Ribbed cuffs are nice and stretchy. They snug up around your shins or your wrists and give a perfect fit. Unfortunately, that lovely stretch can be undermined by the type of cast on you use. If you are new to making socks, mittens, leg warmers or gauntlets and you are finding that the cast on of your cuffs tend to bind on the leg or arm, I have a couple easy tips for you. I am assuming that you are knitting “cuff down”.
Because socks, mittens and related garments have a relatively small circumference,
it makes a big difference how you cast them on.
The traditional long tail cast on tends to give a strong stable foundation for your knitting. For many things this is excellent. On larger garments like toques (hats or beanies) or on sweaters there are usually enough stitches that using this method works well. It stabilizes the edge and helps to keep it from stretching out. Putting the garment on and off is not an issue for the most part, because the size of the opening is not restrictive.
We want our socks and mittens to fit snugly around our legs and arms. I don’t know about you, but slouchy socks drive me bananas, and loose mittens fall off me. We usually incorporate a folded cuff or a ribbed cuff that allows the foot or hand to easily fit through, while still allowing it to hug the wrist or shin. That long tail cast on, (and other traditional cast ons) with its lovely sturdy structure works against the need to maximize the stretch of the ribbing.
The Twisted German Cast On puts an extra twist into each stitch you cast on. It takes a wee bit of practice until you get used to it. I found that I had to refer to a video for the first three or four projects I used it on before I could remember it consistently.
Be aware that just using the Twisted German may not be enough.
If you are knitting for someone who has large calves or feet, forearms or hands this may still bind. There is one extra step that I suggest. When you cast on, take the time to either cast on over two needles of the size you’ll be using for your main project, or use a needle that is double the girth of the size you’ll use for the main project. When I say your main project, here’s what I mean. Often, patterns recommend using a smaller gauge needle to knit ribbing. This insures that the ribbing will have a nice “grab-ability” (also called negative ease) and will keep from stretching out. Then, once the ribbing is knit, the pattern will have you switch to a larger needle for the project. So what I’m recommending is that you use a needle that is double the larger size to cast on your Twisted German. Then switch to your ribbing size needle to knit.
When you first start you may think, “What? Judy, you are completely loopy! this is a loosey goosey mess!” Trust me on this. It’s only for the cast on. The person who normally struggles to squeeze their foot past the cast on; or gets nasty lines pressed into their calf from a rigid cast on will thank you.
If the recipient of your knitted masterpiece has average calves and forearms, then use double the ribbing needles’ size rather than double the project needles’ size.
The only thing about doing this method that you’ll want to be aware of is that when you start knitting the first row of ribbing, it’s really important that you knit those stitches as you normally would. Keep the tension nice and firm (without being overly tight). Focus on the right hand needle for the first row you knit and take time to keep the knitting very even and consistent. You may find a tendency to want to compensate for the looseness of the cast on by knitting that first row either tighter or looser than you normally would. Resist the urge. Once you get a few rows into the ribbing you will notice that the edge will tend to look a bit wobbly. That’s okay. Once the recipient wears them, that will give a nice soft edge that will allow their hands or feet to easily pass through, and won’t dig into their body. The ribbing will do the job of holding up the sock or keeping the mitten in place.
Here is a video that I really like that demonstrates the Twisted German Cast On: