Provisional cast-on: crochet hook edition
There are so many ways to cast-on, but sometimes you need some invisible magic…. Amy Kaspar shows you how….
We all have our favourite cast-ons, but those cast-ons are usually with a smooth bottom or top edge in mind. Provisional cast-ons provide a way to pick up seamless, invisible live stitches without needing to pick up and knit a new row. You just use your first row of live stitches, which you have conveniently left on a piece of waste yarn for later.
This particular provisional cast-on requires smooth waste yarn (I used dishcloth cotton), a crochet hook either the same size as or one size larger than the knitting needles you will be using, and then your normal yarn and needles for the project. Ready?
Crochet a chain with at least five stitches more than the number of stitches your project requires, with your waste yarn. In other words, if the first direction in your knitting pattern is “Cast on 16,” then chain at least 21 stitches. For the crochet-challenged, place your slip knot on the hook, bring the yarn around the hook from back to front over the top, and pull the slip knot over the loop. You will now have a new loop on the hook, and one chain stitch has been formed. Repeat as many times as needed.
When you have enough stitches, break your waste yarn and bring the tail loosely through that last chain. If you look at the chain, one side has little crossed “v”s (like the left side of the photo), and the other side has little bumps in the middle of each chain (like the right side of the photo).
Put your knitting needle through the purl-bumps of the crochet chain, just like you were picking up stitches, one bump at a time. Go the same way through each purl-bump, instead of weaving from one side to the other. Pick up the same number of stitches you require to start your project. There should be a few extra chain stitches after your pickups.
Then, just start knitting with your project yarn. Make sure your yarn is secure on the first stitch, either by twisting the tail under that first stitch, or using the crochet hook to pull the yarn through the stitch below it on the next row on your way back. You can attach it any way you want, really, except do not tie a knot to the crochet chain.
Knit knit knit. When you are as far as you need to go, bind off and get ready for the magic to happen!
Now, undo that tail from your waste yarn. Be careful to not undo the slip knot; this only works going from the last chained stitch to the first one. Once you undo the knot, pull the waste yarn tail and have your knitting needle on the ready to pick up live stitches. As you pull out the chain, little loops from the first row you knitted will pop right up. Slide them on the knitting needle so that the front leg is ahead of the back leg.
Look at the orientation of your stitches. I picked up so that the next row is a knit row, in order to knit garter stitch.
Then…again…knit knit knit. Continue in whatever stitch your pattern calls for. This cast-on is often used to make cuffs, hems, necklines, and contrasting stitch patterns in the same direction.
See? Invisible. I left all of the ends hanging out so you can see where I started and stopped, but if you look at the right edge, the new row is undetectable from the old one.
In addition to adding cuffs and hems, this cast-on can be used so that you end up with two cast-off edges instead of a cast-on and a separate cast-off. By knitting in both directions from the provisional cast on, your edges will look exactly the same. This is also a great cast-on for when you need to graft two edges together, such as a cowl that you knit in a panel instead of a tube.
Try it out and let me know how it goes. You’ve got this.
Last updated: October 16th, 2014.