The Provisional Cast On

The provisional cast on is a technique where a piece of scrap or waste yarn is used to create a cast on that can be easily undone later on to expose live stitches. These stitches are then picked up and allow you to seamlessly knit in the opposite direction. It also allows you to easily graft the new live stitches onto another knitted piece. And I have to admit that for the longest time, the provisional cast on was the most elusive cast on method to me. No matter how many times I practiced this only to rip it out and try again, I never quite got mine to work quite right. Instead of easily pulling back my waste yarn to neatly unzip my stitches from the cast on, my attempts always ended up taking quite a bit of time as I calmly tried to sort through the mess I made of my stitches.

Yet no matter how hard I tried, the universe was dead set on keeping this technique in my knitting. Project after project, the provisional cast on kept showing up in patterns I was working on. I loved what this temporary cast on allowed me to do; I just didn’t love the process so much.

So in my quest to find a provisional cast on that even I could master, I turned to Kerin. Of course she had just the thing I was looking for, so we put together a video tutorial to help you master the crocheted provisional cast on as well! In addition to your yarn and needles, you’ll just need a piece of waste yarn and a crochet hook to get started.

After practicing this crocheted provisional cast on a few times, I actually was able to pull away my waste yarn to expose my live stitches neatly and easily! It felt so good to not have tangled stitches to deal with and I felt confident that I could complete the provisional cast on pain-free the next time it was called for in a pattern.

This technique can be handy for so many different things. I really like this method for double layer cowls, which are usually my go-to project when I don’t know what else to knit with yarn I have a limited quantity of. By working a provisional cast on at the beginning, you essentially knit one long tube. Then without binding off your stitches, you can graft the end of your work to the live stitches at the beginning of the cowl after undoing the provisional cast on, et voila! You’ve got a doubly warm, double thick cowl that will keep you nice and cozy!

The provisional cast on also comes in very handy for working hems or even working from the center of a project outward to make both halves symmetrical. Another tip for using this cast on that can be a lifesaver is when you are working sweaters from the bottom up. Not only can you easily undo the provisional cast on if you need to take away or add length to your sweater, but you can start on the body right away if you are still deciding on an edging along the bottom and then come back to complete it later on. (A tip that I would have loved to have after once finishing a bottom-up sweater for my sister, only to have her say she would have prefered it a bit longer!!)

What are your favorite uses for the provisional cast on?