Last week I wrote about selecting and measuring circular needles for the Dot Dash Cowl, designed by Hilary Grant. I decided to use the Magic Loop Method. With needles in hand and the pleasure of starting something new, I knitted a swatch. The first thing l learned was that I needed to go down a needle size. Although there can be more flexibility in gauge with a cowl than a sweater or hat, I wanted to end up with a dense fabric. The cowl is knitted in the round as a tube (like a sock). This type of design results in a cowl that is double in thickness. It also makes for a neater finish as the wrong side with the floaters from the color stranding does not show. The pattern begins with a provisional cast on, which allows the ends of the cowl to be grafted later to produce a seamless look.
I debated on which provisional cast on the use. There are a few, but I am most familiar with the classic one using waste yarn and one that begins with a crochet chain. The classic provisional cast on is the easiest method if you are using circular needles. Either is a good choice if you plan to add a border, I-cord, a hem, or if you need to work in the opposite direction later. Thinking that it would be easier to join in the round, I considered the crochet chain method. Using this method, you crochet a chain using waste yarn that is several stitches longer than the number of stitches to be cast on. Tie a knot after you chain the last stitch to mark it as the end that you start from when you are ready to put stitches on your needles and begin knitting again. Once you have your chain, pick up stitches by pulling your working yarn through each V-shaped stitch in the chain until you have the correct number of cast-on stitches. Begin knitting your first row. Below is a video tutorial, by The Chilly Dog, on this method.
The provisional cast on using waste yarn was my choice; however, I decided to use a spare interchangeable needle cable instead of waste yarn. I am a wee bit lazy and really don't like picking up stitches from waste yarn. If I use an interchangeable needle instead of waste yarn, all I need do is screw my needle tips onto the cable to begin knitting again. If you decide to try this method, remember to put needle stoppers on the ends of your cable. Below is a video, also by The Chilly Dog, on how to use interchangeable needle cables for a provisional cast on. I would give it a try. You might like it.
Regardless of the cast on method I use, I cast on an extra stitch and, when I join in the round, I slip the extra stitch over the first stitch of round two. This closes the gap and makes a tight join. The next time you see a pattern that requires a provisional cast on, just remember that getting started is not hard at all.