A provisional cast-on for knitting is a key tool to have in your knitting arsenal. And if you’ve tried it and hated it, then you may just not have found the right method for you! So check out these 4 methods: provisional cast on without crochet hook, with hook, with waste yarn, without waste yarn, with a spare cord and more.
Read and experiment with these 4 photo tutorials will enable you to find the best match so you can knit a provisional cast on like a pro! (Don’t skip #3, it’s my new favorite!)
- What is a provisional cast on for knitting?
- When/Why would I use a provisional cast on?
- Find Your Provisional Cast On Happy Place: AKA Work the Quadrants
- 1. Single needle provisional cast-on with crochet hook & waste yarn
- 2. Single needle provisional cast on without crochet hook & with waste yarn
- 3. Needle & Cord: Provisional cast on without crochet hook or waste yarn
- 4. Two Needles: Provisional cast on without crochet hook or waste yarn
- Finding What’s Right For You!
- Put Your New Skills to the Test
What is a provisional cast on for knitting?
A provisional cast on creates temporary ‘cast-on’ stitches, by keeping ‘live stitches’ on waste yarn until you are ready to knit and finish them later.
When/Why would I use a provisional cast on?
A provisional cast on for knitting can be used to create a range of hems (check out Elderwild!) as well as under-arm stitches in top-down sweaters. Creating a provisional cast-on in the round is also great for creating necklines.
This type of cast on is awesome because it provides options at every stage. So if you’re unsure of how you want to edge your project (of the length you might need) the provisional cast-on gives you the freedom to decide when and how to finish your project at a later date.
It’s why I LOVE using provisional cast-ons when knitting up children’s sweaters. If your kids are anything like mine, they just keep growing even when I tell them not to. So with a provisional cast-on, I can unravel the ribbing and add a few inches next year! (If you’d like to see how, I give instructions on how to do this in the Iridium pullover!)
I also love using a provisional cast-on in mosaic cowl patterns like Truly Madly (DK weight) and Silver Dusk (fingering weight), to create an invisible join in these circular cowls.
Find Your Provisional Cast On Happy Place: AKA Work the Quadrants
Provisional cast ons can be quick and fun. You just have to find the right one for you!
The 4 types of provisional cast ons are all done a little differently and require different tools. There is a provisional cast on without crochet hook and with one. There are also provisional cast ons with and without waste (or scrap) yarn. Some take one knitting needle, another takes two and yet another only needs a spare cable.
You might find one that you like to use all the time for everything. Or you might find different methods that you like for different projects.
For me, I like to use a provisional cast on with scrap yarn when it’s going to be hanging out there for a long time—like the entire time I’m knitting a cowl—and choose a non-scrap yarn method for when it will only be there a short time—like just a few rows for a hem.
Try all 4 methods below to find your favorite! And get my video tutorial for all 4 methods free when you sign up below!
1. Single needle provisional cast-on with crochet hook & waste yarn
You’ll need the knitting needle that meets gauge, scrap yarn (slippery is best, do not choose grippy yarn for a provisional CO) & a crochet hook—please note: It doesn’t matter what size crochet hook you use, the stitch tension will be determined by your knitting needle and not your hook.
1. Using waste yarn that is at least 4 times the length of your cast on edge, make a slip knot and place it on your crochet hook.
2. Hold your needle and waste yarn in your left hand and your crochet hook in your right.
3. Form an X with your needle and crochet hook, your crochet hook should be on top and pointing left. Your needle should be underneath and pointing right.
4. From the slip knot, your yarn should go under and around your needle and then over and across your hook.
5. Using your crochet hook, chain 1, by pulling the yarn through the loop on your hook. There should be one loop on your needle and one loop on your hook.
6. Bring the yarn back behind the needle, and repeat the steps above to reach the desired stitch count (do not include the st on the crochet hook).
7. Attach a clip-locking stitch marker into the last chain on your hook. Now you can remove your hook and cut the waste yarn. OR cut the waste yarn and pull the end through the open loop.
This provisional cast on does not knit any rows of the pattern, whereas the cast ons below knit one or 2 rows. Depending on the pattern, you may need to knit the first row to complete the cast on (or not!)
Want to see it in action? Get the video tutorial sent straight to your inbox when you sign up below!
2. Single needle provisional cast on without crochet hook & with waste yarn
You’ll need the knitting needle that meets gauge, project yarn, & scrap yarn (slippery is best, do not choose grippy yarn for a provisional CO).
1. Take a piece of scrap yarn that is a bit longer than the expected length of the cast-on edge.
2. Take your working yarn and 8”/20 cm tail (to weave in ends), make a slipknot and place it on your needle.
3. Hold your needle in your right hand, take the tail of the scrap yarn and place it between the working yarn tail and your needle, pinching it with your thumb and middle finger to keep it in place.
4. Hold the yarn tails and your needle in your right hand with the two strands of working and scrap yarn on the left side.
5. Place the scrap yarn behind (and above) the working yarn.
6. Holding the scrap yarn in your left hand, take the working yarn and place it at the back of the scrap yarn and up and over the front of the needle.
7. Move the working yarn over the needle and down the back, finally bringing it over the front of the scrap yarn again.
8. Hold the new loop you’ve just made on your needle with a finger on your right hand so it doesn’t slip off your needle.
9. You’ve cast on one stitch.
10. Repeat the above steps until you reach the desired number of stitches.
This one was a bit of a tricky for me to figure out, so having a video to watch is a HUGE help! So set the video tutorial right away when you sign up below!
3. Needle & Cord: Provisional cast on without crochet hook or waste yarn
I have to admit, of all the methods I learned, this is my new favorite! It was so fast and easy and I don’t need to put the stitches back on to needles when I need to use it!
You’ll need the knitting needle that meets gauge, project yarn, & a spare interchangeable knitting needle cord with stoppers (or a spare set of circular needles)
1. We are going to use the needle of one set of needles and the cord of the second set to create a provisional cast-on in the round.
2. Using your working yarn create a slipknot and add it to the spare cord, keeping it loose enough to slide over a needle later on.
3. Tension your yarn in your left hand and hold it between your needle and circular cord, with the needle being on the right-hand side. Hold your slipknot in place using your right thumb.
4. To create a stitch, bring your needle forward and under the cord around to the back. Continue the motion up and over your yarn.
5. Scoop the yarn forward under the cord and pull the needle back up above the cord.
6. Add a yarn over (YO) by moving the yarn up over the needle from front to back.
7. You should now have 2 stitches on your needle and 1 stitch and your slipknot on the circular cord.
8. Repeat the steps above until you have the desired number of stitches.
The instructions above work when casting on an even number of stitches. If you need to cast on an odd number of stitches add a yarn over at the start of your cast-on before continuing with the steps above.
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4. Two Needles: Provisional cast on without crochet hook or waste yarn
This provisional cast on is going to look familiar because it is, in fact, Judy’s Magic Cast On. But instead of knitting around on both sides of the cast on to begin the toe of your sock, we will leave the bottom set of stitch on the needles. When you’re ready to work the provisional cast on edge, all the stitches are already on the needles–though be careful because they are on backwards!
You’ll need your project yarn 2 sets of circular knitting needles in the gauge size (I do this with interchangables by placing one gauge needle on each cable and a smaller needle size on the other end of the cable). Optionally, you can add stoppers to the other end of both needles to ensure no stitches pop off the end!
1. (Optional) Add a stopper to one end of each of your interchangeable needles.
2. Create a slipknot with a long tail and add this to your top working needle. (This slipknot counts as the first stitch.)
3. Position your second needle below your working needle.
4. Forming a V with your fingers, hold your yarn tail over your thumb, below both needles, and have your working yarn over your pointer finger, above both needles. Holding your fingers open and the yarn taught.
5. Now we are going to create figure eights with our needles.
6. To form a stitch on the bottom needle: Take the top yarn and go under both needles.
7. Wrap the yarn down between your needles.
8. You should now have two stitches one on each needle.
9. To form a stitch on the top needle: Take the bottom yarn and repeat the process: go under both needles and over the top needle.
10. Then go down through the middle of the needles.
10. Repeat the above steps to add the desired number of stitches.
11. Now swap the stopper and needle on the bottom needle. This set of needles will hold your provisional stitches in place.
Finding What’s Right For You!
Which of these 4 provisional cast ons have you tried before? Did you like it? Which one will you try next? Please let me know in the comments below!
Put Your New Skills to the Test
Found your favorite provisional cast on method and ready to put it to the test? Click through to check out the Falling Up Pullover and Falling Up Hat (available on Thursday), which uses a provisional cast on to create a hem that allows your colorwork motif to be worked straight to the edge and beyond. The effect is gorgeous! Click now to see!
I have been knitting since 7th grade, and I am 80 yrs old. I have never seen such comprehensive and useful information, well compacted yet easily followed/ understood, in the knighting world. THANK YOU. I will, indeed, follow all that you write/ present in the field.