March 10, 2015

Provisional vs. Some Alternative Cast On?

So it has been a while since I have posted here. It's hard to keep up with a blog, twitter, Ravelry and everything else, while also trying to design, knit and raise a family! 

But since it is my passion, I would like to share a little something I learned recently.

Provisional vs. Some Alternative?

You might be thinking why would anyone need an alternative to the provisional cast on? Well, if you aren't just knitting stockinette stitch, it might become important. For example, if you were knitting a ribbed pattern, the cast one edge becomes quite noticeable, because the ribs will all be 1/2 stitch off.

One of my testers had suggested that you cast on one more stitch than you needed to avoid 1/2 stitch jog. I tried and tried, but even though I ended up with the correct number of stitches for the opposite side of the cast on, the jog was still there. Another possibility would be to add a stitch when you get to picking up the provisional stitches. Again, this did not help. 

 This is your "traditional-provisional" cast on:

First waste yarn (yellow) is used to make a crochet chain, from which the required number of stitches are picked up, here we have 20 stitches: 3 knits on each edge and 14 in between.

Then when you are ready to go back and pick up the stitches for knitting in the opposite direction, you will have to somehow figure out where to put an extra stitch. Above there are only 19 stitches on the needle. So to compensate, I just did a kfb into the first or second stitch after I started working the first row. This does not help with the 1/2 stitch jog though, as you can see below.

The arrows are pointing to where you can obviously see that the ribs are jogged.  The white yarn was knit first and the green second, in opposite directions. It is kind of difficult to see the green ribs in this photo, but trust me, it doesn't look right.

So, what's an alternative?  After a lot of surfing and reading up, it seemed that it was just the way it had to be, if you didn't want a seam on either side of the fabric. The stitches are just the way they are, as described in this Tech Knitting Blog Post! There is no way to avoid the jog using the provisional cast on. But....

You can line up the rows if you just pick up the stitches from a cast on edge. Knitting in the opposite direction, you just have to be careful about where exactly you pick them up.  But doing this will create a line or seam on the opposite side, something the provisional cast on does not have.  

Instead, pick up the stitches using a "Purl Bump Method". I'm pretty sure someone has thought of this before, since there is nothing new in knitting. Anyways, to avoid the jog AND the seam, do this:

First, use a needle that is 4x larger than the needle you will need for the rib pattern stitch, or better yet, simply hold two needles together. You will need the extra room, because you are actually working these loops twice - once up and once down. 

Cast on the required number of stitches, using the backwards loop method. This method is best because there is very little bulk at the initial cast on that can easily be hidden when you pick up the stitches to knit in the opposite direction. If you use a more complicated method to cast on, it will be more visible. However, since the backwards loop method likes to get unruly (you end up with way too much slack between stitches as you are working the first row), be mindful about how much you are pulling and tugging in that first row.

Next, work your first row using the needle size you require for achieving gauge.  
This first row is a RS row, BUT(!) work the stitches opposite of what you would in a "normal RS row".  In the example, a RS row would NORMALLY be k3, p2 [k2, p2] 3x, k3. But we want to do the opposite, so we have those purl bumps we need later on. So in the first row, it will be (RS) p3, k2, [p2, k2] 3x, p3.

Now work as you normally would to create the rib pattern. After the first RS row you will be on a WS row:
(WS) p3, k2, [p2, k2] 3x, p3
(RS) k3, p2 [k2, p2] 3x, k3

When it is time to go back and knit in the opposite direction, you will first have to pick up the new stitches:

Turn the swatch so that the RS is facing so that you can pick up the purl bumps at the bottom edge. Begin to pick up and knit the first purl bump at the outer edge, by inserting your needle from the "bottom" of that purl bump through to the "top".

Work the second bump in the same manner. Picking up the bump and knitting it.

The general rule is, when the stitch you are picking up should become a KNIT stitch, the purl bump on the FRONT should be picked up and KNIT ...

... when the stitch you are picking up should become a PURL stitch, the purl bump on the BACK side should be picked up and PURLED.

(Sorry for the messy look here, I didn't notice I had the end of my yarn going through the work as I was picking up the purl stitches. EEKS!)

Continue across the bottom edge until you have picked up all of the stitches.

Then work the next row as a WS row, and continue rib pattern - now working in the opposite direction as before.

Both the Provisional cast on and the Purl Bump methods result in a "seamless" edge, however the Purl Bump method is less noticeable in ribbing, where the 1/2 stitch jog can easily be avoided.

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