When I did my write up on my Merino Blank Canvas jumper, I mentioned that I had knit it both top-down and bottom-up, by casting on in the middle of the project. Here’s how to do it.
- Choose a place to cast on. This decision might be based on which direction you prefer knitting in, or where will be the most discreet place for your join. I chose to cast on about 1″ beneath the underarm, with the join in the round directly below the underarm so it would be hidden.
- Cast on your required amount of stitches using a provisional cast on. I used Judy’s Magic Cast On but have since discovered Fleegle’s Totally Stretchy and/or Provisional Cast-On which is much quicker and less fiddly – you could cast on your entire stitch count in under a minute.
- Now you should have stitches ready to be knit in either direction. But – you will have one less stitch on one needle than the other. This is because although it looks like you are knitting equivalent stockinette stitches in either direction, you are really knitting into loops which are offset from each other. You can’t really notice it by eye, but there will definitely be a difference in stitch count! This is easily remedied by knitting a couple of rows in one direction and decreasing or increasing as needed. (TechKnitter explains this better than I can.)
- Join in the round and work your yoke upwards as per pattern instructions. Then, using the other needle which holds your live provisionally cast on stitches, knit down to your desired length.
Too easy, right? The only real difficulty is that the provisional cast on might be of a slightly different tension to the rest of your work. You can see it a little in these pictures, but it’s not enough to bother me. If it bugs you, you can always go back with a knitting needle and tug on the stitches to redistribute the tension more evenly.
You can probably see how useful this technique can be. It’s not only for knitting garments from both directions. For instance, if you like working sock heels from the foot up but still want to adjust the length of your foot as you go, you could cast on just before heel shaping. Or if you’re knitting for growing children, provisionally cast on above the ribbing bands and work them later, ready to be ripped out and replaced when your kid grows in length.
The only time this technique won’t work is in patterned stitches, eg ribbing. This is because of the oddity mentioned above – you are working interlocking loops, not aligned stitches, so any offset stitches which would be invisible in stockinette would be extremely noticeable in ribbing (I tried this. Don’t make the same mistake!).