A step-by-step tutorial on provisional cast-on knitting using a crochet hook. A simple and really easy method.
So, your pattern requires you to pick up stitches from the beginning and you got 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.
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.
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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- Step: Start with a simple slip-knot using your scrap yarn.
- 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).
- Step: Place your knitting needle between the working yarn and the last chain stitch.
- Step: Crochet a chain stitch to trap your knitting needle in between.
- Step: Bring the working yarn around the knitting needle and to the back.
- Step: Crochet another chain stitch.
- Step: Continue repeating steps 5+6 until you cast on the required amount of stitches.
- 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.
- Step: Knit across the provisional cast-on any way you like/according to your pattern.
- 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).
- Step: Unravel the knot at the end of your chain stitch, and slowly unravel the edge in your contrasting yarn.
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.
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
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 it 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).
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