How to: work a cheat's provisional cast-on

This technique is totally cheating. It's cheating so much that I doubt I will ever actually recommend it in any of my patterns. In fact, I'd say this is the backwards loop cast-on in just about every way I can imagine, starting with how I came to it. 

I taught Claudia (then aged 5) to do a long-tail cast-on, but as she was practising she forgot what she was supposed to be doing and did a kind of twisted loop cast-on instead. I'd never seen that technique and had to look it up. I liked it! I started using it myself… but most often, I like it better when I untwist the stitches in the first row. That makes it just a regular backwards loop cast-on

Now, the backwards loop cast-on has quite a pro/con thing going on, which is why I'd never taken to it before.

Pros:
1. It's fast. 
2. It's a short-tail method, so you can use it to add stitches anywhere you need them. 
3. It's flexible and highly elastic.

Cons:
1. It's maybe TOO elastic, if by "elastic" you mean "kinda loose and unstructured and prone to getting way outta control".
2. It's not very strong. As handy as it is, I wouldn't use it for buttonholes, which will take a lot of wear.

Con #1 is the main reason this isn't my go-to, all-purpose cast-on. It's also a problem that can be ameliorated by sticking with the twisted part of twisted loop – that creates more structure, while staying elastic. BUT the twists are quite noticeable (depending on yarn, gauge etc). Decorative, arguably; sometimes the effect is pretty good. But noticeable, so not ideal for all purposes.

Thing is, though, it's only a problem over distance. If you're casting on a lot of stitches, especially in fine yarn, you won't want to touch this method with a bargepole. Pretty soon you'll be struggling to push your loops over the needle join (if using a circular), and yet there will seem to be a bit too much yarn between stitches, and it'll just be a big mess. However. If you need to cast on for just a fairly narrow section, this cast-on is your friend. And if you need to later pick up stitches at that bottom edge to work in the other direction… well now. We finally reach the point of this post.

The tail on the side shows the join, where I picked up cast-on stitches to work the other way. How neat is that?! You can see an oddity on the left, in the first photo – that's because you do need to twist the last stitch in the cast-on row, and it shows. So: not 100% perfect. But if that stitch is going to end up in a seam, or if the fabric is quite textured and obscures this kind of detail? Brilliant. Both of these factors apply in Winterbeere, so in fact, I used it there. (Why didn't I say so in the pattern? Because when you pick up the starting stitches to work down, you're going right into a Latvian braid, and while that's fiddly rather than actually hard, even I decided I didn't need to add that extra layer of complication.)

So. Here's how I cheat. 

1. Make a slipknot and hold the needle in your right hand, yarn in your left. (Note: a slipknot is entirely optional – you can just start looping, pulling the yarn tight with your right hand, but a slipknot provides a comfortable anchor.) Bring your left thumb under the yarn and up, from back to front. 

2. Bring the needle up from underneath and tighten the loop formed. 

3. Repeat until you have as many stitches (loops) as you need. Turn and knit into the first loop – as I mentioned above, this first stitch will be twisted. 

 

 

 

 

4. Knit into the back loop of the remaining stitches. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your work after a few rows. You can actually see in this photo how the cast-on stitches get looser towards the end – this is why you don't want to use this technique for everything: unless you're very careful, those loops just don't play nice. But it's a very nifty trick to have in your bag, anyway.

5. Picking up your cast-on stitches for working in the other direction couldn't be easier – no unzipping required. Just knit into the spaces between each stitch.

Beautiful.

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