Three Ways to Make Provisional Cast on Without a Crochet Hook

There are many ways to do a provisional cast on, but the result is always the same – the cast on edge is not really an “edge”, but a set of open stitches that we can pick up later on. 

Many of the ways involve a crochet hook, but not all knitters have one or like to use it. In this tutorial, I’ll show you three ways to make a provisional cast on using just yarn and knitting needles. 

If you are a visual learner, watch every step explained below in a video tutorial.

WAY #1

To cast on stitches using this way, we will need a piece of scrap yarn that is a bit longer than the expected length of the cast on edge. 

If you plan to use the open stitches shortly after you cast them on, use a cable part of a circular needle instead of scrap yarn. This way you won’t need to pick up stitches from the scrap yarn because they’ll be already sitting on the circular needle. Convenient 🙂

I’ll be using scrap yarn because it is more visible in photos, and also because I use scrap yarn almost exclusively when I make a provisional cast on. 

Even though we don’t need to transfer stitches from the yarn when we use a circular needle, I don’t like to have an extra circular needle dangling in the work when I have to make more than a dozen rows. In this case, I’d rather have my stitches cuddled on a piece of yarn.

That’s my personal preference, and it doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t like using a circular needle instead of a piece of yarn when you do the provisional cast on. Give it a try and decide for yourself.

Meanwhile, here’s how this way of casting on stitches works:

1. Make a slip knot at the end of the working yarn, and place the loop on a knitting needle. Take the needle in your right hand.

2. Place the scrap yarn below the needle and at the back of the working yarn. 

Hold the needle, the yarn tail and the scrap yarn in your right hand.

3. Take the working yarn and move it to the back of the scrap yarn and then to the front of the needle.

4. Now place the working yarn over the needle and to the front of the scrap yarn.

We’ve just cast on one stitch. Repeat steps 3 and 4 to cast on as many stitches as you need.

When you finish casting on, make a bow at each end of the scrap yarn to protect stitches from slipping off the yarn. 

If the stitches do slip off the scrap yarn, they won’t unravel, but it’ll be tough to pick them up later when you need to use them in your project. So it’s best to keep them safe on a piece of scrap yarn.

Speaking of picking up stitches, it’s quite simple when you use this way of making a provisional cast on. When it’s time to use the stitches of the cast on edge, undo the bow at one end of the scrap yarn and slip stitches one by one from the yarn to the knitting needle. Watch how to do it.

If you decided to use a circular needle instead of a scrap yarn, the task is even easier – move the stitches from the flexible part of the needle to one of the needle tips.

WAY #2

To cast on stitches using this way, you can use a piece of scrap yarn or the cable part of a circular needle. Whether you choose one or the other, make sure it is a bit longer than the width of the project.

1. Make a slip knot and place it on a knitting needle. Hold the needle, the yarn tail and the scrap yarn in your right hand.

2. Insert your left index finger and thumb between the working yarn and the scrap yarn so that the working yarn is on your left index finger, and the scrap yarn is on your left thumb. Hold both yarns with the rest of your left fingers like we do when we use the long-tail cast on.

3. Move the needle underneath the scrap yarn and pick up the working yarn from right to left. Then move the needle from underneath the scrap yarn to turn the yarn wrap into a new stitch.

It’s a simple move that is not so easy to describe with words or pictures. It becomes clearer when you watch it in a video.

4. Now move the needle again to pick up the working yarn from right to left. This wrap will be our next stitch.

Repeat steps 3 and 4 to cast on more stitches.

Just as we did in the way #1, tie a bow at each end of the scrap yarn to keep stitches safe. When it’s time to use those stitches, undo one of the bows and transfer stitches one by one to the knitting needle.

WAY #3

This way is a bit different from the previous two. It’s called a “long tail provisional cast on”, and it is very similar to the regular long tail cast on many of us use so often.

To make this cast on we’ll need a long piece of scrap yarn. It should be at least three times longer than the length of the cast on edge. This piece will replace the yarn tail that we usually have in a regular version of a long tail cast on. 

1. Align the working yarn, the scrap yarn and the needle, and hold all three in your right hand.

2. Insert your left index finger and thumb between the strands so that the working yarn is sitting on your left index finger and the scrap yarn – on your thumb. Hold both strands with the rest of your left fingers. 

3. Cast on stitches using the long tail cast on. Click here to watch how to do it.

That’s it. When you get the number of stitches you need, trim the scrap yarn leaving small tails (around 10cm / 4″ long) at each side of the cast on edge. There is no need to tie bows like we did when we discussed ways #1 and #2. The scrap yarn is securely holding all stitches in place.

The biggest challenge with this way of making the provisional cast on comes when it’s time to retrieve the stitches. It’s not as easy as simply transferring the stitches from the scrap yarn to the needle. No. This time we have to undo the scrap yarn and pick up stitches one by one. If you don’t feel comfortable undoing the yarn with your fingers, use a wool needle. Here’s how.

It doesn’t really matter which of the ways you use to do a provisional cast on. This cast on is meant to be unravelled, so don’t worry about the way it looks. Once the project is finished and the open stitches created by this cast on get incorporated into the work, the cast on itself won’t affect the look of your project in any way. 


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Provisional cast on without a crochet hook - 3 ways | 10 rows a day
Three ways to make a provisional cast on - step by step | 10 rows a day
Long tail provisional cast on | 10 rows a day