Provisional Cast On Knitting Tutorial

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Many knitting patterns begin with a provisional cast-on, such as a toddler ballet wrap. Any knitting project that has hems or that needs to be closed, such as 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 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.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Crochet hook a size larger than your needles


  • Smooth yarn that is a little thinner than your working yarn


  1. Start the Cast On

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

    Turn your chain over. 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.

    A provisional cast on
    The Spruce / Eileen Casey
  2. Unzip

    When you are ready to use the stitches on the provisional cast-on for adding an edging, 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.


    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 is 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.

    Unzipping a provisional cast on
    The Spruce / Eileen Casey