Smooth Join in the round

In order to start working in the round, we need to join the ends of cast-on stitches. You can simply do nothing and work the first cast-on stitch (st) to start circular knitting. Because circular knitting is spiral knitting there will be a step or jog at the beginning of the spiral. Generations of knitters have found many ingenious ways to minimise this step, and so here are 5 popular methods of joining in the round.

  1. Double Strand Join Work the first few stitches with both strands.
  2. Tail Join Pull the yarn tail through the first cast-on st.
  3. Stitch Swap Join Pull the first st through the last — they have exchanged their positions and threaded.
  4. Decrease Join Add an extra st, move it onto LN, work the first and the last sts together.
  5. Invisible Join Add an extra st; move the first st onto RN, bind off the last st over the first st and return the first st to LN.

Previously I used the Invisible Join because it creates an acceptable result. However, while knitting dozens of socks to perfect a new sock design, I worked out two new methods of joining in the round: Smooth Join and 2in1 Join. They both provide a strong and smooth cast-on edge. Here is my favourite, the Smooth Join. It is quick to make and gives a perfect result every time.

Upper level – green stitches and bottom level – white e-wrap loops

The idea for this join came from the structure of the Long Tail cast-on. The cast-on line consists of two levels: the upper one is made from the working yarn (stitches) and the bottom one is made from the tail yarn (e-wraps) – see photo above. Obviously, to connect two ends of this line smoothly, we need to combine one element from each level (3). On the left end we already have the connector (1) — the first stitch of the cast-on which is worked as a simple loop*. On the right end we need an e-wrap. Fortunately there are two strands at this end which we can use: the tail and the working yarn (2).

Smooth Join idea

* Note: the cast-on here is started without a traditional slip knot, but with the yarn wrapped around the needle.

To start the Smooth Join, make an e-wrap around the first loop and move this loop onto the RN (2-5). The first loop is now the last stitch. The e-wrap is formed by both threads, because if you only use the tail yarn, the connection won’t be strong enough.

Smooth Join: the start

To finish the Smooth Join, hide the tail. After the first st is worked, the tail end is moved to the back, by pulling it between the two threads which are connecting the just-worked st with the next one on LN.

This full tutorial video shows:

  • how to begin the cast-on
  • starting and finishing the Smooth Join
  • with long circular needles (magic loop) 
  • with short circular needles
  • with DPNs 
  • for stocking stitch 
  • for single ribbing 

The video shows the simplest way of wrapping the first loop. I found several ways to start the Smooth Join, some of them presented in additional video below, so that you can choose your favourite and use it for any tools and stitch patterns.

Even better news! The Smooth Join works perfectly not only with Long Tail cast-on but with other “two threads” cast-ons, such as Twisted German cast-on and Double Start cast-on. Smooth Join modifications will feature in a future post.

Three samples of cast-ons with the Smooth join, from the top:
Double Start, Twisted German and Long Tail cast-ons

Try the Smooth Join next time you are knitting in the round to achieve an even edge directly.