The Amazing Invisible Provisional Cast On and Its Many Uses

One of my favorite cast-on methods is one you can’t see. The Invisible Provisional Cast On can be worked with a bit of smooth waste yarn, a spare circular needle or cord, or sometimes just one circular needle. It allows the knitter to cast on stitches and knit in one direction, then come back to the cast-on stitches and knit in the other direction without creating a visible seam or change in the fabric. It is virtually undetectable in most cases and indispensable for seamless knitting. While it’s not an all-purpose cast-on, there are a few special applications that I find this cast-on method absolutely perfect for. I’d love to know if you are familiar with this cast on and what you use it for. Tell me in the comments!

Top-Down Underarms

For this method I use the same waste yarn that I use to hold my sleeve stitches to cast on the underarm stitches. When I go back to pick up and finish my sleeves the provisional cast-on stitches can be placed on the needle along with the held stitches. I like to start my sleeves at one side of the underarm cast on, but you can start in the middle if you want to. There will be one stitch more than there was cast on for the body. I like to pick up a second extra stitch on the opposite side from where I started, then I decrease both of these stitches to close the gaps usually found there. Pay attention to the stitch mount because every other stitch will have its leading leg on the back of the needle, and be sure to work these stitches through the back loop so they won’t twist. I have a step-by-step tutorial in this blog post.

The middle row of purl stitches in this underarm was cast on using the Invisible Cast On

Toe-Up Socks

My favorite way to make socks is from the toe up, two-at-a-time, on a circular needle. After trying other methods, I decided the Invisible Provisional Cast On is the perfect method to achieve neat and even stitches at start of the toe. For this method, I fold my circular needle in half and use the cord in place of waste yarn. A slipknot is placed on the cord and then the cast on is worked over the needle and the cord. I like to knit my socks two-at-a-time, so after the first sock is cast on I place a twisted loop on the needle to hold those stitches in place and cast on the second sock. To join in the round I turn and knit across the stitches I just cast onto the needle, turn, and work across on the provisionally cast-on stitches.

One sock is cast onto the needle with the provisional stitches held by the cord.
Place a twisted loop on the needle to hold the stitches in place.
Both socks are cast on and ready to work in rounds.
The cast on is invisible!

Garter Tab Cast On

To start a garter tab with the Invisible Provisional Cast On I fold my circular needle in half and cast on 3 stitches using the cord to hold the provisional stitches. Then I work back and forth in garter stitch until my tab is long enough. The first row after casting on and the last row before picking up stitches should both be right-side rows. After you’ve picked up the correct number of stitches from the side edge of the garter tab you can just slide the provisionally cast-on stitches up to the needle tip, drop the slipknot, and work the stitches paying attention to the stitch mount so they don’t get twisted.

This shawl starts with a garter tab using the Invisible Cast On
Provisionally cast on 3 stitches
Turn and start knitting back and forth
Keep knitting until the garter tab is the right length
pick up stitches along the side edge
drop the slipknot and knit the 3 provisionally cast on stitches

The Moebius Cast On

Cat Bordhi uses the Invisible Cast On to work a Moebius from the center out in her book A Treasury Of Magical Knititng and Craftsy class. The same provisonal cast on is used with the cord holding the provisional stitches, but instead of folding the cord in half the needle is looped back over itself to create a Moebius ring.

Thank you for knitting!


Knit Picks Traditional Provisional Cast On (photo tutorial and video)

Suzanne Bryan’s video demonstrating the Invisible Cast On over a spare circular needle

My Instagram story showing how I use the Invisible Cast On for top-down underarms