Many knitters -- whether they learn from someone else or start on their own from a video or book -- begin their knitting careers with one of the simplest and easiest cast ons -- the Knitted Cast On (click here for a video.) This cast on is great to learn on because it teaches you the steps for the knit stitch from the very beginning. I learned with this cast on, and a little rhyme taught me how to memorize the steps: under the fence, around the sheep, bring him through, and off he leaps!
As I got more advanced in my skills, I found that the Knitted CO just didn't work for a lot of things I was making. It's not very stretchy, so it wasn't picked for mittens, hats, or necklines on sweaters. And it didn't lay as nicely or evenly as a Long-Tail -- you couldn't cast it on mid-row like a Backwards Loop. And when I used it for swatches or scarves or flat knitting, I found the little loops that the edge sometimes makes frustrating. I wanted clean edges.
Last year, I decided to pick it back up and see if I could get a clean edge from it -- and I could, with a little trick, which I'm now going to share with you. You use the cast on the exact same way, but when you work back for you first row, you're going to knit through the back loop on every stitch. It doesn't make it any less (or any more) flexible, but it sure does make it prettier!
Here's the difference, so you can see. The first 10 stitches from the right are done the traditional way, where you knit into the stitches normally in the first row -- you can see the little loopies along the edge. The next 10 stitches are done with a ktbl for every stitch. It makes for a pretty braided finish.
I will definitely be picking the Knitted CO up more! In fact, I've been using it on my swatches quite a bit.