Crochet Provisional Cast On

I’ve got a couple of designs coming out this fall that use a provisional cast on, so hey presto! Here’s a tutorial for the crochet provisional cast on I generally use.

In a provisional cast on, you start your initial cast on with scrap yarn so that you can later remove that yarn and have live stitches at the start of your knitting. This lets you knit in another direction—to add a hem or a lining, for instance—or gives you live stitches to join to other live stitches with grafting or a 3 needle bind off (such as joining a tube for a cowl, as a random example).

I like the crochet provisional cast on and use it a lot for this sort of work: it’s secure; it’s fairly quick to do; and as long as you use smooth yarn, it’s easy to undo. If, like me, you’re one of those people who has about a 50/50 chance of starting at the wrong end of those chain stitch bag closures, adding a few extra chain stitches at the end of your cast on makes it easy to figure out where to start when you’re ready to undo your cast on. (Understanding the structure of these closures has not saved me from completely messing them up on occasion.)

To work this cast on, you will need:

  • the knitting needles you will be using after the cast on;
  • a crochet hook in the same size as or a similar size to your knitting needles;
  • smooth, tightly plied scrap yarn in a contrasting colour and the same weight as your project yarn. You’ll need about 1.5 in/4 cm per stitch for worsted weight, a bit more for bulkier yarn and less for finer yarn, plus a few more inches/cm for the ending chain stitches and the tail.
Crochet provisional cast on key: grey lines for scrap yarn, rust-coloured lines for project yarn.


A slip knot on a crochet hook.

 Make a slipknot with the scrap yarn and place it on your crochet hook.


Yarn brought around the back of the knitting needle.

 With the crochet hook in one hand and your knitting needle in the other, bring the working yarn up behind the needle.


Yarn hooked by the crochet hook, ready to form the first stitch on the needle.

 Hook the working yarn with your crochet hook and bring it through the slipknot.

First stitch formed, second stitch in progress.

Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have cast on the desired number of stitches.


A series of stitches on a knitting needle, with a crochet chain coming down from one end.

Work a few extra chain stitches to mark the side where you’ll start unraveling the cast on later. Cut yarn and pull it through the last loop.

Put the crochet hook away and pick up your other project needle.


Stitches on the needle in the project yarn, provisional stitches below.

Knit one row in your project yarn, leaving a tail long enough to weave in.

To undo your provisional cast on, pull the tail back out of the last crochet loop and gently pull to undo the crochet chain. Continue pulling to undo the scrap yarn stitches, releasing the live project stitches one at a time. Place these stitches on your needle as they are released.

2 thoughts on “Crochet Provisional Cast On

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