Provisional Cast-On: Getting On Live Stitches

Some projects require returning to stitches on the opposite side of a cast-on edge, such as toe-up socks or fold over edges, or even at other points in a project. A provisional cast-on (PCO) allows a knitter to easily work into live stitches waiting on waste yarn. The beauty of a PCO, is that there are no ridges on the wrong side of the fabric. The following are the two most common PCO techniques.

Waste Yarn PCO 

With waste yarn cast-on the required number of stitches. Work next row or round with project yarn and continue in pattern. When the stitches are needed, carefully remove the waste yarn to expose the stitches, and slip the live stitches onto needle. Not just for the cast-on row, waste yarn can hold stitches at any point in your project – knit with waste yarn over a number of stitches, then continue with project yarn. Go back to stitches on waste yarn, place stitches on needle and remove the waste yarn.

Waste Yarn Cast-on

Waste Yarn Cast-on

Knit with project yarn

Knit with project yarn

Remove waste yarn and place live stitches on needle.

Remove waste yarn and place live stitches on needle.

Waste pink yarn to be removed after piece is finished to expose stitches.

Waste pink yarn to be removed after piece is finished to expose stitches.

Crochet Chain PCO

Using a crochet hook, either the same size or slightly larger than the needles for the project, make a length of chain. Chain a few more stitches than required. Insert the needle in the second chain, pick up and knit one stitch. Continue in this manner in each chain until you have the desired number of stitches. When the stitches are needed, carefully remove the waste chain, and place live stitches on the needle.

How-to make a chain stitch

How to make a chain stitch

Waste yarn chain

Waste yarn chain

Knitting into waste chain

Knitting into waste chain

Knitting into waste chain

Knitting into waste chain

All stitches picked up from waste chain

All stitches picked up from waste chain.

I hope the next time you encounter a provisional cast-on you won’t shy away from giving it a try.

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