A provisional cast-on is a temporary cast-on method that holds onto live stitches so that they can be knit into later. Designed to be removable, you cast on using waste yarn or knotting cord. We recommend using a smooth, firm yarn that’s in a contrasting color—easy to see and unzip from your live stitches.
We love a provisional cast-on when:
- we want the two short ends of our scarves and wraps to look the same (we pick up live stitches and bind off to match the other edge). Examples: Easy Folded Poncho, Polka Dot Scarf, Two-Tone Twill Scarf
- we want to graft one end of a scarf or wrap to the other to form an infinity loop (we graft the last row worked to the provisional beginning for an utterly seamless construction). Example: Mohair Bias Loop
- we would like to avoid the ‘banana curve’ of a scarf or wrap worked lengthwise (this happens when your bind-off edge doesn’t match the tension of your cast-on edge). Example: Magic Three-Yarn Scarf & Wrap, Striped Linen Stitch Scarf & Wrap
- we would like to create a hem, a closed welt, a doubled cuff, or a casing for elastic (we fold up the provisional cast-on edge and knit those stitches together with the stitches on the needle). Examples: Simple Straight Skirt, Ribbed Pencil Skirt, Thinking Cap
- stitch patterns or colorwork have a distinct right-side-up and upside-down (we like to work lace and colorwork scarves in two halves and graft them together at the center so both ends are the same way up in the wearing). Example: Tea Leaf Lace Scarf & Wrap, Snowflake Muffler
For many Churchmouse Classics patterns, we use one of two favorite provisional cast-on techniques—the ‘knit into back of chain’ method or the ‘crocheted over needle’ method. You’ll need: crochet hook, locking stitch marker, knitting needle, waste yarn or knotting cord (choose a firm cotton—wool or alpaca might be hard to unravel and leave fluff behind).
Provisional Cast-On: Knit into Back of Chain
In this method, you will pick up and knit stitches into the back of a crochet chain with the working yarn, resulting in a completed row of stitches. To open up your chain and make it easier to see and work with, try using a crochet hook that’s a size or two larger than your project’s recommended needle size.
With waste yarn (or knotting cord) and crochet hook, chain desired number of stitches. (We recommend you chain a few extras so if you miss one, you won’t have to start all over again.) Clip locking stitch marker into final chain and cut waste yarn.
Take a good look at your chain. It has a flat side with a series of Vs that look like a typical knitted bind-off edge (Fig. 1). Flip the chain over and notice a line of bumps along the back of the chain—they look a little like the ridges along the spine of a dinosaur (Fig. 2). They are the little loops you’ll knit into.
With working yarn—leaving desired length of tail and beginning in the first stitch you chained (not the end with your locking marker)—knit into the back bumps of your chain for desired number of cast-on stitches.
Note: When the first row you knitted into your chain is released from the chain, it will not appear as a knit or purl.
When the time comes to remove this provisional cast-on, take out the locking stitch marker and unzip (or unravel) the chain. Place the live loops of exposed stitches onto your needle and proceed as your pattern instructs you.
Provisional Cast-On: Crocheted Over Needle
In this method, you will crochet stitches over the working needle with waste yarn. Unlike the ‘knit into back of chain’ method, this method does not result in a completed row of stitches in the working yarn.
Make a slip knot with waste yarn and place loop onto crochet hook. Hold needle and waste in left hand and crochet hook in right. Form an X with left-pointing hook on top of right-pointing needle and yarn behind needle—the knitting needle is sandwiched between hook and yarn.
* Using crochet hook, chain 1, pulling yarn through loop on hook and catching the needle under the chain. Bring yarn back behind needle, ready to repeat. *
Repeat * * to desired number of stitches. Clip locking stitch marker or coilless safety pin into last chain on hook. Remove hook and cut waste yarn.
When the time comes to remove this provisional cast-on, take out the locking stitch marker and unzip (or unravel) the chain, placing stitches (one at a time and with correct orientation) onto needle. Proceed as pattern instructs you.