Starting a lace Shawl with a provisional cast on

Lots of lace shawl patterns will instruct you to start with a provisional cast on.  Marcia ignores this step and will just cast on 9 (or whatever the number is that you end up with after you’ve taken out the provisional cast on).  The cast on part ends up sitting at your neck and very few people will come close enough to see it.

It is a pain in the butt to do.  You have to find some waste yarn, a crochet hook and be ready to something that feels like wrestling with wet spaghetti.

But this is how I do it.

I start with a long circular needle in the size I’m planning on using for my shawl.  I like to use a long 32 inch or 40 inch addi lace needle.

I tie a loose slip knot and slip it on the needle.  Next holding the needle with the slip knot on the bottom I loosely wrap the yarn (not the tail, but the yarn going to the ball) around the two needles.




I start by wrapping from behind, then over.

Try to keep it loose.  Otherwise you’ll have a really hard time with the next step.


Too loose is better than too tight.  You can come back and fix it if it is too loose.

If this gives you fits.  You could also do a figure eight cast on instead.

It doesn’t matter too much if you cast on too many stitches.  If the pattern tells you to provisionally cast on 2, I’ll do three wraps.  In this example I’m behaving as if the pattern asked me to provisionally cast on three stitches.


Next I slide out the needle that has the slip knot on it, and move it into position to knit.

Then with the working yarn coming from underneath the cable I start to knit.

I’ll knit the number of stitches called for in the pattern.  In this example I’ll knit three stitches.


This is what it looks like after I’ve finished my first row.

See, I’ve knit three stitches.

The extras I just let go and I’m fine with the extra bit of yarn wrapped around the cable of my needles.


The patterns usually ask you to knit x number of rows.  x equaling double the number of stitches you provisionally cast on.

I will not be knitting in the round, I will be turning the work back and forth.  For now I’ll ignore the stitches on the side with the slip knot and just knit back and forth on the top.

In this case I’ll knit six rows total.

And here is what it looks like after I’ve finished my six rows.

If you pattern has row one as the provisional cast on row that row would be the same as the when I wrapped the yarn around the two needles.

Next the pattern usually asks you to pick up and knit into the knots at the side of your garter stitch.

I do this with just the one needle.  The addi lace needles have a nice sharp point that makes this move very easy.

Here is a picture of my needle poking into the first garter stitch bump or knot and getting ready to knit it.

Here is what my work looks like after I’ve picked up three stitches along the edge.

I’ve arrived back at the slip knot I made when I started this project.

I will not knit into that slip knot.


Instead, I’ll let it go.  It has finished its purpose.


Here is a picture of me about to let that slip knot slip right off the end of the needle.


Really, I don’t need it.  It is free to disappear.



Next, I’ll slide the loops on the left hand needle to the tip so I can knit it next.


I’m almost done with my provisional cast on, and it only took me 4 minutes, and no crochet hook or waste use was used.


lace shawl beginningHere are my nine stitches that will start my next lace shawl.


Actually, I’ll probably take these out and cast on again with a different yarn.

I think I want to make a green shawl next.

I did this tutorial with a worsted weight yarn, just to make it easier to show what I do.

So in summary, I treat the cable of a circular needle as if it were a piece of scrap or waste yarn.

If it is a large project, like a felted purse, or a garment, where I need to provisionally cast on a large number of stitches, I’ll get out a second circular needle the same size (not necessarily the same length) as the needle I’m working with.

I’ll tie the slip knot on the spare needle and knit back and forth with my main needle.  When I need to come back and knit the provisionally cast on stitches, they are ready and waiting on a needle.  No need to undo any crochet chain, or slip any stitches onto a needle.

You can substitute this provisional cast on method anytime a pattern asks you to get out a crochet hook, chain with waste yarn and then knit into the back bumps of the chain.

Of course these method does require that you have lots of spare circular needles.  But I find it saves me lots of time and head ache.

The only part that takes some practice is how tight or loose to make the initial wraps.

I’m happy to clarify.  Just post a comment and I’ll do my best to make this method clearer.



About 365daysofnoro

We love to knit with Noro yarns
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