Judy’s Magic Cast On – Two Ways

Judy’s Magic cast on, by Judy Becker, is the perfect cast on for a seamless sock toe. However, I found it very difficult to learn originally. There are numerous tutorials and videos on the Internet, but I found it all very confusing. After much analysis, I finally understand that part of the confusion is just differering techniques, but the majority of the confusion is that there are really two different ways to do it.  Essentially, the original Judy’s Magic Cast On (JMCO) casts some stiches on clockwise (twisted), while the Modified Magic Cast On (MMCO) casts all stitches on counter-clockwise.  On the Internet, both of these methods are called Judy’s Magic Cast On – hence the confusion.  But you don’t want to mix them up (as I did initiallySad smile) because they are not only cast on differently, they are knit differently in the first round.  JMCO is easier to learn, MMCO is easier to knit.

COMPARISON OF BOTH MAGIC CAST ON METHODS

Name Ease of  Learning Cast On Stitch Direction Knitting First Round
Judy’s Magic Cast On Easier to learn All stitches on one needle CCW, all stitches on other needle (usually top) CW (twisted) Knit all stitches on one needle  (usually second needle) through the back loop
Modified Magic Cast On Harder to learn All CCW Knit normally

The first time I learned this cast on, I followed a video which actually used the MMCO, and then I used directions assuming I had used JMCO, so I ended up twisting instead of untwisting the stitches on the second needle.  Not a big disaster, but I ended up tearing it out because it bothered me.

I found it easier to learn the MMCO once I had JMCO down pat.  So, I recommend learning JMCO first and then switching to MMCO after you understand how it all works.  There are a number of tutorials and videos about each method available.  Just make sure that you understand which method you are using to cast on (based on the direction of the stitches around each needle) so that you knit it correctly.

You can find Judy’s orignal directions here: Judy’s Magic Cast on, or learn it with my practice directions below.  These are both for JMCO.  At the very bottom, I tell you how to change this to the MMCO when you are ready.

With my practice method, you color code the yarn and needles. This color coding will quickly point out any mistakes that you make so that you can correct them right away before you develop a bad habit. The original method JMCO is easier to learn because the motion is similar for both needles.  If you are an experienced knitter, you may find it easy to jump right into the seconc method, MMCO.

METHOD 1 (JMCO) PRACTICE DIRECTIONS:

  1. Use red and blue yarn or two other colors that you can call red and blue.
  2. Tie a small loop of one color yarn around a needle. This will be your red needle.
  3. Tie a small loop of the other color yarn around the other needle. This will be your blue needle.
  4. Tie your two colors of yarn together and cut the blue yarnto about 18 inches. This would normally be your yarn tail.
  5. For practice only, tie the yarn near the knot around the red needle. This will be your first stitch cast on. Later, you will use a yarn-over for your first stitch, but it is easier to practice with a knot.
  6. Hold both needles parallel in your right hand, with the red needleon top.
    Setup for practing Judy's Magic Cast on
    Setup for practing Judy’s Magic Cast on
  7. Hold the yarn in your left hand similar to a long-tail cast on, but with the blue yarn tail on top over your index finger, and the working red yarnon the bottom around your thumb. Tension by holding both in your palm.
  8. Note that the yarn colors are held opposite the needle colors, though they will end up on the matching color needle. This is because:
    • The top blue yarn tail makes the loops on the bottom blue needle. Think, “Top makes bottom!”
    • The bottom working red yarn makes the loops on the top red needle. Think, “Bottom makes top!”
  9. Judys Magic Cast on_ Needle Movement
    Keep needles “glued” together and rock them up and down as a unit.

    Next you will begin moving the needles up and down to pick up stitches. Make sure that your red needle always remains on top. Your needles tips will be tracing a figure 8 and you will always start with both needles in front of the yarn.  Remember, your knot is the first loop on the red needle.

  10. Make the first blue loop on the blue needle by bringing both needles up and over the blue yarn. Make a loop around the bottom blue needle by passing the yarn around and through between the needles.
  11. Make the next red loop on the red needle by bringing the both needles down and in front of the red yarn. Go back around and through between the needles to pick up that bottom red yarn. Think, “Down – back around – through.”
  12. Make the next blue loop on bottom blue needle. Think, “Up – back around -through.”
  13. Continue steps 11 and 1 2until you have the method down pat.
    • “Up – back around – through.” (Pick up top blue yarn with bottom blue needle.)
    • “Down – back around – through.” (Pick up bottom red yarn with top red needle.)
  1. Remember that the needles always start in front of the yarn and go around back and between to make the loop.
  2. You will quickly be able to spot your mistakes because all blue loops should be on the blue needle, and all red loops will be on the red needle.

Practice this way for a while and I promise you will find that it comes easily. It may help to picture yourself drawing that figure 8 with the tips of the needles.

KNITTING JMCO

Remember, for this cast on, the stitches on the upper needle are clockwise (backwards, twisted).  I like to knit the tail into the first round so that I don’t have to deal with it later.

  1. Turn your needles 180 degrees so that the needle points now fact toward the right.  Your blue stitches should be on top.  If you have put your needles down and are confused about which way they face, look closely at your cast on.  The front side is smooth.  The back side will have purl bumps.  Make sure you are knitting the knit side, not the side with the purl bumps!  If you knit the wrong side, you will know because you will end up with a line of purl bumps down the middle rather than a smooth knit.  The blue needle will be on top now.
  2. Knit the stitches on the top blue needle regularly.  If you are using a magic loop, you will have to pull out the bottom needle to do this.  With double-pointed needles, use a third needle.
  3. Turn your work 180 degrees to knit from the other needle.
  4. Knit the stitches on the now top red needle through the back loop.  These are the stitches that you wound on clockwise, so they are twisted on the needle and must be untwisted by knitting through the back loop.  (JMCO only!  For MMCO, knit regularly.)
  5. You have knit the first round.  If you knit the tail in, you can cut it off, otherwise leave it to work in later.
  6. After the first round, you will not have to worry about twisted stitches or knitting through the back loop.  You corrected that and can now follow your pattern.

KNITTING A REAL PROJECT

Now you are ready to try this on a real project.  Do it the same way that you practiced it, but without the knotted first stitch.  Change your starting method to this:

  1. Leave an appropriate length tail – when in doubt, go longer.  For sock weight yarn you are usually fine with about 12- 18 inches (18 if knitting in the tail).
  2. Drape the tail over the top needle from back to front, then through between the needles to the back.
  3. Cross the tail with the working yarn and set up your hands to cast on.  This makes a loop around the top needle that will be your first cast on stitch.
  4. Use a finger on your right hand (hand holding the needles) to hold that first stitch in place while you begin.
  5. Cast on!

Now that first stitch has no knot.  If you decide to knit in the tail, simply hold and knit the tail and working yarn together for the first round.  Then cut off the tail.  Note that you will have double yarn loops on the next round to pick up.   That’s it.  Easy.

MODIFIED MAGIC CAST ON DIRECTIONS

Slightly alter the path of your cast on to change the direction of the twist on the top needle.  In this case, you would change the direction of the loops on the red needle.  Change step 11 above to read:

11. Make the next red stitch on the red needle by bringing the both needles down and letting the yarn go between the needles with the red needle behind the yarn and the blue needle in front.  It helps me to rock my wrist down.  Now bring the needles forward and up.  Make sure that the red yarn is wrapping the red needle in a counter-clockwise direction.  This time think: “down – through  – around.”

MMCO 1

That’s the only change.  The important thing is to think about the way you bring the yarn through the needles in order to wrap CCW.  If you concentrate on always seeing the wrap go CCW, then it will become automatic.

Sometimes I think, “both up and around, one down and around,” because both needles go over the top yarn, but only the bottom needle goes below the yarn on the bottom.

Now, knit that real project using MMCO and don’t worry about knitting through the back loop because all of the stitches are oriented correctly.

Happy knitting!

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