For the longest time, I had trouble knitting socks. I’d cast on and the cast-on row was much tighter than the rest of the leg. Which meant I either had socks that fit in the leg and were too tight at the top cuff or the top fit and the rest of the leg was too loose. Nothing worked. That is until I knit my first pair of toe-up socks and discovered this elastic bind-off. It was perfect! The leg fit me right and the bind-off was elastic enough. So of course I thought I’d just have to get used to knitting toe-up socks.
Almost immediately I found a traditional cuff down sock I really wanted to try. One I really needed to knit following the pattern before I tried it toe-up. I searched and could not find a cast-on that was elastic enough. In frustration, I put the pattern aside and started another project. A scarf. One with a lace pattern knit starting in the center, with a provisional cast-on and that’s when I had my “A-ha!” moment.
A provisional cast-on enabled me to knit the sock from the cuff down, remove the provisional row picking up the “live stitches” and use the elastic bind-off. It worked! And quickly became my favorite cast-on for traditional socks.
Provisional cast-ons are used for a variety of projects including:
- A toe-up sock cast-on.
- Knitting from the middle out to the ends. This works especially well with a one-way design such as a cable or some lace patterns as in the scarf I knit. It also works well for patterns closed at both ends, such as knitting a ball.
- If you start a project but want to decided how the end will look later. One example is knitting a pair of socks, but you’re not sure how you want the cuffs to look. Knit the socks, and decide at the end.
- If you’re not sure you have enough yarn for a project. If you start a pair of socks above the ankle and knit the feet, you can then go back and knit the legs deciding on length. Or even changing to another yarn at the same place.
Wondering how to cast-on provisionally? This video shows you three techniques. They all work and help you knit happy!