? We make several cast on rags in different lengths. At least 1 the full length of the bed, at least 2 that are half the length of the bed, at least 2 that are 25% of the bed, then at least 2 that are your favorite swatch size + 10 stitches (assuming that this size is different from 25% of the bed), then a few small ones that are approx 10 st, 20 st etc for smaller details.
Knit 40 rows for a mid gauge or 60 rows for a standard gauge. Of course, these are just guidelines. We knit approx 4″ because we like our hem to accommodate a 1.5″ diameter PVC pipe that we use to evenly weight the cast on and the beginning rows of the knitting.
Now pick up the open cast on stitches, rehang it on the needles to form the pocket for the PVC pipe.
Knit at least 10-20 rows more so that there is space between the needles and the weights.
Increase the stitch size to the highest, largest stitch size setting.
Change yarn colors to a contrasting color and knit 1 row with the larger stitch size
Change the stitch size back to the original tension setting and continue to knit with the contrasting color of yarn for 5 rows then bind off.
We make different cast on rags for each gauge of machine. You could use a standard gauge cast on rag for a midgauge machine if you occasionally skip a stitch. But use of a midgauge cast on rag doesn’t work nicely on a standard gauge machine.
Finished Cast on Rags
How Do I Use the Cast-On Rag?
This is a Cast on Rag. See the large Purple loops? Those loops will be hooked onto the needles of the machine
Choose a rag that has more than stitches than your knitted piece will require. While you could use a rag that is the same size as the maximum number of needles on your bed, We prefer to use one that is as close to the size of the knitted piece as possible, as long as there are more stitches available in the rag than in the desired knitting piece.
Fold the rag in half along the big stitch row (where the two different colors of yarn meet) with the purl side out. Notice how those loops just pop up, very big! If you use the cast on rag with the machine gauge that you made it with, the spacing should be very close to the spacing of the needles and you can just place the loops on the needles.
If the loops are “flat”, just use a transfer tool to hang them on the needles. If your loops become pulled and misshapen over time, just pull the top and the bottom of the cast on rag, you’ll see the loops in the large row realign again. You can then fold it in half and the loops will pop up, proud and fast!
Center the rag on the bed (needle 1 should be in the middle of the rag). You want the rag “centered” so that it will hang evenly with an approximately equal amount of rag on either side. Having the rag centered on the bed will help the PVC pipe weight remain even.
Once the number of desired needles have the cast on rag hung, thread the ravel cord into the carriage, as though it were yarn. Knit one row.
Unthread the ravel cord from the carriage and put your yarn in the carriage feeder. You can now do your favorite closed cast on or if you want an open cast on, you can simply start knitting and bind off later.
Cast on Rag in Use. See the white line between the purple and turquoise? That’s the Ravel Cord!
Myths about Cast On Rags:
Myth: Cast on rags can only be used for open cast ons (those that are not secure/finished)
The cast on rag actually supports the ewrap cast on, the knitted back cast ons (knitted back ewrap, knitted back figure 8 etc). When we first read about this we thought “What’s this about?” But now we know, the cast on rag is far more suitable than the use of the cast on comb. Not sure about you, but our cast on comb likes to hop off of the knitting, leaving the knitting unevenly weighted. With our cast on rag, we can evenly weight the knitting with weights or with a PVC pipe.
Myth: To use a cast on rag, you indiscriminantly poke the needles through the knitted rag “anywhere” on the rag.
You cannot have knitting ABOVE the needles – that isn’t a great idea! You want to hang it like you’re rehanging stitches onto the needles. When in use, your cast on rag should have just a row of stitches resting on the needles. Now, it IS ok to skip stitches of your cast on rag. No one, including your knitting will care about the occasional missed stitch, one pulled from the row below etc. However, it should generally appear to be orderly, hung like a piece of knitting would have been.
See the loops? They are hanging on the needles in a nice, orderly fashion.
Myth: A cast on rag is difficult to make.
We think they make great beginner projects and we make at least one on every new machine to test all the needles across the bed. Made a mistake? Who cares? We just secure it and move along. It’s just your cast on rag! We can make one in 15 mins.
Myth: A cast on rag is time consuming to use
Nope! if you do it our way, those stitches will almost jump onto the needles all by itself! Using ravel cord is VERY simple. You just thread it into the carriage and go. When you’re done, just pull the ravel cord and the cast on rag pops off. Your knitting will look like you never used a cast on rag (other than the fact that it looks FAB and knitting without one looks – well, not as nice ).
Myth: A cast on rag is for one time use
Why would we spend the time if it was a one time thing??? If you use ravel cord, your cast on rag can be used over and over again. If you don’t use ravel cord…uh, your cast on rag could be a one shot deal or you’ll have to unravel the entire knitting (or cut it off)
How should I store my Cast on Rags?
How do I know how many stitches are on my cast on rag?
Why do you use a Cast on Rag instead of a Cast on Comb?
We don’t use a cast on comb for many reasons:
A cast on comb tends to fall off the “cast on” at the wrong time
Cast on Combs come in limited lengths, which may make them awkward if the comb is longer than the piece of knitting
Cast on Combs force you to put your weights into delicate, new knitting rows. Once the knitting has grown by many rows, it’s easier to get the weight on there safely. At only 2-3 rows, it’s tricky. A cast on rag gives you more “secure” space for your weights when knitting those delicate, early rows