Picot Cast on

The picot cast on is a decorative way to start a piece of knitting. The word picot is French for little peaks, which is exactly what you make as you cast on, and it is pronounced peak-oh, which is more or less what I said when I learned to say it correctly.

The picot cast on gives a nice feminine touch to the cuffs of sleeves, socks, and gloves; the brims of hats; the ends of scarves; and the edges of collars and shawls.

There are two ways to do it. One produces soft peaks while the other makes bold points. Both build on other cast on methods, and both allow you to space the peaks as close together or as far apart as you want. Most of the tutorials I’ve read put them pretty close together. In this post, I space them as I usually do in my own work.

Decreasing to Make Subtle Picots

The simplest way to make a picot cast on is to cast on extra stitches, then to work decreases in the first row of knitting. This makes soft peaks. You can use any cast on method you like; I usually use the simple cast on. You can also use any decrease; I usually knit 3 together.

Here’s the basic technique:

Using any method, cast on a multiple of 6 + 3.
Row 1: K3tog, * k3, k3tog *.

For the stitch count to work out, you need to cast on more stitches than the pattern calls for. For projects worked in the round, cast on one and a half times the number of stitches. If your socks are 48 stitches around, cast on 72 (48 + half of 48). For projects worked back and forth, do the same only add 3 more stitches when you’re done with the math. If your scarf is 24 stitches across, cast on 39 (24 + half of 24 + 3). That actually leaves you with 25 stitches after the decreases. You can always decrease an extra stitch over one of the peaks as you work the following row.

Binding off to Make Bold Peaks

The more common way to work a picot cast on is to * cast on (co) a few stitches, then bind off (bo) a couple * until the right number of stitches has been cast on. This makes bold points. You can use any cast on method you like; the knit-on cast on and the cable cast on work best. You can also use any bind off; the standard bind off works nicely.

Here’s the basic technique:

Using any method, co 4 sts, bo 2 sts, * co 6 sts, bo 2 sts *.

This cast on is a little discouraging when it’s just hanging on the needle. The points are fine, but above each is a gap in the row of stitches, which suggests an unattractive hole in the scarf your skein longs to be. Don’t worry. If you give the working yarn an extra tug after you work the stitches before and after each gap, the work pulls together nicely, and there are no holes.

The picot cast on is that simple. Whether you make your picots by casting on extra stitches and working decreases on the following row or by alternately casting on and binding off, this cast on spices up an ordinary piece of knitting with soft peaks or bold peaks along the starting edge. Nonknitters are impressed by it, and knitters use it to accent a variety of projects.

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