When I started designing, back when I only offered free patterns on my own website, and deadlines and schedules were the furthest thing from my mind, I would design in a sort of stream-of-consciousness way, working a bit of the design, trying it on and going where the yarn and my mood took me. To keep my options open, I’d almost always start with a provisional cast-on. I hadn’t learned to estimate yardage so it made it possible to lengthen or shorten the piece, without much fuss, and I could pick a hem that suited the design, once I figured out what that design would be.

That method of designing was great for spontaneity and creativity, but less effective for ensuring the design actually works in a multi-sized pattern. After designing myself into more than a few corners, I changed my process significantly. That doesn’t mean I don’t have plenty of reasons to use the trusty cast-on method. I even keep a huge ball of unbleached, undyed crochet cotton in my knitting basket to use for lifelines, stitch holders, and, of course, provisional cast-ons.

Provisional cast-ons are common in designs that are worked side to side and are symmetrical along a central axis. This can be true of almost any type of project including socks, hats, sweaters, and stoles. Provisional cast-ons are also used when working certain types of tubular cast-ons and sock toes, as well as other unexpected places, including the hems of Zaida, my hooded cardigan in this issue. The hem is cast on at the center back, using a provisional cast-on so that it mirrors on both sides.

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