Crochet provisional cast-on

Some of my designs use a provisional cast-on (eg Nafura Mitts, Khiva Cowl) and the patterns contain links to some of the many available external tutorials covering the crochet technique, which is my preferred method for casting on provisionally.

This tutorial shows how I do the crochet provisional cast-on. I usually work this with the working yarn in my right hand, but I have shown how this can be done using continental style knitting with the yarn in the left hand.

How to cast-on

For the cast-on you will need some waste yarn of a similar weight to your project yarn, but avoid ‘sticky’ woollen-spun yarns and mohair, as these can be difficult to unravel. Worsted spun and superwash yarns often work well. You will also need a crochet hook of similar size to your gauge needle (or slightly smaller – it doesn’t need to be precise) and a gauge-size needle to hold the stitches.

If casting on stitches for circular knitting using double-pointed needles, I find it easier to cast the stitches onto a single needle first before transferring to the DPNs.

This is a step-by-step photo tutorial. Steps 1 to 9 cover the cast-on from start to finish but steps 3 to 7 are illustrated using working yarn held in the right hand. If you prefer the continental style, see alternative steps 10 to 13.

How to undo the provisional cast-on

The steps below illustrate how to unravel the cast-on and place the stitches on a spare needle, ready to continue knitting or to graft the stitches to another set of live stitches, or to carry out a three-needle bind-off.

After picking up the loops of yarn, you may notice that there is one stitch fewer than the number of stitches originally cast-on. This is because the loops you are picking up sit in between the original cast on stitches and there is, in effect, an additional ‘half loop’ at each edge. (This is not the case if the provisional cast-on was for knitting in the round as there are no edges in that situtation). The extra half-loop at the edge of the cast-on is illustrated at step 6 below. If you require an additional stitch in order to match another set of live stitches for purposes of grafting, or a 3-needle bind-off, this loop can be picked up onto the needle, otherwise it can be dropped without any risk of unravelling.