ironed cast-on rag
basic techniques,  machine knitting

Making a Cast-on Rag

What is a cast-on rag?

A cast-on rag is a long thin piece of knitting which has loops on one edge that you hang onto your needles. You can then hang weights on this rag..

A cast-on rag is used with ravel cord. After hanging the rag, you knit 1 row stocking stitch with ravel cord. Then you can start your knitting either plain or patterned. When you have finished your knitting and have removed the item from your machine, you can easily pull out the ravel cord to separate the rag from your knitting..

Why use a cast-on rag

Casting on can be made easier if you use a cast-on rag because it enables you to start your cast-on with weights. This is especially good if you are doing patterned knitting. Knitting a row of ravel cord with your rag will enable you to easily separate the rag from your finished piece of knitting..

You can do both an open-loop or a closed-loop cast-on with the rag. Using a rag is good because it saves waste yarn..

Rags are also good for protecting knitting when needles are in hold. I would not be without my rags and have several in different colours to contrast with my knitting..

Easy to Make

It is easy (maybe a bit tedious) to create a cast-on rag which is a long thin piece of knitting which has loops on one side that can be hung on your needles. It can be made with any spare yarn that you have that is easily knitted. I like to use acrylic which is cheap and steam iron the rag flat. This makes it nice and smooth to use. You should choose a colours that will contrast with the colours that you usually knit with..

You can make a cast-on rag any length you like. You will need to knit 2 rows to make a loop so you need to knit at least twice as many rows as you needs loops. I have some short rags with about 60 loops (the first ones I made) and I have a couple of 100 loop rags and a very long 200 loop rag. If you do not want to make a very long rag, you can use two or more shorter rags..

If you do want to make a very long rag, then you will need a circular needles (hand knitting) that is thin enough to pick up the stitches from your needles.


This post explains how to make a cast-on rag and here is a link to a great video by the AnswerLady that helped me.

First choose your yarn. I tend to use waste yarn or left over yarn. I prefer acrylic 4 ply but also can use 3 ply. Acrylic yarn can be ironed flat and smooth which I like. Some yarns need a lot more heat than others so it might be a good idea to do a small rag first to get a feel for how deep your rag is after it is irnoned.

putting needles in hold
needles in hold

Set your machine to knit simple stocking stitch with carriage on the right. On the left side of the machine use your pusher tool to put about 24-26 (4 ply) to 28-30 (3 ply) needles into hold. (If your needles are a bit dodgy on the far left, then start as far left as you can go.)

Cast on. Any method will do. I tend to do a quick e-wrap. Set carriage to correct tension for your yarn, e.g. about 7 or 8 for 4 ply. Also switch on your weaving brushes if you have them as this will make it easier to knit the first few rows. I also push down the loops in the needle hooks to help them stay on the needles when knitting these first few rows.

knit a few rows

Set row counter to 000 and unlock. Knit a few rows (about 4) to get the rag started. Add two claw weights.

You are going to start knitting the rag from the left of the machine and move towards the right side, through a series of increases and decreases. (left-handers might wish to start on the right side of the machine and work to the left)..

To knit the rag

Step 1: Increase

increase on right
increase on right

First you increase one stitch on the right by pulling the next empty needle into hold.

Step 2: Decrease

Second you decrease one stitch on the left by using your 1-pronged transfer tool to move the first stitch on the left to the needle next to it on the right. You can pull the needle into hold if this helps knitting. Make sure the old needle is pushed all the way back so that it will not accidentally knit!

Step 3: Knit

Thirdly you knit 2 rows. You will now have created one loop on the edge of rag.


Continue to knit your rag by repeating these 3 steps until you have knitted enough rows. Move the weights as you move along the machine..

You need to knit twice as many rows as the number of loops that you want, i.e. the number of needles that you will want to cast on. A 100 loop rag is good for sleeves and a 200 loop rag is good for bodies and blankets..

For a 100 loop rag so I knit about 210 rows and a 200 I will knit about 420 rows (i like a few extra loops).


making cast-on rag
making cast-on rag

You rag will curl up as you knit, especially if you are using acrylic. You will also find that as you knit over the right side, your carriage will not trigger the row counter easily. You can deliberately move the carriage all the way to the left and back or you can start to count rows and every 10 rows change the row counter manually.

Longer Cast-on Rag

When you get to the end of the machine on the right and you want to make it longer, then pick up the stitches on a spare (small-sized) circular knitting needle (hand knitting) and then replace them on the left side of the machine and carry on knitting.

If you need a long rag but don’t have one, you can also just use more than one smaller length rags. So make sure you create a few rags. I like to have some in dark and light colours so that they contrast with the main knitting.

cast-on rag complete
cast-on rag complete

Do not worry if your cast-on rag is all curled up like mine. Wash and iron the rag to make it flat and usable.

When you first knit with the rag the loops will be difficult to see and pick up with the transfer tool. Do not worry, this will get easier as you keep using the rag and the loops will get more pronounced and easier to use.

ironed cast-on rag
ironed cast-on rag
Using a Rag to protect your knitting

A cast-on rag is also useful to protect your knitting when doing partial knitting. If some of your knitting is left on needles that are in hold for more than a few rows the constant moving of the carriage back and forth over the same stitches can cause chafing and sometimes a black oily mark on your knitting. A rag can stop this. Simply add the rag to the needles that are in hold. You do not have to have a loop on every needle. Push the rag up the needles towards the machine. The carriage can now pass in front of the rag as it knits. Any chafing and oily marks will be left on the rag and not your knitting.

Happy Knitting!






  • Jo Richardson

    I had never heard of one of these Carol but I’ve followed your instructions and made one and I’m sure it will be well used 😊

    Many thanks

    • wicked woollies

      Jo thankyou for your comment. I am glad that my instructions were useful. You will love using this if you want to cast on without a ribber. They are very handy for protecting one half of a jumper when you do the neckline and some needles are put in hold. I am sure you will want to make another one soon.

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