Tubular cast-on method for 1×1 rib – a right-handed knitting tutorial

Remove rest of waste yarn.

This tubular cast-on method for a 1×1 rib starts with a stocking stitch foundation

I think you might like this tubular cast-on method for a 1×1 rib. Tubular cast-on methods are extremely satisfying because they create a beautiful cast-on edge which is indistinguishable from the rib itself. These edges are quite elastic, so are suitable for hats, mittens and socks.

The following explanations and images are for those who knit right-handed, that is, your working hand is your right hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and the stitches move from the left-hand to the right-hand needle as you knit. If you knit left-handed, then read this blog post: Tubular cast-on method for a 1×1 rib – a tutorial for knitting left-handed.

Needle sizes

Normally when you knit an item with a rib, you use needles a size or two smaller for the rib than the garment. This keeps the rib nice and elastic. When you work a stocking stitch tubular cast-on, you will also use the larger needles to knit a foundation strip in waste yarn. This type of cast-on method is much easier if the foundation strip is looser than the rib that follows.

Number of stitches

Look at your pattern and determine if you need an even or an odd number of stitches.

For an odd number of stitches, add one then divide by two.

  • For example, if you want 21 stitches in your rib (21 + 1 = 22; 22 ÷ 2 = 11) cast on 11 stitches.

This method always makes an odd number of stitches, so if you want an even number of stitches you will need to make one more stitch than required, then decrease in the first rib row. Therefore, for an even number of stitches, divide by two then add one.

  • For example, if you want 20 stitches in your rib (20 ÷ 2 = 10; 10 + 1 = 11) cast on 11 stitches.

Instructions for the stocking stitch tubular cast-on method for a 1×1 rib

Start with some waste yarn

Using the larger needles, smooth waste yarn in a contrasting colour (mine is yellow cotton) and any cast-on method, cast on the required number of stitches (I’ve cast on 11 stitches because I want 21 stitches in my rib).

  • Row 1: Knit.
  • Row 2: Purl.
  • Row 3: Knit.

Cut the waste yarn leaving a tail about 15 cm [6 inches] long.

In the photo below, you can see three rows of stocking stitch in waste yarn.

Step 1: Work three rows of stocking stitch using waste yarn to make foundation strip

Pick up your project yarn

Change to your main yarn (mine is pink) and work two more rows as follows:

  • Row 4: Purl.
  • Row 5: Knit.

In the photo below, you can see two rows of stocking stitch in project yarn.

Step 2: Work two rows of stocking stitch using working yarn

Set Up your 1×1 rib

Holding the foundation strip with the purl side facing you, identify the lowest purl bumps in the project yarn. These will have waste yarn purl bumps above and below them. You will be using these soon.

Step 3: Turn foundation strip so purl bumps are facing you

Using the smaller needles purl the first stitch on the left-hand needle.

Step 4: Purl first stitch on left-hand needle

Then insert the right-hand needle into the first purl bump from top-to-bottom. This is the lowest horizontal strand in project yarn (pink) which lies between the first two stitches.

Step 5: Pick up first purl bump

Slip this loop onto the left-hand needle, taking care that it is not twisted …

Step 6: Place purl bump on left-hand needle without twisting it

and knit the loop.

Step 7: Knit purl bump on left-hand needle

Alternatively, you might prefer to insert the left-hand needle bottom-to-top, in which case, it’s already on the left-hand needle, so you just knit it. Sometimes I find using the left-hand needle is easier; sometimes the right-hand one.

Continue to work across the row, purling one stitch from the left-hand needle, then picking up and knitting the next purl bump from the lowest row worked in project yarn. End the row by purling the last stitch from the left-hand needle. You will have an odd number of stitches.

You can see what this looks like from the wrong side below. I now have 21 stitches (you can’t quite see them all).

Step 8: Carry on purling stitches and knitting purl bumps to end of row

Work the 1×1 rib

Work the rib by knitting the “knits” and purling the “purls” as established in the set-up row. The first two rows are:

  • Row 1 (RS): * K1, p1; rep from * to last st, k1.
  • Row 2 (WS): P1; * k1, p1; rep from * to end.

Remember that I said if you wanted an even number of stitches you make one more stitch than required, then decrease in the first rib row. You could decrease at the beginning of the row:

  • Row 1 (RS): P2tog, k1; * p1, k1; rep from * to end.
  • Row 2 (WS): * P1, k1; * rep from * to end.

or at the end of the row:

  • Row 1 (RS): * K1, p1; rep from * to last 3 sts, k1, p2tog.
  • Row 2 (WS): * K1, p1; rep from * to end.

You can see what the rib looks like, below, after a few rows. The stocking stitch worked in the waste yarn is still attached.

Step 10: Work rest of rib.

You can see how the knit stitches roll over the edge of the rib without removing the waste yarn.

Step 11: Lower edge of rib rolls

Remove the waste yarn

Use a spare needle to remove the waste yarn. Start at the cut end of the waste yarn and tease it out of the rib one stitch at a time.

Step 12: Use knitting needle to remove waste yarn one stitch at a time

You don’t need to undo all the rows of stocking stitch in waste yarn, just the one you worked last. If you are going to be casting on a second piece with the same number of stitches, you could pop the stocking stitch band onto a stitch holder to reuse later (you would need to rework row 3).

Step 13: Remove rest of waste yarn

Here’s the finished rib with that lovely tubular cast-on edge.

Finished 1x1 rib with a tubular edge

And here you can see how the knit stitches roll round the tubular edge. Very satisfying! Very knitterly!

Rolled edge of a tubular cast-on for 1x1 rib

Remember to change to the larger size needles for the rest of the project!

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