Long Tail Cast On

Unraveling the secret: How to measure for long-tail cast-on

Looking for a tutorial on how to measure for long-tail cast-on? There is a surplus of methods, blog posts, tutorials and videos describing how to measure for a long tail cast on for knitting. However, as many tutorials, videos, and conversations knitters have, there are still knitters who ask how to measure the long tail for cast on. All the time! I am in groups and forums and this question comes up consistently and regularly.

Why is this so difficult? How can we make it easier? Where is the communication failing? What exactly IS the problem?

First, it’s because we are all unique knitters with our unique gauges, so what works for one won’t work for someone else. Second, I believe new or beginner knitters, in particular, struggle with this measurement because everything is new! And the instructions, perhaps, do not go into enough detail.

When I was a new knitter, I recall being frustrated that knitting tutorials and videos would skip over steps that seemed so important to me. Despite many tutorial givers going in to great detail, I found myself confused. Even if you are not a new or beginner knitter, how to measure the long tail accurately may elude you.

3-5 ways how to measure for long-tail cast-on

There are approximately 3-5 ways to measure for long-tail cast-on. Each knitter has their own personal fave – including me! 

Why should you keep reading? Will I only show you my favorite method for how to measure for a long-tail cast-on? NO! I mean, yeah. I will show you my method, BUT I will do so much more!

I will help you get to know your own personal knitting and cast on gauge. So, get ready to tour your knitting and casting on gauge and become better aquianted. Together, we will use your own personal knitting gauge and cast on gauge. And learn to measure with my favorite method successfully each and every time. 

Hybrid Method: Wrap + Zig Zag = Success!

How to measure for long-tail cast-on

I use a type of “hybrid” method, a combination of wrapping and zig-zagging with excellent success – even when measuring to cast on a lot of stitches (100 or more!)

The first method I learned for measuring a cast on was, in fact, the wrapping method. It works well enough when casting on a small number of stitches, but if I had a lot of stitches to cast on I found that I ran out of needle for wrapping! And then, I would end up with too much or too little yarn. 

Being the super nerd I am, lover of math and all things knitting, I started really looking at the mechanics of the long-tail cast on. Where was the long tail yarn going vs. the yarn attached to the ball? Does this matter? I used to think it didn’t! But I was sooooo wrong.

Why I chose to wrap? I wanted to have a method that did not involve a lot of work. And I could do with the tools in my hands = yarn + needle(s).

Why I chose the zig-zag method? Too many stitches to cast on = too many wraps around the needles. I would either run out of needle and/or not wrap evenly. It just made sense to zig zag!

Finally, I ended up with my “hybrid method” of wrap and zig zag for how to measure a long-tail cast-on.

Wrap & Zig Zag Method Syllabus

I loved syllabus week in college! It was my second favorite time of the school year! First favorite? Finals day (week/weeks!) What!? I told you I was a nerd!

Intro to Wrap+ZigZag Measure Success

If you love all the details, keep reading! I am going to take you on a tour of your knitting (that’s right – YOU! YOUR knitting!) And learn what to look for to match cast on gauge to knitting gauge

All you need for this method is the yarn and needle(s) you will be knitting with (or casting on with if you cast on with different needles!)

Take my hand, and let’s walk through this process step by step.  By the end of this blog post, you will be much more confident, not only of how to measure for the long tail cast on, but also what your cast on stitches should look like on your needles.

Just as each knitter is unique, your cast on will be unique as well. There is NO one size fits all. I do believe that we can follow the same steps and armed with the knitting knowledge you are about to gain, you can get the same results I do –  even if you are at a different gauge!

My goal in this blog post is not to add to the long tail noise, but rather address specific issues and offer explanations to those who are struggling. I have been there. It felt like I was just not doing it right. I thought I was missing something. The explanations made sense, and I would follow the instructions as best as I could, but then – my tail was too long, or I ran out of yarn and had to start over. Especially for a new knitter that was terrible! Casting on took a long time! I did not want to start over!

Click the button to view a YouTube tutorial that will walk you through this process. 

Knitting Scientists

First, let us be scientists. And put on your lab coats!

Remember scientists observe and make notes. But they do not judge or condemn.

Pick up something you knit with a long tail cast on, preferably in a stockinette stitch. (if you have not yet knit anything-do not worry!

Now, look at your cast on edge. What do you notice? Does it match with the rest of your knitting as far as gauge goes? Is it too loose? Is it too tight?

how to measure for a long-tail cast-on compare knit to cast-on edge
knit gauge on knitting needles helps you how to measure for a long-tail cast-on

Second, take a knitting needle (the size and, if possible, the same one you knit the item with!). Now, insert it into some of your stitches, at least 5.

Look at the space you have around your needle. And really look at the gaps. Be sure to notice how the yarn sits on the needles.

This is your knitting gauge, AND this is the gauge you want for your cast on edge.

For me, notice how the space between my stitches is equal to the thickness of the knitting needle. Armed with this knowledge I can calculate what my cast on edge should look like – AND so can YOU!

When observing your knitting gauge as above, observe the gaps between your stitches in relation to the size of your needles. In order for this method to work, we must always remember to adjust our wraps, gaps, or lack thereof, in relation to the size of our yarn and needles. 

Step 1. Insert your needle into the slipknot with the long tail closest to you, and the yarn attached to the ball furthest from you.

Step 2. Hold onto the yarn with the bottom of your palm and your ring and pinkie fingers.

Index finger and thumb preparing to open yarn. Step 3. Using your index finger and thumb separate the yarns with the long tail near you being held by the outside of your thumb and the yarn attached to the ball held on the outside of your index finger.

Sling Shot Hold

Step 4. Take your needle and move it to the yarn on the outside of your thumb, press down until it is holding the yarn.

Step 5. Swing your needle so that the yarn is now wrapped around the needle and bring your needle up and over the yarn on the outside of your index finger.

Step 6. Bring your needle down on the yarn on the outside of the index finger.

Step 7. Swing your needle back out towards your thumb and through the gap in yarn held by your thumb. 

Step 8. Drop the yarn from off your thumb and bring your thumb to the outside to pick up the long tail again. Pull to the appropriate tightness for your knitting gauge.

Do not pull too tight! Remember what your knitting gauge looks like – this is what this stitch should look like as well. It will not be matchy match yet, because the cast on edge is different, but aim for the space and feel and once you knit, your knitting will pull the cast on stitches into place.

Repeat steps 3 through 8 until you have cast on the desired number of stitches.

Graduation Day!


Remember guys: C’s get degrees! If you still have practice to do, no worries! 

How did you do? I can’t wait until you measure your long tail and end up with the perfect tail each time!

If you’re on IG and that happens because of this tutorial – tag me and tell your knitting friends!!! @ozzylosiknits! Or hashtag me #ozzylosiknitdesigns

I’m so excited for your cast on edge matching your knitting gauge! I can’t wait until you feel so confident in longtail casting on that all these tiny steps we covered today are a distant memory!

Still having trouble? Leave me a comment or send me an email! I’d love to hear from you and help in any way I can!

Did you love the detail in this tutorial?

Happy knitting!


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