techniques: picking out a waste yarn cast on

Provisional cast ons of all kinds are handy when you need to join two pieces of knitting, such as two ends of a cowl, or to work something from the center out in two directions.

It's easy enough to cast on with waste yarn, and then proceed to knitting with your working yarn, but what about picking out that cast on to continue with the project? You could carefully cut the waste yarn, but that way lies the potential for cutting into your actual knitting. In addition to removing the waste yarn, the stitches also have to be returned to the needles in order to proceed to the next step of your project.

We've compiled some tips on how to carefully pick the waste yarn out of a provisional cast on and get the stitches back onto the needles—without using scissors. The great thing about this technique is that you perform the two tasks at once, thereby avoiding dropped stitches.

how to work with a waste yarn cast on

First, lay your piece out flat before you, with the waste yarn cast on facing up. You will be working from left to right, from end of row to the beginning. (Note: If your piece is worked in the round, lay it out flat before you with the waste yarn cast on facing up, ready to begin with end of round.)

Step 1. Insert needle tip from front to back into the first stitch to pick out (waste yarn is coming from the center of the stitch):

Step 2. Carefully pick the waste yarn out of the stitch just placed on needle, drawing the tail first back through the stitch to the right:

Step 3. Then, draw the tail down from the center of the next cast on stitch:


Step 4. Finally, draw the tail through the stitch again, this time to the left, until it is completely removed from the stitch:


Repeat steps 1-4, removing the waste yarn from one stitch at a time, until all stitches have been placed on needle and waste yarn is removed completely.

Et voilà! Stitches that are ready for grafting, three-needle bind off, or working according to your pattern.

Tips: We recommend using a smooth, sturdy yarn for a waste yarn cast on for many reasons, and particularly in this case, as a toothy yarn will make manipulating the waste yarn through the cast on stitches much trickier. Once you get going, you may also find it helpful to use the tip of your right needle to draw the waste yarn end out from the stitches as you coax them onto the left needle.

Looking for other techniques covered here on the Quince blog? View all of our Techniques

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