Tubular cast-on method for a 2×2 rib – a left-handed knitting tutorial

Remove rest of waste yarn.

This tubular cast-on method for a 2×2 rib starts with a stocking stitch foundation

There are different tubular cast-on methods for 1×1 or 2×2 ribs. Tubular cast-on methods are extremely satisfying because they create beautiful cast-on edges which roll from the right side to the wrong side of the rib. Tubular edges are quite elastic, so are suitable for hats, mittens and socks.

The following explanations and images are for those who knit left-handed, that is, your working hand is your left hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and the stitches move from the right-hand to the left-hand needle as you knit. If you knit right-handed, then read this blog post: Tubular cast-on method for a 2×2 rib – a tutorial for knitting right-handed.

Needle sizes

Remember, 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

Since this cast on is for a 2×2 or double rib, I’m going to assume that you will always want an even number of stitches. Either you will start by knitting two stitches and end by purling two stitches (or vice versa), in which case your number of stitches is divisible by four, or you will start and end by knitting two stitches(or purling them), in which case your number of stitches is divisible by two, but not four.

The 2×2 tubular cast-on method always makes an odd number of stitches, so you will decrease one stitch in the first rib row. To calculate the number of stitches to cast on in waste yarn, divide by two then add one.

  • Example 1: if you want 20 stitches in your rib (20 ÷ 2 = 10; 10 + 1 = 11), so cast on 11 stitches.
  • Example 2: if you want 18 stitches in your rib (18 ÷ 2 = 9; 9 + 1 = 10), so cast on 10 stitches.

Instructions for the 2×2 tubular cast-on method

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 20 stitches in my 2 x 2 rib).

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

Then, 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), then work two more rows as follows:

  • Row 4: Purl.
  • Row 5: Knit.

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

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

Set up the 2×2 rib

With the purl side facing you, identify the lowest row of purl bumps in the project yarn. These have purl bumps in waste yarn above and below them. It’s easier to identify the correct purl bumps if the two colours contrast well.

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

Using the smaller needle purl the first two stitches on the right-hand needle.

Step 4: Purl first two stitches on left-hand needle

Then, with yarn at back insert the left-hand needle into the first purl bump from top-to-bottom. This is the lowest horizontal strand in project yarn which lies below and between the first two stitches that you’ve already purled.

Step 5: Pick up first purl bump

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

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

and knit the loop.

Step 7: Knit purl bump on right-hand needle

Then insert the left-hand needle into the second purl bump from top-to-bottom. This purl bump lies below and between the last stitch you purled (on the left-hand needle) and the next stitch on the right-hand needle.

Step 8: Pick up next purl bump

Slip this loop onto the right-hand needle, taking care that it is not twisted, then knit it.

Step 9: Knit purl bump on right-hand needle

You may find it easier to insert the left-hand needle bottom-to-top, in which case, it’s already on the left-hand needle, so just knit it. I usually use one needle for the first purl bump and the other needle for the second one.

Continue to work across the row, purling two stitches from the right-hand needle, then picking up and knitting the next two purl bumps. If you started with an odd number of stitches in waste yarn, you’ll end the row by purling the last stitch. Whereas, if you started with an even number of stitches, you’ll end by knitting a purl bump. Either way, you will finish with an odd number of stitches.

Here is the wrong side.

Step 10: Carry on purling two stitches and knitting two purl bumps to end of row

Work the 2×2 rib

Work the rib by knitting the “knits” and purling the “purls” as established in the set-up row.

For a number of rib stitches divisible by four

Remember, I said that, If you wanted your rib stitches to be divisible by four, then you had to cast on an odd number of stitches in waste yarn (eleven in my example). Therefore, if you wanted 20 stitches in your rib (20 ÷ 2 = 10; 10 + 1 = 11), you had to cast on 11 stitches. You will have made 21 stitches. So without decreasing the first two rows will be:

  • Row 1 (RS): K1; * p2, k2; rep from * to end. 21 sts
  • Row 2 (WS): * P2, k2; rep from * to last st, p1.

You could decrease at the beginning of the row:

  • Row 1 (RS): P2tog, p1, k2; * p2, k2; rep from * to end. 20 sts
  • Row 2 (WS): * P2, k2; rep from * to end.
  • Row 3 (RS): * P2, k2; rep from * to end.

or at the end of the row:

  • Row 1 (RS): K1; * p2, k2; rep from * to last 4 sts, p2, k2tog. 20 sts
  • Row 2 (WS): P1, k2; * p2, k2; rep from * to last st, p1.
  • Row 3 (RS): K1; * p2, k2; rep from * to last 3 sts, p2, k1.

For a number of rib stitches divisible by two, but not four

Remember, I said, that if you wanted your rib stitches to be divisible by two, but not four, then you had to cast on an even number of stitches in waste yarn. Therefore, if you wanted 18 stitches in your rib (18 ÷ 2 = 9; 9 + 1 = 10), you had to cast on 10 stitches. You will have made 19 stitches. So without decreasing the first two rows will be:

  • Row 1 (RS): P1, k2; * p2, k2; rep from * to end. 19 sts
  • Row 2 (WS): * P2, k2; rep from * to last 3 sts, p2, k1.

And again, you could decrease at the beginning of the row:

  • Row 1 (RS): K2tog, k1; * p2, k2; rep from * to end. 18 sts
  • Row 2 (WS): * P2, k2; rep from * to last 2 sts, p2.
  • Row 3 (RS): K2; * p2, k2; rep from * to end.

or at the end of the row:

  • Row 1 (RS): P1; * k2, p2; rep from * to last 2 sts, k2tog. 18 sts
  • Row 2 (WS): P1, * k2, p2; rep from * to last st, k1.
  • Row 1 (RS): P1; * k2, p2; rep from * to last st, k1.

You can see what the tubular cast-on for a 2×2 rib looks like, below, after a few rows. The stocking stitch worked in the waste yarn is still attached.

Step 11: Work first row of rib

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 waste yarn, just the row 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).

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

Finished 2x2 rib with a tubular edge

And here you can see how the knit stitches roll round the tubular edge. It’s not quite as effective as the tubular cast-on for a 1×1 rib, but it’s still very knitterly!

Rolled edge of a tubular cast-on for 2x2 rib

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

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