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Crochet Chain Provisional Cast On

March 10, 2013

Lush Cardigan by Tin Can KnitsWhat is a Provisional Cast On?  A provisional cast-on is a blanket term for any sort of cast-on which leaves live stitches, which can later be knit from in the opposite direction. Provisional cast-ons are often used in seamless knitting patterns, and at Tin Can Knits we design mostly-seamless patterns for your knitting pleasure!

This versatile cast-on technique is used in the Lush cardigan, the Low Tide cardigan and the Gramps cardigan.


  • First use a contrast colour yarn to crochet a chain of more chain stitches than you need to cast on.
  • Then use the working yarn and needle to knit into the back of this crochet chain, pulling up your cast-on stitches.

You can see this method in even more detail here (it is used as part of the garter-tab cast on, the method used in many triangular shawl patterns).

Later, when you want to knit in the opposite direction, you will have unpick the provisional cast on to free up those live stitches so you can place them back on your needles.


  • First, find the end of the crochet chain that has a little knot tied in it.  You tied this knot when you created the chain, to indicate the end from which the chain would easily unravel.  Loosen the final loop, pushing the yarn tail back through the loop.
  • Now you can pull on the end of the yarn, and the crochet chain will ‘unzip’ naturally, leaving live loops that you will put onto your needle, one at a time.  Once you have all the stitches on the needle, you can attach yarn, and simply work them following the pattern!

Did this help?  Is there a provisional cast-on method that you prefer?  Leave us a comment to let us know!  If you like our designs and tutorials, you should sign up for our great email updates to receive notification of new patterns, techniques, events, and subscriber-only special offers.

Tin Can Knits patterns that use a provisional cast-on:

Lush CardiganLow Tide CardiganGramps Cardigan

58 Comments leave one →
  1. elqlippoth permalink
    November 25, 2021 7:42 am

    Hi, I believe there’s a mistake at the beginning. You say that this cast-on is used in the Gramps cardigan but I can’t find it in that pattern. Did you mean to say it is in the Harvest?

    • November 25, 2021 2:24 pm

      Hi – Ah, yes, it was in the original version of the Gramps, before we sized it up for adults too.

  2. Mary permalink
    September 13, 2021 12:56 am

    The provisional cast on pictures were sooo easy to follow. I’ve never used this method before, didn’t know what it was.. you clarified it so well Many many thanks 👏🏻😀💕

  3. Carrera Cameron permalink
    December 31, 2020 6:54 am

    I’m working a project now and ready to unzip and pickup the live stitches. But everytime I do this crochet provisional it doesn’t unzip correctly. To my knowledge I’m doing it exactly as all these tutorials are showing. BUT I’m left handed so I’m wondering if I’m messing something up?? When I try to unzip, it’s almost like trying to undo the chain the wrong way….I have to pull the waste yarn out of the live loops rather than unzipping. Can anyone help?

    • December 31, 2020 12:36 pm

      Hi Carrera – It’s hard to say without seeing it, but it sounds like you are trying to unzip from the wrong end.

  4. Donna Messana permalink
    May 18, 2020 1:21 pm

    I’m Knitting the Harvest Cardigan. I’ve done the provisional cast on exactly as shown. Then I did the setup row. I then knit rows 1 and two for 48 rows. The 48th row was a wrong side row. If I knit to 49 rows my final row will be the right side. What am I doing wrong.l? Help.

    • May 19, 2020 3:53 pm

      Hi Donna – It’s not 49 rows, it’s working rows 1-2 a total of 49 times (a total of 98 rows)

      • Karen permalink
        September 3, 2020 5:57 am

        The same thing happened to me and many of my knitting friends after knitting rows 1-2 49 times. I had to add yarn and knit across the live stitches to maintain garter stitch. What did I do wrong? thanks!

      • September 4, 2020 10:55 pm

        I’m not 100% sure – it’s possible that the rows were mis-counted, or that you did a different sort of provisional cast-on?

  5. DEBORAH ESDALE permalink
    May 7, 2020 3:38 am

    Thank you so much. Found a great pattern for a hat that started with this cast-on and of everything I googled this was the clearest and easiest to follow.

  6. Terry Greenstein permalink
    February 3, 2020 4:00 pm

    What size crochet hook do you need for thr Harvest pattern? Thanks.

    • February 4, 2020 12:26 pm

      Hi Terry – it’s not critical, it’s just for the provisional cast on. Somewhere around 5mm

  7. Zoe permalink
    July 11, 2019 12:16 am

    Does the contrast yarn have to be the same ply as the yarn being used for the project?

    • July 15, 2019 9:01 pm

      Hi Zoe – no, I would probably use something in a similar weight, but it doesn’t have to be a perfect match.

  8. June 29, 2019 8:16 pm

    Thank you so much . Finally! I’ve learned many cast ons but, after 40+ years knitting, l’ve finally managed my first ever provisional cast on. Every tutorial l’ve looked at says to pick up stitches into the back/bumps of the chain BUT as a non crocheter I DON’T KNOW which is the back and THEY’RE ALL BUMPS. Thanks to your super clear explanation and the photo of the actual crochet chain bumps l’ve finally done it. Yay.

  9. Merdina Vernon permalink
    August 5, 2018 11:37 am

    Can’t find pattern. And I wanted to save the pattern to my p.d.f. But can’t find a way to find it.

    • August 10, 2018 10:03 am

      Hi Merdina – I’m not sure which pattern you are looking for. Maybe drop us an email ( and we can sort it out.

  10. Serap permalink
    June 21, 2018 10:19 pm

    When do you put the knot on? At the beginning of chains, or at end of the chains stitches?

    • July 3, 2018 10:03 am

      Hi – sorry, not 100% sure what you mean? Which knot?

      • Serap permalink
        July 13, 2018 1:21 pm

        Knot on the red yarn. Is this knot put on when you start the chains or when you finished the chains?

      • July 17, 2018 11:15 am

        It’s just a knot in the yarn so you can put it there any time. It’s just to indicate which side you started on.

  11. June 5, 2017 4:04 pm

    I’m strictly a knitter, not a crocheter, though I do have a full set and then some of crochet hooks for various knitting applications. I’ve been over this page at least three or four times, and I don’t see anywhere where you explain how to make a crochet chain. It looks like a braid to me, from the top picture, but a. I hesitate to assume it IS a braid just because it LOOKS like one; and b. the only way I know to make a braid is to weave three or more strands together, and while I am not exaggerating that I know absolutely nothing about crochet stitches or their construction, it doesn’t sound right to use three strands of yarn for a (relatively simple, I gather, since I see a lot of newbies commenting on trying this) cast-on.

    I followed the links to the garter tab cast-on and the hook-and-needle provisional cast-on method, but they look like different methods with different effects. Without really understanding why the “Harvest” pattern needs a provisional cast-on for the collar, I hesitate to get creative.


    • June 5, 2017 4:33 pm

      Hi Alanna – a quick google search should bring up how to do a crochet chain. There are also lots of provisional cast on methods that will work, this is just one of them (the garter tab cast on uses a provisional cast on, but isn’t a provisional cast on itself)

  12. rlmacaskill permalink
    August 3, 2015 1:08 pm

    Thank you! I found the illustrations very helpful indeed.

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  14. michelle flanagan permalink
    June 23, 2013 5:30 pm

    i have been trying this method, and think I am following it right, but both times I ending up with one less stitch when I picked up the live stitches. Any ideas what I’m doing wrong? thanks -Michelle

    • July 9, 2013 9:49 am

      I used to find that I ‘lost’ a stitch when working from a crochet chain provisional cast on, but I think that I was dropping the very last (or first) little twist, which looks different from the rest, because I just did a provisional cast-on yesterday, and I noticed this. The very last loop that your waste yarn goes through, after you have unpicked the rest, is a stitch, even if it doesn’t look like one. Try it again, and perhaps you will see what I mean! If not, simply increase a stitch on the first row! ~ Emily

      • michelle flanagan permalink
        July 9, 2013 11:26 am

        You’re right. I finally figured it out recently. Thanks so much for the reply; now I know I’m doing it right. :) -Michelle

  15. April 1, 2013 5:45 pm

    Thank you for this. I haven’t tried this method of casting on.

  16. April 1, 2013 4:10 pm

    Reblogged this on The Darkness in the Light.

  17. Sylvia Pelta permalink
    April 1, 2013 3:48 pm

    This is great. I couldn’t figure out where to pick up stitches on the crochet chain. Now I know. Thanks! Your patterns are beautiful.

  18. March 30, 2013 9:55 am

    Very good idea :-)

  19. March 30, 2013 7:54 am

    I truly dislike this method of making a croched edge (for a provisional cast on, or for a crocheted cast on. I think it is awkward and a PITA to do. It is much easier to make a crocheted edge over the needle.
    I suppose if you are first a crocheter, this method might work. but really it not an easy method.

    • April 1, 2013 10:20 pm

      agree to disagree

    • Katie Lynn permalink
      April 18, 2013 9:39 pm

      This is my preferred method as well. For me it ensures that I pick up the crochet ‘bumps’ in the right direction and that I have plenty of stitches. I showed it to a friend of mine recently and she was really surprised at how easy it was. She has a problem with discerning how stitches are seated on the needle, and has actually picked up out of the wrong loop of the crochet chain, ending in a lot of curses as she had to pull the yarn through each stitch as she attempted to undo her cast on later.

    • October 16, 2013 4:43 pm

      So, when you do this, you have to knit one row before beginning your pattern, right? (yes, I’m such a newbie!)

      • November 8, 2013 8:05 am

        After casting on provisionally, you will follow the pattern instructions (not necessarily knit a row before beginning the pattern). Good luck!

  20. March 30, 2013 6:46 am

    This is a great tutorial and like Sylvie, thank you for the “undo” instruction. There’s always something new to add to the knitting skills!

  21. March 14, 2013 2:25 am

    Thank you for telling how to UNDO the crochet provisional cast on! I’m currently working on my first project involving this method and was starting to wonder how the hell I was supposed to pick up my live stitches at the end… Now, I’m all sorted!

    • March 14, 2013 3:53 am

      Glad you found this useful! The crochet provisional take a wee bit longer than some other methods, but I like it because it seems pretty foolproof (and that works for me!).

  22. March 13, 2013 7:06 pm

    “Awesome!” was my first response, too. This is an excellent tutorial. Thank you.

  23. March 12, 2013 7:27 am

    Oh bless you!! This is awesome!

  24. March 12, 2013 7:15 am

    Yay! Great tutorial!!!!! (dbbstitch on Ravelry)

  25. March 12, 2013 6:27 am

    I haven’t tried a crochet cast on – perhaps I will when I knit Low Tide ;)
    Usually I cast on in a scrap yarn using a cable cast on, then knit the first row in my “real” yarn. Similar sort of unpicking required.


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