Don’t Fear the Provisional Cast-on

So often I see it on the Intertubes

  • “I hate the provisional cast-on.”
  • “I just can’t wrap my head around it!”
  • “I avoid the Provisional Cast-on.”  

These cast-ons have gotten a bad wrap as hard, fiddly, and worst NOT WORHT THE EFFORT.
Well, I am here to tell you, PROVISIONAL CAST-ONS ARE WORTH THE EFFORT! And I promise if you can cast on, you can do a provisional cast on, and they are totally WORTH THE EFFORT.

To create this hat brim featuring a horizontal cable, I casted on provisional stitches and  knitted a strip of cable and with a garger border.  When the strip was completed, I unravelled the provisional cast on, picked up the live stitches, and and grafted the two ends together.  To start the body of the hat I picked up and knit around the edge of the brim.  You can use this same technique to knit cowls, wrist warmers and other tubes flat.

Oatmeal cream hat featuring a horizontal 4x4 left leaning cable and green and oatmeal Latvian braid

Besides  turning flat pieces into seamless tubes, with a provisional cast on you can:

  • Perfectly mirror ends of a scarf, shawl, or other pieces
  • Create beautiful, professional cuffs and sweater edges with a turned and hemmed edge
  • Knit a decorative border without picking up stitches
If you are thinking, “Okay, great, but I cannot do Provisional Cast-on. I have tried it,” I promise you are incorrect.  The truth is there is no one provisional cast-on.  Provisional Cast-on is a type of cast on and there are several methods of accomplishing it.  
As I discussed in my video Knit Secrets Revealed: The Upside Down World of Knitting most Provisional Cast-ons take advantage of the “upside-down” stitches in knitting. These upside-down stitches are created whenever you cast on and knit. So, with some waste yarn, you can turn your favorite cast-on into a Provisional Cast-On.

Keep reading to learn how to do this, and see an exclusive video demonstrating this technique. 

YouTube Thumbnail for video Knits Secrets Revealed: The Upside Down World of Knitting

A book I LOVE is Cast On, Bind Off: 211 Ways to Begin and End Your Knitting by Cap Sease. This is one of my most beloved reference books. I constantly refer to it to refresh my memory on rarely used cast-ons and bind offs.  Sometimes, I just open it up and start trying out cast-ons I never heard of before.

​ The illustrations and directions are very good. This book describes so many different Cast-on and Bind-offs you are sure to find new to your techniques. Some of which may become your new favorite.

*As a Knit Picks affiliate I earn on Qualifying purchases


What you will need:

  • Waste yarn in contrasting color from your project yarn. You will need enough waste yarn to cast on and knit 4-5 rows of stockingnette. Ideally, the waste yarn is the same weight as your project yarn and a slippery yarn. Cotton or acrylic works great.
  • Scissors
This is not a complicated technique and written directions are below. But, I think it is always helpful to see how something is done. Here is a video demonstration.


Casting On:

  1. Cast on the number of stitches called for in a project
  2. Knit stockingnette for 4-5 rows
  3. Switch to your project yarn and work that pattern
Grab a knitting needle. Get your scissors. It is time to cut. 

If your soul just shrieked. That is natural. But, right now, the waste yarn is trapping those upside-down stitches. The only way to free them is to cut away the provisional stitches. This can be nerve-wracking, but take your time and make sure you are only cutting the waste yarn.  As you trim out the waste yarn pick up the upside-down stitch with your needle. (Hint: It’s easier to use a knitting needle 1 – 2 sizes down from what you used to knit. Use your project needle to knit the live stitches off) That’s it!

Ready to start a project with a provisional cast-on? Take a look at some of these patterns* from one of my favorite designers, Sarah Jordan*.  Sarah Jordan is one of the many designers on The Fiber Indy List sure to inspire you.

To see more of my favorite patterns from designers The Fiber Indy list whose work is available on Lovecrafts, check out my community page*. 

*Indicates an affiliate link. To learn more about affiliate links please visit my FAQ

Something to remember

If you are using this technique and knitting flat, you will end up with one less stitch after picking up your upside-down stitches. This has to do with the nature of knit symmetry. Check out my video for a full explanation and how to compensate for this phenomenon. 


Nothing in life, or knitting, is perfect. Using a regular cast-on to create a provisional cast-on uses a lot of waste yarn. Also, you may not love having to use scissors to release those upside-down stitches. I do not love it.

In my opinion, it is worth exploring Provisional Cast-Ons designed to be used as a provisional cast on. They use less waste yarn and usually do not require any scissors. There is one provisional cast on that even creates a lifeline.  
If you think, “I was taught the Provisional Cast-on, and I hate it!” I want to remind you that there is no one Provisional Cast-On. If you hate the method you were taught, I encourage you to try another technique.   A great book for exploring Cast-ons and Bind offs is Cast On, Bind Off: 211 Ways to Begin and End your Knitting by Cap Sease. 

Try a few techniques. There are so many, and your go-to cast on is always there for you while you explore. 

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