Provisional Cast On Knitting Tutorial

Provisional Cast On Tutorial

You'll find that many knitting patterns begin with a provisional cast on. This Toddler Ballet Wrap is a good example. Any knitting project that has hems or that needs to be closed, like a knit stuffed animal or doll, usually calls for a provisional cast on.

While there is no shortage of resources online and in books to help you with learn how to do a provisional cast on––and there are a few different ways to do it––the steps below are a tried-and-true method used by many knitters.

Start the Cast On

Begin by crocheting a chain in a waste yarn—we would normally chain about 10 more than the number of stitches we want to cast on. Here, there will be 18 stitches.

Use yarn that is smooth and a little thinner than your working yarn, and choose a crochet hook that is a size larger than your needles will be. This makes a looser, airier chain for picking up those stitches.

Pick Up the Stitches

A provisional cast on
Eileen Casey

Turn your chain over and in the back you'll see horizontal "bumps" that resemble purl stitches.

With your working yarn, pick up stitches in these bumps. This will be the foundation of your cast on edge. If you used a waste yarn in a contrasting color for the chain, it should be easy to distinguish between the bumps and your stitches.

Pick up and knit stitches just as you would when picking up along a neckline, until you have the required number of stitches.

Pick up the stitches onto a crochet hook and then slide them (purlwise) onto the needle. While this creates an extra step, it's an easier method for picking up the stitches than trying to use a knitting needle, particularly as you're still learning.

Once the stitches are on the needle, work them as you would the stitches from any regular cast on, and follow your pattern instructions as written.


Unzipping a provisional cast on
Eileen Casey

When you are ready to use the stitches on the provisional cast on for adding an edging, or knitting in the opposite direction, or doing a three-needle bind off, you need to release them from the crocheted chain.

Unpick the fastening at the end of the crocheted chain and the chain should start to unravel quite easily. Helpful hint: tie a knot in the tail of this end, so you know which is the start and which is the end of the chain when you come back to it.

Carefully place your live stitches on a knitting needle as they become exposed—they are now ready to be worked. Make sure there are the required number of stitches on the needle. At the edge, if there is one extra or one missing, now is the time to fudge it with a surreptitious increase or decrease.

Place the live stitches on a smaller needle than you will be working with—it makes them much easier to pick up, and you are less likely to lose one.