Judy’s Magic Cast-On

Click here for the instructions: Judy’s Magic Cast-On.

Click on the above link and scroll to the bottom for a printer-friendly version. Or right-click on this link and choose “save link as” for a PDF version of the instructions. (Note, those are Windows instructions. Mac people, do the equivalent on your system.)

After you have learned Judy’s Magic Cast-On, the page at this link might be of interest: Starting A Small Circle With Judy’s Magic Cast-On.


Q. Figure-8, Turkish, Judy’s Magic Cast-On – they all seem the same. Are they? How are they different?

  • Figure 8, Turkish and Judy’s Magic Cast-On all start at the very end of the toe. None of them require picking up stitches, short rows or grafting.
  • The first round of Judy’s Magic Cast-On creates an actual center row of stitches and subsequent rounds circle this row. The first round of both the Turkish cast-on and the Figure-8 cast-on make a row of stitches on both sides, and the center of the piece lies between these two rows.
  • Judy’s Magic Cast-On has no row of “pseudo knit stitches” – i.e. knit stitches without the purl-bump twist on the back.
  • Stitches made with Judy’s Magic Cast-On have the same tension as the rest of the knitting and do not require tightening up later.
  • With Judy’s Magic Cast-On, both ends of the yarn remain on the same side of the work. This is very handy if you use the tail to double your stitches on the first row of a circular pattern – that is you knit a round with the yarn and tail held together, and then knit the next round by knitting one stitch in the each loop from the yarn and one stitch in each loop from the tail. The tail and the yarn are at opposite ends of the work with both Figure-8 and Turkish, making this technique unavailable.

Q. What about using a long-tail cast-on or the increase cast-on?

The long-tail cast-on creates a row of ridges on the outside of the sock. The increase cast-on creates a row of ridges on both the inside and outside of the sock. If these ridges bother you, then you would probably like one of the other cast-ons better. If you don’t mind the ridges, then these are also perfectly good methods.

Q. Which is best?

They all work. Know the strengths and weaknesses of each and use the one that is most appropriate to the piece you are making. In case of a tie — use the one you like the best or seems easiest.

Q. I’m using Judy’s Magic Cast-On, but I keep ending up with bumps on the outside of my toe. What gives?

You might be starting with the toe inside out. When beginning the first round, hold the needles with the points to your right and the side with the purl bumps is on top, then knit from the needles closest to you. This will seem a little counterintuitive. But your sock will “grow” downwards. Having the purl bumps on top will ensure that the purl side ends up on the inside and the knit side on the outside.

Q. How do you get the stripes in self-striping sock yarn to “fall right?”

The absolute middle of the sock toe will be between the two needles that are used for the cast-on. You are probably casting on between 20 and 30 total stitches, and that doesn’t take much yarn. If you want the first toe round to be one color, start the first loop in the middle of the color repeat so that the working yarn and the tail are both the same color. If you want a little stripe of a different color at the toe, start the first loop where the color changes. If you want both toes to start the same, measure how far it is from the needle to the next color change when starting the first sock, and start the second sock at the same place in the color repeat. If you want your socks to stripe randomly, start in random places.

Q. My tension is off. How do I correct that?

Try to cast on with the same tension around the needles that you have when you knit.

If you find that you have to tighten up the cast-on loops after you’ve worked a round or two, try making sure that each loop is snug around the needle next to the previously cast-on stitches before making the next loop. The two strands need to twist around each other to make the purl bumps on the under-side. If you make the stitch and don’t snug it up against the other stitches before making the next, the twist will be loose and your stitches will be loose.

If you find that the loops are too tight, try using larger needles for Judy’s Magic Cast-On, and then knit off onto smaller needles. Remember not to pull on the yarn as you loop it around the needles. Because you are holding both ends of the yarn, the loops will not slip off.

Q. Does it matter which direction I loop the yarn around the needles?

Not at all. But, it will make a difference in how the stitches are mounted. If you loop the yarn around the needles in a counter-clockwise direction (looking at the needle with it pointed towards you), then the stitch will be mounted with the leading leg to the front of the needle. If you loop the yarn around the needle clockwise, the stitch will be mounted with the leading leg towards the back. Remember to knit through the back leg when knitting these stitches on the first round so that the stitches are not twisted.

looping the yarn around the needle

Click on this link for the original Knitty article: Judy’s Magic Cast-On For Toe-Up Socks

Click on this link for corrections to the original Knitty article: Errata

Supplemental Information to the Knitty article:

I’ve seen some comments here and there that Judy’s Magic Cast-On as it’s shown in Knitty.com leaves a little knot on one side of the toe because you start with a slipknot. I thought that would be an easier way to anchor the yarn to the needle, figuring that when one is learning a new technique it doesn’t help to have to deal with yarn that keeps slipping. As I often do, I over-thought and confused the issue.

What I usually do instead of a knot is to loop the yarn around the needle as shown in this picture, with the tail to the left of the working yarn (assuming that you are holding the yarn in your left hand and the needle in your right hand). This “knotless” technique alleviates both the little knot at the side of the toe and the problem some people have had with the slipknot being loose.

I’m actually very pleased to know that knitters have tried this and found it useful! Please don’t hesitate to ask questions. You can email me at .