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

The Knitter - - Contents -

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 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.


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.


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.

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