There are LOTS of ways to work a provisional cast on, I find this particular method a little less fussy than the crochet chain method, although both work just fine. Let’s get started!
- How to work the provisional cast on
- How to unzip and pick up the stitches
- When to use a provisional cast on
How to work the provisional cast on
To get started you will need a crochet hook, your needle, waste yarn. The size of the crochet hook isn’t critical, the tension of your cast on is determined by your needle, not the hook.
5 easy steps
- Using waste yarn make a slip knot and place it over the hook
- Place your needle to the left of your crochet hook with the yarn UNDER the needle
- Move your hook OVER the needle, grab the yarn with your hook and pull it through the slip knot on the hook
- Once you are finished pulling through the loop, the yarn will be OVER the needle. To put it in position to work the next next stitch you need to bring it BETWEEN the needle and the hook so it is again UNDER the needle. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the desired number of stitches are on your needle (do not include the stitch on the crochet hook). Once the last stitch has been cast on leave the yarn where it is (do not more it under the needle)
- With your hook, grab the yarn and pull a loop through the loop on the crochet hook. Work step 5 a few times – you are creating a small crochet chain that will help you when you are un-picking the provisional cast on.
Now that all of your sts have been cast on you can start working with the yarn for your project. If you are working in the round, your work will not be joined in the round until the second round.
NOTE: The first round after this type of provisional cast on should be knit or purled. If you work ribbing or a pattern stitch it will be difficult to un-pick the provisional cast on (it will work but it doesn’t ‘unzip’ easily like it does if the first row/round is entirely knit or entirely purled)
Unpicking the provisional cast on
- Unpick the knot in your crochet chain and start to unravel.
- As the live stitches become unpicked, start placing them on your needles. You can either insert your needle first, then pull the provisional cast on loop out, or you can pull the provisional cast on loop out first and pick up the hanging live stitch, whichever method makes you the most comfortable. Continue working in this way until all of your stitches have been picked up.
There you have it! Continue picking up stitches and un-picking the provisional cast on until you have them all. Sometimes there is one fewer stitch than you cast on, even though you don’t have any dropped stitches. This happens because the pick up is actually 1/2 stitch off and it’s easy to miss the first one. Not to worry, just increase by 1 stitch on the next row.
When might you use a provisional cast on?
A provisional cast on is sometimes a necessity, but it can also be used to work things in a different order. The Apple Pie hat has a doubled brim, so a provisional cast on allows for a seamless join where the brim fold over (we have a full tutorial on the Apple Pie hat here). In the Little Tern pattern, for example, the provisional cast on is used so stitches can be worked in one direction, and then picked up and worked in the other direction. In the Love Note sweater the provisional cast on is used so that the neckline ribbing can be worked last, making for easier adjustments. Check out this post for more examples of knitting things out of order with a provisional cast on.