Our essential guide to the best provisional cast-ons
Faye Perriam-Reed explains three of the most popular methods of producing a removable cast-on using waste yarn
A PROVISIONAL CAST ON is usually worked initially to start knitting in one direction with live cast-on stitches, so that you can come back to these later and work the opposite way. They can also be helpful if you’re not sure what sort of edging you want to use until later, or if you want the edging to be worked in a particular direction that doesn’t work with the rest of the pattern, or if you are unsure of the length.
I’ve used a provisional cast-on before when I wasn’t quite sure if I’d have enough yarn to complete a sweater. Casting on provisionally meant I could work the body and then come back to the rib edging later, working it until I ran out of yarn.
Note that when you come to work the crochet and waste yarn methods in the opposite direction, your stitches will be offset by half a stitch. This will go unnoticed in stocking stitch, but may show up in a more complex stitch pattern.
JUDY’S MAGIC CAST ON
Judy Becker’s technique is popular for socks and mittens, but you can also use it as a provisional cast-on! We covered this in depth in our Masterclass in Issue 126, but if you missed it you can watch Judy’s video here: http://bit.ly/judymagicco
1 Using circular needles the same size as your project needles, work to step 8 from our tutorial in Issue 126, or to around 8 minutes from Judy’s video, stopping when you have the double the desired amount of stitches on the needles and an equal number on each one.
2 Turn the needles so they are in your
left hand pointing towards the right, keeping hold of the working yarn. Tuck the yarn tail so it hangs down behind the working yarn and pull the bottom needle out, so that the stitches sit on the cable. These will be your live provisional stitches.
3-4 Using one of your project needles and the working yarn (white contrast yarn is worked here instead to show up better), work across the stitches on the needle. That’s it! Continue to work across these stitches for the project. Picking up the live stitches
5 When you come to the part in the pattern to ‘unravel’ the cast-on and work in the opposite direction, you can just slip the stitches on the cable onto the needle and work across them.
CROCHET PROVISIONAL CAST ON
This is probably the most common of provisional cast-ons, with a nice ‘zip’ edge to undo once you’re ready to work back on the live stitches.
6 Make a slip knot in waste yarn and place it on a crochet hook. Hold the knitting needle in your left hand and the hook in your right. Tension the yarn in your left hand so it is around your little finger and over the index finger.
7 Keeping hold of the yarn tail, take the hook over the needle and underneath the working yarn.
8 Catch the yarn on the hook and draw it through the slip knot.
9 Manoeuvre your index finger so the working yarn is now behind the needle once again.
Catch the working yarn again once more and draw the loop through the stitch on the hook.
Repeat steps 9 and 10 until the desired amount of stitches have been cast on.
Then continue to work a crochet chain of 5 or 6 stitches and fasten off. This will make it clear which end you need to ‘unzip’ from later. Picking up the live stitches
Undo the fastened-off loop at the end of the crochet chain and gently pull the end of the yarn until the chain stitches start to come apart.
As each live stitch becomes free, slip it purlwise on to your working needle, until all stitches have been slipped and the waste yarn has been removed.
PROVISIONAL CAST ON OVER WASTE YARN
This is an easy and fun technique that’s similar to the long-tail cast-on. When you come to unravel the cast-on at the end, you can just slip the live stitches straight on to your knitting needle and pull the waste yarn tail out.
Holding both the main yarn and the waste yarn together, tie a slip knot and place it onto the knitting needle. Hold the needle in your right hand with the tip pointing to the left, and hold the yarn strands as if you were going to work a long-tail cast-on, with the waste yarn going over your index finger and the working yarn over your thumb. This slip stitch does not count as a stitch.
Point the needle down between the two strands and bring it towards you, picking up the working yarn.
Take the needle back, up and over both strands of yarn (one stitch is now cast on)…
…then around behind them and underneath towards you.
- Finally bring the needle back up behind the waste yarn, catching the working yarn on the needle to make a second stitch.
Repeat steps 16-20 until the desired amount of stitches have been cast on.
Turn the needle so it is in your left hand, ready to work across the stitches. Make sure the waste yarn is hanging over the working yarn as shown.
- Knit across the stitches using the working yarn to complete the first row, excluding the slipped stitch at the end of the row. Continue to work as stated in your pattern on these stitches. Picking up the live stitches
When you come to remove the waste yarn, you’ll find you can just pull from one end. However, I would recommend first slipping the live stitches on to your knitting needle so they are all safe and secure before taking the yarn out.
You’ll notice that every other stitch is twisted from this cast-on - you can either sort this out when you slip the stitches, by alternating slipping them knitwise or purlwise, or else you can work every other stitch into the back loop when you come to work across them in the following row, which is slightly less fiddly.
The live stitches are ready to be worked. In our photograph, they have all been slipped purlwise.
About our expert Faye Perriam-Reed is a designer and the technical editor of The Knitter and Simply Knitting. She enjoys exploring how different techniques can be used to achieve neater results.