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Garter Tab Cast-On – How to start a triangular shawl

August 2, 2009

sc-grain-05b

Many triangular shawls – including our own designs – begin at the center back, with a small number of stitches, and then grow in ever-lengthening rows, which form 2 triangles, separated by a center stitch. 

A garter-tab cast-on is recommended, as this technique creates a small rectangle of garter stitch, which blends seamlessly with the garter stitch edging which forms the top horizontal line of the shawl.  It is a bit more work than just casting on stitches normally, but the results are worth the extra effort. Tutorial shown in Brooklyn Tweed Arbor in ‘alizarin’, ‘tincture’, and ‘wreath’.

What’s the difference?

img_5331-sm-vert

The yellow swatch above uses a regular cast on, without the garter tab. You can see how there is a gap at the top. The garter tab cast on is used to bridge that gap. The green swatch uses a regular cast-on and a garter-tab. The red swatch uses a provisional cast-on and a garter-tab. The difference between the red and green is subtle, I will outline how to do each of them below.

How to work the garter-tab cast-on with a provisional cast on:

This tutorial will illustrate how to execute the following instructions from our free Grain shawl pattern from the Simple Collection to form a garter-tab cast-on:

Garter tab cast on: Cast on 3 sts provisionally. Knit 6 rows. Knit 7th row, then pick up 3 sts along the border of the small garter rectangle you have just knit, then undo the provisional cast on and put the 3 cast-on sts on the left hand needle, and knit them. [9 sts]

Method 1: The fanciest method

The first step is to provisionally cast on 3 stitches. You can use this method (the crochet chain provisional cast on) or this method (the needle and hook method) to do this.

3-sts-cast-on

3 stitches provisionally cast on

Next you will knit 6 rows

6-rows-knit

6 rows knit

Then you will knit a 7th row and pick up and knit 3 sts along the border

To pick up stitches in garter, take your left needle and insert it as shown by the arrow abbove

To pick up stitches in garter, take your left needle and insert it as shown by the arrow above

3 garter stitches picked up

3 garter stitches picked up

knit those 3 stitches

knit those 3 stitches

Next you will unzip the provisional cast on and place the live sts on the left hand needle. Then knit those sts.

Provisional cast on has been unzipped, live stitches are on the left hand needle ready to be knit

Provisional cast on has been unzipped, live stitches are on the left hand needle ready to be knit

All finished! Your garter tab cast on is complete.

All finished! Your garter tab cast on is complete.

Voila!! You now have cast-on a total of 9 stitches! This method is a little fussy but comes out pretty perfect.

img_5348-sm

Method 2: A little less fussy

The second method accomplishes the same thing, but instead of working the provisional cast on, you are going to use a regular cast on and pick up stitches from your cast on. Like this:

cast-on-3-sts

Cast on 3 stitches

Next you will knit 6 rows

6 rows knit

6 rows knit

Then you will knit a 7th row and pick up 3 sts along the garter edge like this:

To pick up the garter edge you will insert your left hand needle through the garter edge like the arrow above

To pick up the garter edge you will insert your left hand needle through the garter edge like the arrow above

Then you will knit these 3 stitches

Then you will knit these 3 stitches

3 stitches have been knit, ready to pick up and knit 3 stitches from the cast on

3 stitches have been knit, ready to pick up and knit 3 stitches from the cast on

pick-up-and-knit

If you haven’t picked up and knit stitches before check out our tutorial here.

All finished!

All finished!

img_5354-sm

You can see this method comes out a teeny tiny bit less perfect at the garter tab, but it really depends on how fussy a knitter you are! For more on our simple Grain shawl check out the tutorial here.

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33 Comments leave one →
  1. Annie permalink
    December 27, 2016 6:44 am

    Okay, I followed over to this post because I was interested in the current “let’s knit a simple shawl” knit-along–and I still am!–but this is even better!

    I’ve been avoiding the provisional cast on forever, but I think your thorough tutorial and side-by-side comparisons of the three methods (not to mention the tiny, perfectly feel-free-to-mess-up-and-start-again-without-tears samples) have convinced me to finally learn it. Thanks for lighting a fire under my scaredy-pants backside!

  2. October 10, 2011 2:50 am

    Oh thanks! so much. I have finally just understood!!

    Muchas gracias!

  3. Ruby T. permalink
    September 23, 2011 2:32 pm

    Yours is the first explanation of provisional cast-on that has made sense to me. Thank you so much for this valuable tutorial. I’m now looking forward to trying several patterns I once was afraid to attempt.

  4. Carlota permalink
    September 20, 2011 2:47 pm

    Thank you so much for this tutorial!!!
    Muchísimas gracias, es perfecto para el chal que quiero hacer.

  5. Wendi in Biarritz permalink
    July 23, 2011 7:44 pm

    Thank you! I just started the Daybreak shawl and ripped it out because I knew I’d done something wrong. I’m so glad I found this!

  6. Vivian permalink
    May 24, 2011 7:10 am

    Dear Emily,
    Thank you so much. This is just what I was looking for. I knew how to begin a triangular shape without the tab, and wanted a more complete way to do it.
    Isn’t it lovely that all of your good cheerful work is being found and used almost two years later. May there be many more. Thank you, again.

  7. Savannagal permalink
    May 18, 2011 9:49 am

    I wish I had found this tutorial when I made my Ishbel. I must have ripped out 20 times. I had to cut off the end of my yarn because it was so frayed. Thanks much for a wonderful, easy to follow tutorial.

  8. sarah permalink
    April 19, 2011 10:05 am

    Thank you so much for this tutorial!!! I tried several times to figure it out from the directions but failed miserably. I really needed the pictures to describe it. Thanks again!

  9. Tara permalink
    March 17, 2011 4:23 pm

    Thanks for the pictures and explaination. I got to “see it” to understand. I appreciate the time you put into this.

  10. Diane permalink
    January 28, 2011 6:12 am

    Thanks for the help. I am starting the pattern from Knitty of Citron:)

  11. jaudon permalink
    January 8, 2011 5:50 am

    Thanks so much for this great tutorial! The pictures are very clear and I am now ready to go!

  12. Corinne permalink
    October 11, 2010 12:52 pm

    Beautifully illustrated garter stitch tab!! Thank-you!
    As a visual learner, I struggled repeatedly with the written instructions for the garter stitch tab. And then, I found your instructions and photographs. And voila,… I am finally able to get my lace project started.
    Again,… very nicely done!!

    Corinne

  13. October 4, 2010 2:34 pm

    This tutorial makes sense and since I am a visual learner, I will save this and use it when I start my shawl.

    TY…Abbie

  14. Eve permalink
    August 14, 2010 5:30 am

    Very helpful!!!

  15. Bev permalink
    June 18, 2010 9:55 pm

    Thank you-this is so clear with great photos!

  16. May 21, 2010 9:27 am

    This is a wonderful cast-on. Thank you for a photo-riffic tutorial!

  17. SeedStitch permalink
    January 22, 2010 5:17 pm

    This is just wonderful! I’m starting my first lace shawl and was so sure I was doing things wrong. Thanks for a great tutorial with clear pictures AND written instructions.

  18. Tracy permalink
    December 1, 2009 6:39 am

    Thank you so much for the clear explanations and illustrations!

    I am an absolute beginner of lace shawl knitting and have a hard time understanding how to begin my first shawl by reading the instructions on the pattern…

  19. jaïs permalink
    November 14, 2009 12:06 am

    Oh many thanks! I have finally just understood!!

  20. Jessica permalink
    November 9, 2009 3:00 am

    These instructions are extremely helpful! Thank you for making this tutorial.
    I’m wondering if you can help me with something else. I’m working on the Swallowtail shawl http://www.evelynclarkdesigns.com/pdf/Swallowtail.pdf and I have finished everything except the border, because I can not for the life of me, figure out how to start it. Could you maybe explain this or point in the direction to a tutorial? It would be greatly appreciated.

  21. September 5, 2009 1:38 am

    Oh, bless you for this! I’ve just started a triangular shawl which starts with a provisional CO and the garter stitch tab (nice term!) but doesn’t clearly identify taking the CO out to get the last three stitches. I thought I knew what to do but your post clarified it beautifully, thanks so much!

  22. August 7, 2009 10:25 am

    Great instructions! thanks!

  23. August 2, 2009 1:52 pm

    These instructions are very clear, but — using this method — will I still get the points such as on the Entomology shawl or your Photosynthesis shawl?

    • dampcityknits permalink
      August 2, 2009 2:29 pm

      Nancy – The Garter Tab Cast-on method is how you start your shawl – when you get to the very end of the shawl, and work the lace edging and bind-off, you are working the part of the shawl that forms the scalloped edging. So the little garter tab is almost invisible at the end, because it is in the center back of the piece of lace. It is the last few rows (at the bottom edge), and the way that you block your shawl which determine how the edge will look.

      So Yes – you will still get the scalloped edge with points as you see on the Etymology or Photosynthesis shawls!
      Cheers – Emily

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