In Review: Cast On, Bind Off

Last year, I was lucky enough to attend a class at TNNA taught by Margaret Radcliffe on casting on. This class delivered not only instruction for instructors on how to teach basic cast-ons, but also a few of those super awesome, complex specialty cast-ons that I love to geek out to. Yes, I am that lady. I love learning little acrobatics with sticks & string that let you add just a little something extra to projects. I love the challenge and the subtle differences between cast-ons and imagining how on earth people figured these things out. Really, it amazes me!

In any case, in preparation for a cast-on class I was teaching earlier this spring I picked up a copy of Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor.20130606-121418.jpg

Many knitters have one or two go-to cast-ons and bind-offs and don’t really expand on that unless they are really pushed to do so in a class or by a pattern. It seems like too much trouble, an opinion I have argued against many times. The right cast-on and bind-off can really make or break a project. The time it takes to learn which method to use when is a worthy time investment for the return — once you start to expand your repertoire, you will see that the perfect edge can really make a project sing.

Easily divided into practical categories like ‘all-purpose’, ‘decorative’, ‘super stretchy’, ‘lace’, etc. Cast On, Bind Off makes it easy for even a novice knitter to select the best cast-on or bind-off method for any project. This book is a must-have simply because it serves knitters of all skill levels, supplying the most basic foundation cast-ons and bind-offs all the way to the more complex specialty ones. Does it include every single cast-on and bind-of method out there? Well, no. For such a portable title, however, I consider the 54 methods it does include to be comprehensive enough for the average knitter. The most frequently used methods are all present as are some of their variations as well as a smattering of the more obscure.  In short, it is a good mix for a reference of this size.

Furthermore, you cannot beat the clean & concise layout of this little reference gem.20130606-123440.jpg

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when it comes to knitting references, short & sweet is the way to go. Bullet points and clearly labeled step-by-step instructions are always more effective than lengthy explanations. This book delivers — characteristics and when to use each method are listed in brief, bullet pointed lists. Photos from both above and straight-on showing what each method looks like appear next to these lists. Finally, step-by-step instructions neatly lined up next to easy to follow photos demonstrate each cast-on and bind-off. At the end of some methods, tips are listed for getting them just right — a very nice touch indeed for those who need to troubleshoot a problem or want to work on perfecting their skills.

I often find cast-ons and bind-offs to be difficult to demonstrate in photos as opposed to video because so much of casting-on and binding-off is fluid with one motion leading into the next. Occasionally in this book I found that some of the more complex maneuvers were a bit hard to follow in words or photos alone, but really this is to be expected. As an instructor or author, the biggest hurdle is usually the English — the words used to try to explain an action — not the actual physical ‘doing’. This is where the combination of words and photos are to the reader’s advantage here — two paths to the same end, the key that makes every skill in this book accessible.

This small spiral-bound book is portable and jam-packed with nicely laid-out how-tos. Whether you are a knitter on the go or just interested in a concise, comprehensive, informative guide to basic cast-ons and bind-offs, this book is for you.

6 responses to “In Review: Cast On, Bind Off

  1. Hmm, I may have to pick this book up. As you say, I have a few go-to cast-ons and bind-offs (knitted CO and Jenys super stretchy BO are my usual suspects), but every time I learn a new method, I seem to find tons of uses for it. Learning the proper application of more would really spice things up, I’m sure!

    • Spice things up *and* improve the final outcome of your projects! :). I love this book because it means you don’t have to commit them to memory – the book is so portable you can just reference the skills you need when you need them. That’s always the trick of learning cast-ons and bind-offs, isn’t it? We don’t get the same kind of practice as other skills. So yes! I think you’d get a lot of use from this title!

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