Last week, I fielded a question regarding casting on stitches for an underarm on a top-down sweater. Our customer found the directions to be a bit confusing. I can understand that. We usually cast on to begin a project, not in the middle of one. The timing was interesting; I am at the point of casting on stitches for an underarm on my current project. I like to knit sweaters in the round (no seams), so I have seen different written directions for this in many patterns.
For example, below are the directions for the cast on written in my current pattern. The pattern just states, “cast on.” For someone who has not done this before, this may be hard to imagine. And, once you get the concept, what cast on should you use?
With right sides facing work the 36- 40- 44- 48- 48- 52 sts from waste yarn onto larger DPN’s and then either cast on 6- 6- 6- 6- 8- 8- sts from underarm, or pick these up from underarm of body= 42- 46- 50-54-56- 60 sts. Join to work in the round and place a marker at centre of underarm, in the middle of the cast on or picked up sts. This is the beginning of the round. Work sts in stockinette (knit).
Often, pictures are better than words; so, for those of you who like to see a demonstration, watch the video, Top Down Sweaters: Casting On Underarm Stitches (https://youtu.be/cmaIYuHHlt8). It features a Backward Loop Cast On and shows how it fits into the overall scheme of a top-down sweater sleeve. I have also used a knitted cast on for this purpose. It all depends on the look that you want and your personal preference.
I have to say that my go-to reference for cast on and bind off stitches is Cast On Bind Off: 54 Step-by-Step Methods. Although I am a fairly experienced knitter, I realize that there are just too many cast on and bind off methods for me to memorize. This handy little book is terrific and provides me with great information, including the characteristics of the various methods (elastic vs tight, neat vs decorative edge) and when to best use them (for example, buttons holes, shawl edges, bottoms of hat and mittens, matching edges with a Traditional Bind Off, etc.). I appreciate the easy-to-follow directions and the clear, concise pictures of each step.
If you are confused by a pattern, don't feel limited just to its instructions. My advice is to begin a collection of references that are handy and fit your skill level and style. I watch YouTube tutorials, but only after I have looked up the method in one of my reference books.