Provisional Cast On Tutorial (the easiest method)

Feb 1, 2016 | Knitting Tutorial | 2 comments

Have you ever knit a Provisional Cast On? It’s a super useful technique. With a provisional cast on, you can cast on in what will become the middle of the project, work the project out in one direction, and then use the initial cast on stitches again to work in the other direction.

My pattern, Piet the Walrus uses the provisional cast on to knit first his body and then the tail.

Piet from the back, showing off the provisional cast-on between his body and tail

I didn’t realize until getting Piet the Walrus test knit, how many ways there are to knit a provisional cast on. Well, I guess I did realize it, but what I didn’t understand is how much confusion this could lead to when writing out instructions for Piet. I figured I’d just say something like “use a provisional cast on to cast on 32 stitches… knit… knit… knit… now pick up the left 16 stitches from your provisional cast on and begin knitting the tail.” I’m paraphrasing, but when my test knitters read this, they all quickly replied with a mutual “huh?” and I knew I had to go back and look more closely at the provisional cast on. 

I examined lots of youtube videos, and read a number of blog posts, and was surprised to be unable to find a tutorial for my exact way of knitting a provisional cast on. Maybe it’s just because it’s the method I’ve always been using, but I also found my method to be easier than all the other methods I looked at out there. Which leads me to this tutorial here.

I don’t think my way is inherently better. If you have a provisional cast on you’re already comfortable with, keep using and enjoying that. (I’ve improved the instructions for Piet the Walrus so that anyone using any provisional cast on method should be able to knit him just fine.) But if you don’t yet know how to provisional cast on, or if you don’t like your previous method of provisional cast on, then read on.

Provisional Cast On Tutorial

You need: 

– Your working yarn
– A piece of scrap yarn in a contrasting color about 12 to 18 inches long for up to 50 stitches (or longer if you’re casting on lots of stitches.)
– The needles you’re using to knit your project.

  1. Make a slip-knot in your working yarn and slide it over your working needle. You don’t need to leave much “tail” on your working yarn, as this is not a long-tail cast on. Just enough so that the slip-knot is secure. In your right hand, you should hold (top to bottom) your needle, your working yarn and your scrap yarn. Pull the yarns taut with your left hand. (See photo below)
  1. Use your left hand to cross your working yarn down, in frontof your scrap yarn, then back up, behind your scrap yarn, and upin front of your needle, and finally, behind the needle back down to its starting position  in the middle. (See next two photos)
  2. You now have 2 loops on your needle. The first is your slip knot, the second you just created around your scrap yarn. Repeat the movements from step 2 until you have the desired number of loops around your needle.
  3. After your final loop, bring your working yarn downin frontof your scrap yarn one last time, then turn your work (so that, after you turn your work, the working yarn is behind the scrap yarn)
  4. Your loops are not completed stitches. They are more like “half stitches” and can be kind of squirrelly to work with, so before joining to knit in the round, or doing any fancy stitch pattern, knitstraight across all the loops you just made. This whole process -the loops, andthe knitting across is your provisional cast on. I promise, you won’t notice the extra half-row on your finished project. In fact, the whole thing will look smooth and clean.

At this point, your provisional cast-on is finished, and you can move forward with your knitting project. Later, you will pick up the stitches that are sitting peacefully on your scrap yarn, secure until you need them.

What’s your favorite provisional cast on method?

I’m toying with the idea of making videos for some techniques I use in my patterns (like provisional cast on). I tried to make a video for this tutorial… and, um, well… let’s just say I need a bit more practice speaking and moving on camera. But I know videos are often invaluable when we run into instructions in knitting patterns that we don’t understand. Would you find videos helpful? (i.e. is it worth me getting over my camera-awkwardness, and making them happen?