How to knit a provisional cast-on with a crochet hook

A step-by-step tutorial on provisional cast-on knitting using a crochet hook. A simple and really easy method.

So, your pattern requires picking up stitches from the beginning and you have no clue how to knit it because you only know the standard cast-on methods?? Well, then you came to the right place. In this tutorial, I’ll show you exactly how to do a provisional cast-on using a crochet hook.

a swatch with a provisional cast-on using a crochet hook and some scrap yarn

This is my personal favorite method, and you will find me using it in many of my free knitting patterns (like my ribbed socks with an inverted cuff, my basic hat pattern with a double hem, or my reversible headband pattern.) Why? Because it’s very easy to count the stitches (and I’m sure you know how difficult counting right can sometimes be, eh?) and it’s also quite easy to unravel/pick up the stitches from the edge later on.

a swatch after you unraveled a provisional cast on and picked up all stitches with a spare knitting needle
A swatch after you unraveled a provisional cast-on

And don’t be afraid. It says you need a crochet hook, but this knitting technique really only involves a simple chain stitch. And that’s nothing but a glorified name for pulling yarn through a loop. I’m fairly reasonable you know how to do that ;-).

So, let’s dive right into it

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Instructions for the provisional cast-on with a crochet hook

the provisional cast on with a crochet hook method after one round of knitting across it

The idea behind this method is creating a row of chain stitches around your knitting needle with a crochet hook in a different yarn. This allows you to unravel the cast-on edge after you finished knitting and picking up the stitches to continue knitting in the other direction.

It's best to use a bit of slippery scrap yarn for this technique. Cotton or superwash wool is a good choice. Don't pick anything fuzzy because it will make unraveling the edge later on very difficult. A nice contrasting color is recommended.

Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes


  1. Step: Start with a simple slip-knot using your scrap yarn.

    starting the provisonal cast-on with a simple slip knot
  2. Step: Crochet a couple of chain stitches (3 or 4) using the crochet hook. (Simply pull the yarn through the loop of the slip knot. This will create another loop = 1 chain stitch. Use the hook to pull the yarn through that new loop again. = 2 chain stitches, etc).

    adding four chain stitches with a crochet hook
  3. Step: Place your knitting needle between the working yarn and the last chain stitch.

    placing the needle between yarn and crochet hook to start the provisional cast-on
  4. Step: Crochet a chain stitch to trap your knitting needle in between.

    creating the first chain stitch around the knitting needle by pulling the yarn through
  5. Step: Bring the working yarn around the knitting needle and to the back.

    bringing the yarn to the back of the knitting needle again
  6. Step: Crochet another chain stitch.

    adding another chain stitch to the knitting needle using the crochet hook
  7. Step: Continue repeating steps 5+6 until you cast on the required amount of stitches.

    continuing doing chain stitches around the knititng needle
  8. Step: Add another 3-4 chain stitches to secure the tail, and then cut the yarn, pull it through the last loop, and tie a little knot to mark the end of your provisional cast-on.

    finishing the provisional cast on by adding a couple of chain stitches and a knot
  9. Step: Knit across the provisional cast-on any way you like/according to your pattern.

    knitting across the provisional cast on in plain stockinette stitch
  10. Step: To unravel, insert the knitting needle into the right leg of the stitches directly above your provisional cast-on in your contrasting yarn. Make sure that you don't insert the needle twice into the same stitch or you miss any stitches (especially around the edges).

    picking up the stitches of the provisional cast on by going through the right legs of the stitches with a knitting needle
  11. Step: Unravel the knot at the end of your chain stitch, and slowly unravel the edge in your contrasting yarn.

    Unraveling the provisional cast on one stitch at a time


You can also unravel the provisional cast on and pick the stitches up with your knitting needle as you go. Personally speaking, I don't like this method because it's so easy to unravel a stitch. If you are a very loose knitter, it might work out for you.

If you are having trouble unraveling the stitches, then you should cut the tail as close as possible. And then you can pick up a spare needle and undo the chain stitches one at a time. You can use your knitting needle to loosen up the stitches a bit. Cut the tail as soon as it gets too long to make it easier & faster to undo the next stitches.

Sometimes, when you split the yarn when knitting across your first real row, even undoing the stitches will be impossible. In this case, you have to carefully insert your scissors in between the stitches and only cut the yarn of the provisional cast on, and then pick it apart.
cutting a provisional cast-on open with a sissor because it didn't unravel by going in between the stitches

Tip: Basically this is just a simple crochet cast-on with a little modification. So, you can skip the scrap yarn and the chain stitches and start any project with the exact same technique.

Provisional cast-on in the round

a provisional cast on in the round with a crochet hook

Using a crochet hook, you can also knit a provisional cast-on in the round. In fact, it’s exactly the same method. The only difference is that you will distribute the stitches to 4 (or 3) needles instead of one. In fact, you can cast on all stitches to only one needle, and once you are finished, slip them onto your double-pointed, circular, or interchangeable knitting needles.

Before you start your first round, I recommend slipping the last 3 stitches from the last needle to your first needle. I feel this makes it much easier to knit the first round without your needles flapping this way and that way (just in case: here are 10 tips to knit with double-pointed needles like a pro).

the provisional cast on with a crochet hook method after one round of knitting across it

As an alternative, you can also knit the first round flat, and only join in the round from there. Either method works and can be a great basis for grafting two pieces together.

Reading tip: Knitting vs crochet – everything you need to know

Anyway. That’s how you knit a provisional cast-on using a crochet hook. Feel free to comment below if you have any questions

how to do a provisional cast on with a crochet hook

6 thoughts on “How to knit a provisional cast-on with a crochet hook”

  1. Love your vidéo, it makes me understand well the provisionnal cast on. Thank you for the video, I am a left handed knitter and it is not always easy to find video that I can clearly understand 😉

  2. Hi Norman, would the row where you introduce the main yarn in the provisional cast on be considered the cast on row or the first row where the pattern commences?

    • I guess that depends. But typically that first row you actually knit across is thef irst row of the pattern. The “Cast-on” comes when you pick up stitches and knit across in the other direciton.


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