The Crochet Cast-on
Olga Buraya-Kefelian uses one of my all-time favorite techniques in her designs for Field Guide 24: Spark—the very handy and powerful crochet cast-on. You’ll find a description of the techniques on page 9 and 29 of the Field Guide.
I love this technique for a few reasons:
- it creates a beautiful edge that looks just like a standard bind off
- because it doesn’t use a long tail, it doesn’t require having to calculate or guess the length of tail (which is a huge pain in the butt if you have to cast on a lot of stitches!)
- it can be used for casting on with the working yarn, and it also works as a provisional cast-on that can be easily undone later
Olga uses it both ways in Field Guide No. 24: as a standard cast-on, and for a provisional edge.
I promise, you don’t need to be an expert crocheter to master it. Let’s practice!
- a crochet hook in a size close-ish to the one you will be knitting with. Don’t fuss too much about this, it doesn’t have to be exactly the same!
- one knitting needle
- your working yarn
- if using it as a provisional cast on, some smooth scrap yarn in a similar weight but a contrasting color
Setup Step 1: Leaving about a 4-inch tail, make a slip knot and place it on your crochet hook.
Setup Step 2: Hold the crochet hook, the yarn tail, and the knitting needle side-by-side in your right hand—crochet hook on the right, knitting needle on the left, making sure that the yarn is hanging down from the crochet hook. Grab the yarn with your left hand, bringing it under the knitting needle. If you knit continental-style, or already know how to crochet, use your standard hold for the yarn. If you don’t crochet, imitate what you see in these pictures and with practice you will find the hold that works for you.
Setup Step 3: Transfer the knitting needle to your left hand.
Making Stitches, Step 1: Take the crochet hook over the knitting needle and use it to grab the yarn, or, use your left hand to wrap the yarn around the hook. For those who aren’t crocheters, take note the yarn and hook position in this image: the hook should be to the left of the yarn, the yarn on the right. This might feel like the opposite of how you wrap it for knitting – that’s ok!
Pull the yarn through the loop that’s on the hook. If you need to use your hand to hold that loop still, do it.
One stitch made!
Making Stitches, Step 2: Take the yarn back under the knitting needle.
Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until you have one less stitch than you need. That is, if you’re told to cast on 200, stop when you have 199 on the knitting needle.
Then place the stitch that’s on the crochet hook on your knitting needle.
Variation: Crochet Cast-on As a Provisional Method
If you need to undo the edge later, so you can knit from the opposite direction, then the crochet cast-on method can be used to create an easily-undone edge. Just use a length of waste yarn instead.
In this case, you need to cast on the full required stitch count: if you need 100 provisional stitches, repeat the steps above until you have all 100. Then, after the last stitch is made, make a short chain, 4 or 5 stitches, with your crochet hook.
Then cut the yarn and pull it through the final loop to secure it.
Join your working yarn and start your project.
When the time comes to undo, snip the end of the crochet chain, and you can easily unravel from there. Go slow, and as each loop of stitch is revealed, catch it with your knitting needle. Magic!
Happy Spark-ly knitting!