Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tutorial: Provisional Crochet Cast On

When I was in Canada a few weeks ago, my sister asked me to show her a provisional cast on. In general, a provisional cast on is one which will be taken out at some point, leaving you with some "live" stitches which you can start knitting. (This may be used in a scarf, for example, with a one-way design. It would allow you to start at the center back and knit one side, then remove the provisional cast on, pick up those stitches and knit the other side. Both halves would then match.) I forgot to show my sister while we were together (we were a little busy with other things), but perhaps this tutorial will suffice.

There are at least several styles of provisional cast on that I've seen or tried, but once I tried the crochet version, I saw no reason to use any other. It's easy, neat, beautiful, and did I already say easy? I don't know why I don't use it as a regular cast on more. I really should.

But as a provisional cast on, the idea is to crochet a chain of stitches around a knitting needle. Then it is a simple matter to knit them, and off you go.

You will need
  • a crochet hook close to the same size as your knitting needle (This is where using metric sizes is so helpful!)
  • some small amount of waste yarn--using a contrasting colour will make it easier when you're taking it out. It should be smooth.
1. Make a slip knot in the waste yarn. Crochet 2 or 3 chain stitches by pulling the yarn through the loop with the crochet hook.
2 or 3 chains have been made

2. Position your knitting needle and yarn as pictured:

3. Moving the crochet hook over the needle, grab the yarn:

4. and pull it through the loop on your hook:
(You've just made a chain stitch over your needle.)

5. Now use your left forefinger to move the yarn to the back of your knitting needle by slipping it over the point of the needle:

You are now set up to make the next stitch:
Repeat steps 3-5 for as many stitches as you need.

Here is a video which may help to illustrate the motions:

Tip: I found it helpful and convenient to position the knitting needle very vertical, as opposed to how you might hold them when you are actually knitting.

After you have the required number of stitches, make a couple more chains which do not go over the knitting needle:

Then pull the yarn to make the loop about 2 inches long:

The resulting cast on edge is very neat (with a little practise with tension, of course):
Keeping in mind that it will be ripped out at some point, I guess it actually doesn't matter how neat it is. But of course, neat edges will make you happier in general. They do for me.

Now since you do not want the end of the waste yarn to get in your way, you will want to cut the loop and put a little knot in its end. The knot tells you which end to start at when you want to pull the stitches out. To do that, you simply pull the knotted string back through the end loop and start undoing the crochet stitches one at a time. Make sure you have a knitting needle handy to pick up the stitches which are released as you undo the crocheting.


I am probably going to use a provisional cast on on my Deep V Argyle Vest because I'm not sure which colour of yarn to use for the ribbing. So I can start knitting on the body of the vest, and then later remove the provisional cast on and knit the ribbing down from the body. As to the Vest, so far I am enjoying my large swatch which is proving very useful to 1. try out the red and grey together, 2. get familiar with the pattern and 3. even out my tension; but I have not starting on anything "real."

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