Now there's a snappy title.
Anyway, lifeline provisional cast-on - not original, but not widely known. To begin, as with any provisional cast-on, you need some waste yarn. This needs to be thin and smooth, as it is also going to be used as a lifeline, so you want something that will pull through the live stitches easily. I use either a piece of 4ply cotton yarn, or this stuff.
That is cast-on cord used by machine knitters, it is sometimes called ravel cord. It's extremely cheap, lasts forever, and is ideal for this purpose. It's made of nylon, and as you can see it comes in an assortment of bright colours - believe me, these are bright. The picture lies.
Having got your waste yarn or whatever, you now need a crochet chain of a bit more than half the cast on number that you are wanting. These socks have a 64 stitch cast on, so I need at least 32 chain - I worked 40 to have a bit of elbow room.
Pull the last loop out nice and big, so it isn't going to go anywhere. Or you could thread the loose end thru the loop if you like, I don't do this because it always gets itself into a knot for me.
And now you start your cast-on. It is unbelievably simple. Exactly as usual, you work into the bumps along the back of the crochet chain, but with yarnovers between the knit stitches. It doesn't matter which end of the crochet chain you start with - I've started near the end with the last chain, the one pulled out into a loop. And you don't need to start right at the end of the chain either, that's what the elbow room is for.
Sometimes people have a problem deciding which thread to pick up. At each point along the chain, there are three threads. You can see the V shapes on the front of each chain, these are two of the threads - the bump is the other thread, the one along the back. When you pick it up, you can still see the V at the front of the chain, that's how you know you've got the right bit.
Knit into the first bump - and then yarnover. Knit into the next bump - and yarnover. All the way along.
Here you can see seven stitches sitting nicely on the needle, plus a yarnover which is sort of in mid air. I've worked four (k1, yo) pairs - the last yarnover is the one that is in mid air - and I've just put the needle into the next bump for the next knit stitch.
And here I am rather further along. In fact I have just finished the 64 stitch cast on. I've put 16 stitches onto each of four dpns, each of which finishes with a yarnover of course. If you're working flat then this doesn't work so well - if you need an even number of stitches then it is better to work one stitch extra so as to finish with a knit stitch, and then drop one stitch at the other end when you work back - but in the round it is no problem at all.
Now, I start knitting round. I don't need to do anything particular with regard to a join, of course. For a picot hem I work seven rounds knit, then one round (yo, k2tog) all around, then another 7 rounds knit. And then it is time to actually form the hem.
The next step is to pull out the provisional cast on, so the live stitches can be picked up. And literally that is what you do - you unzip the crochet chain. You don't need to do it particularly slowly or particularly carefully, as the stitches are all going to end up on a lifeline. But don't pull the lifeline right out of the stitches!
Here we are unzipping the chain, and there are the stitches on the lifeline. Very pleasing, actually.
So, unzip the crochet chain completely, and then you can start picking up the live stitches at your leisure. I use a set of needles in a smaller size because it makes it easier, and easy is good. You can start picking up from either end of course, as you wish. Make sure that you get them the right way round on the needle though. Once again, four needles, 16 stitches on each.
Picking up from left to right here....
And here from right to left. There is a sort of half stitch at the beginning, by the way. Don't lose that - or if you do, reinstate it afterwards. It isn't going to unravel. I have an idea about dealing with this actually, I am going to try it out on the next picot hem sock and will post about it if it works. In the meantime, remember it when you come to work the joining row.
After all the stitches are picked up, you need to do a bit of rearranging with regard to the two sets of needles, so you can work the joining round. You need to wiggle things around so that you have the new smaller needle (the red one, here) sitting behind the main needle (pale green here) - with the right side of the work facing outwards, of course. And then you work around knitting two together, one stitch from each needle. Like this.
This is the last needle of the four. And then the hem is finished.
My favourite way of starting ladies socks, these days.