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Provisional Cast On

A provisional cast-on keeps cast-on stitches "live" so that they can be knit later. It's a very useful technique when you're not sure what kind of edging you'll want or how long to make something. With a provisional cast-on, you can make these decisions at the end of a project, allowing you to respond to the actual garment. I made this tutorial to go with my 70's Ski Hat Project Journal, the provisional cast-on is used to make a cashmere lining for the hat.

There are a few ways to make a provisional cast-on. This is my favorite...

  • With some smooth waste yarn and a crochet hook, chain a few more stitches than you will be casting on. Cut the tail and pull it through the last stitch.

Examining the chain, the front side is made up of V's.


The back of the chain has bumps in it. 


  • Insert a knitting needle into each bump on the back of the chain, and using the yarn you are knitting with, pick up however many stitches you're casting on.


Then just knit!

  • When you're ready to use the cast on stitches, thread a knitting needle through the right side of each stitch. It's like weaving - over a strand, under a strand...


  •  Then remove the crocheted chain by untying the end and gently unraveling the whole chain.


You're ready to knit in the other direction!

Reader Comments (25)

So cool! This finally made sense to me!

Thanks for all the cool and useful tutorials!
December 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterColey
i'm coming out of the woodwork on this one to say thanks! this is such a great blog (one i check out just about every day!) and truly love everything i find. very inspiring, beautiful, and handy!
December 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermelissa
Hi, thanks for the tutorial. I have one question/problem; the first stitch that I pick up doesnt make a stitch, just a strand wich confuses me a little. Should i weave it in before i remove the crochet chain or what do i do?

Thank you!
October 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi
Hi Heidi,

I agree, the first stitch of the provisional cast on can be a little confusing! If you start by picking up the right "leg" of the first "V" and don't bother with what may feel like the first stitch (that loose strand you refer to), you should end up with the correct number of stitches.

It's so tricky to explain, so please let me know if this doesn't work for you, and I can try again!

Thanks for your question and good luck!

October 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Dear Whitney,

Thanks so much for this. this is the best. BER
February 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBERMD
i just sat thru about 10 different youtube videoS trying to figure out how to do this and beginning to feel totally incompetent! I read your instructions once and could do it. THANK YOU!
January 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbeth
Just wanted to say thanks so much for posting this!! It's so helpful and the purlbee site is just so pretty and full of good stuff.
Thanks again :)
September 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Hi Whitney,

I want to add my thanks for this very helpful posting! I also have a question: how do you thread the needle through purl stitches? I made a provisional cast-on for knit 2/purl 3 ribbing.

Thank you!
January 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDenise
Hi Denise,

You thread purl stitches the same way you do knit ones. Specifically, you find the right leg of the purl stitch and weave your needle under it. It's a little difficult to explain in words, but I hope this helps! Please let me know if you need more guidance, and I'd be happy to help!

January 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Thank you for this tutorial. I would like to know if the row after picking up stitches from the crochet chain can only be a knit row, or if it's possible to have that first row consist of both knit and purl stitches. The pattern I am working calls for a provisional cast on followed by a row of knitting and purling (to begin a cable chart). Thanks for clarifying!
January 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSonja
Hi Sonja,

Yes, you can knit, purl or knit and purl the first row!

Thanks for asking!
January 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Thank You! This is easier than the other methods I tried- I just couldn't get them to work right. This worked perfectly the first time. Thank you again!
May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie
Can you tell me why you would do a provisional cast on.
June 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRhonda Bailey
Hello Rhonda.
There are a few reasons to do a provisional cast on... Primarily it is used when you would like to leave your cast on edge live in order to either graft it to another edge or work in the oposite direction or add a specific detailing to it, etc. In the Everyday Linen Raglan ( it is used to do a hemmed edge without sewing for instance. -Laura
July 2, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thank you!!! I love simple and clear tuts!
September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKerstin
I always, always come to Purl Bee first when I need to learn a technique...because I know you'll have a great tutorial with lots of helpful close-up photos. (for instance, I never even try to memorize kitchener stitch - I just have your tutorial bookmarked...) And of course, here is what I needed to know - once again! Thanks a thousand times over, Purl Bee Gang! You gals rock!
January 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAbby
I hope this is not a dumb question, but could the provisional cast on be used to join the ends of a cowl scarf so that you don't have to sew them together? I REALLY dislike having a seam on the scarf, so I tried to figure out how to do it with the kitchener stitch on the last one I made, but I didn't know there was such a thing as a provisional stitch at the time, so eventually I gave up.
I'm open to other suggestions (if they're not TOO complicated!) if there's something that would work better.
Thanks so much--I've learned a lot already just by reading the tutorial and comments.
January 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanis
Hi Janis,

Yes, a Provisional Cast On is a great way to avoid a seam in your cowl! One word of warning is that if you are knitting a stitch pattern other than stockinette or garter, your Kitchener Stitch won't be invisible and you will, in effect, have a "seam". A good example of a cowl knit with a Provisional Cast on is our Striped Cotton Cowl, right here:

By the way, another solution is to knit your cowl in the round with circular needles. Lots of our cowls are knit this way, for example our Garter Gaiter:

I hope this is helpful information! Please let us know if you have any other questions and good luck!

January 21, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi! I am using provisional stitches to make a shrug with no seams. (Thank you for the pictures!) When I use them to add the second sleeve (k1p1 rib), the provisional stitches are offset one-half stitch in the opposite direction. Is this wrong? Is there another way around this? Thanks for your comments.
February 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDenise
Hi Denise,

Yes, that's true. Like Kitchener Stitch, a Provisional Cast On works best with either stockinette or garter stitch. In the case of a Provisional Cast On, that is because to work in the opposite direction (or "upside down") you have to work a half-stitch over, as you say.

I don't know of a way around this problem, although I'm sure there's a knitting engineer out there who has come up with one!

Thanks for your question!
March 4, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thank you so much! It makes sense now!
October 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I'm terribly confused about how you inserted your knitting needle into the "bumps" on the crocheted chain. In your pictures, the yarn used to crochet is nude, but after you insert the needle, the yarn becomes orange. Is there a step here that I'm missing? How did you get the orange yarn on the needle? And, when I insert my needle into my bumps, I don't know how to "begin knitting" since there's not a "tail" for me to use, as you do in typical knitting.
I hope these questions make sense.
December 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMary
Hi Mary,

All excellent questions! I can totally see how you got confused, and I have edited the tutorial slightly to hopefully clarify your point.

I never mentioned that you begin to use the yarn you're knitting with when you pick up the bumps! So, you use scrap yarn just to crochet the chain, then you use your "regular" yarn to pick up into the chain and begin to knit.

Does that make more sense? If not, please let me know and I'll try to explain it better! Thanks so much for your question and good luck!

December 2, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Whitney,
I was confused the same way that Mary was, i kept wanting to put the crochet chain "bumps" onto a needle. I finally just held the chain taunt in my left hand and knit my new color onto an DPN. Was this correct?

I am working on the eleventh hour throw. What size crochet hook and provisional yard do you recommend for this technique with that project?

February 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoAnn
Hi JoAnn,

Yes, you do knit into the crochet bumps with the double pointed needle and the new yarn (if you're working on an Applied I-cord).

For the Eleventh Hour Blanket, you could use a size O ( or size P crochet hook ( with a scrap yarn that is about the same weight as one strand of Cascade Magnum (just use one strand of the yarn you used to knit the blanket!). It's very helpful if your scrap yarn is a different color than the yarn you're going to knit with, and usually, a smooth cotton is ideal, but with such a large gauge, that's hard to come by!

Thanks for your questions. Please let us know if you have more and good luck!

February 12, 2014 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

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