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Have you ever knitted a tube of toothpaste? No, I haven’t either, but I have knitted lots of similarly shaped tubes. Socks, for example—both from the top down, where you close the tube at the toe, and from the bottom up, where you are starting at the base of the tube.

Or the Destination Scarf from Field Guide No. 17 Lopiyou start at the bottom of that tube AND close it at the top!

The simplest way of dealing with this shape is to cast on, knit the specified length, bind off, and then sew the tube shut at the each end. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this approach—it’s completely functional, and has worked well for millions of knitters for a long time.

But why stop at functional? Learning new skills to refine your practice is very rewarding.

Starting from the bottom of the tube

As a wise knitter recently told me, sometimes the best cast-on is actually a bind-off, and the combination of crochet provisional cast on and grafting is just that. A way to start knitting with live stitches that you can later bind off, and in this case, graft together. The difference in finish between taking this approach, and the simple cast on and sew together later is so huge that I would suggest it’s incomparable.

I use the version of the crochet provisional cast-on where you work your crochet chain over the knitting needle. This ensures that it will unzip properly when the time comes to release your stitches. It is super nifty, and if you’ve not yet tried it, then I highly recommend giving it a go. As always, my video tutorial will walk you through each step of the process.

Video notes: If you are watching on YouTube, you can hover over the time bar to see the different sections of the video, which is handy if there’s a particular thing you want to re-watch. The video also has subtitles which you can display by clicking on the CC button.

I recently became aware that this method can be a bit more tricky if you are left-handed. Here’s a helpful video tutorial from Deja Joy of Knit and Crochet Ever After that shows you how it’s worked left-handed.

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Closing the tube

Grafting stitches together is an incredibly satisfying process. You take two sets of live stitches, and you sew through them to join them invisibly. Once complete, it’s almost impossible to tell where the join has occurred. So much more elegant than casting off and sewing the tube shut!

All you need for success is the little ditty, “Knit, slip, purl. Purl, slip, knit.”

The basic method gets a slight twist for the first two and last two stitches, but essentially, “Knit, slip, purl; Purl, slip, knit” is all there is to it.

I hope you’ll have fun playing with these two fabulous techniques. 

I know I did!

Bonus destination scarf Blocking Action Shot
This Could Come in Handy
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About The Author

We think Jen Arnall-Culliford is flat-out brilliant. Jen is one of the knitting world’s superb technical editors and teachers, and the star of the tutorial videos.

Cheerful. Cool headed. Supersmart. To take lessons from Jen ups our knitting game, every time.


  • Videos appear missing from my email?

  • Excellent provisional cast on explanation. First time it’s really clicked for me. Much thanks!

  • Thanks for the great post and tutorials. I must say that the provisional cast on reminds me of the days on MDK when we read about a similar cast on. I think it was called “Cro-Kay”.

    • 🙂

  • Thank you for helping us lefties too! My cast on never unzips and it took awhile to figure out why. Now that will change. Hooray!!

  • Remarkable coincidence…but I just completed the winter hellebore cowl which used both of these techniques and I am ready to graft the ends together! Thank you for sharing!

  • I’ve found it doesn’t matter if I start with kppk from the beginning. It’s not necessary to start halfway through the pattern. I think that is what confuses most people.

    • I don’t do that setup, either! But if the yarn is coming off the front piece, I’ll run it knitwise through the back piece before starting, so that I can start with the full knit slip purl on the front piece.

  • This is a new way for me to crochet cast-on. I’m used to crocheting a chain and picking up the bumps but like this much better. Thank you, Jen!

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