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  • As a not-very-experienced shawl knitter I had wondered why many started with a garter tab and I have sometimes found it a bit fiddly.
    Now I understand both the rationale and the process so much better.
    Thank you, Kate.

  • Huh. So it’s NOT a magic incantation along with kicking all cats out of the room and drinking mandatory mint tea. I love knowing the REASON.

    • YES. My first shawl was Traveling Woman by Liz Abinante. I followed along blindly, with no idea where I was going—it all magically came together, but this photo tutorial is brilliant!

  • Wouldn’t a stockinette edge curl?

    • Yes, it does! I’ve used it in a couple of designs to create an edge that looks like an i-cord, but it easier to work and doesn’t have any of the issues with tightness that an i-cord can have.

  • This is one thing as a newbie shawl knitter I was able to grasp faster than my more experienced friend (instructions were from the Summer Flies Shawl which were very clear). However, Kate, they resulted for me and many others in a small hump in that part of the shawl. Are your instructions different in some way to eliminate that hump? Thanks!

    • Crescent-shaped shawls often do result in a bit of a hump if you use a garter tab. It’s more to do with the shawl shaping than the tab, but I believe that someone is working on a solution… stay tuned!

      • Yes, there is a knitting scientist toiling away on that one!

  • AHA!!! Thanks for this, Kate!

  • When I do a garter tab, I have the live stitches, then I do a yarn over, pick up along the edge, do another yarn over, pick up the cast on edge. Then when I do the next row I drop those two yarn overs. It seems to really help with the lumpiness issues – I think it loosens those pivot points just enough. And also remember the tip from someone on this blog (not sure if it was Kate or someone else) to do your garter edges in purl stitches to get more stretch along the edge.

    • I do this too. Learned it from PDXKnitterati blog. Really works well.

  • I place a coil less safety pin or removable stitch marker through the cast on stitches before I start knitting the garter tab , this makes it easier to find the stitches when you return to that end. It’s very quick and easy, way less fiddly than a provisional cast on.

    • Now *that* is a brilliant idea, thanks for sharing!

    • I do that too! It’s so much easier.

  • Yes, I always fiddle with these! Next talk about the tension because lots of folks end up with a hump where the garter tab is. Its too tight or loose to match the gauge of the main work.

    • This is great info! Thank you.

      Susan Rainey of The Rainey Sisters also has a great solution for crescent shawls that she developed using a wider garter tab. (Doesn’t work on triangular shawls). See lv2knit’s Ravelry project notes on her Day-of-the-Week shawl (pattern is Sweet Dreams).

    • Well, the hump is not as much about tension as you might think… It happens mostly in crescent shawls, and there’s something coming that will help you out!

      • Ooh, I can’t wait! I swatched all sorts of ideas once to try to get rid of “the hump” on a crescent shawl but got nowhere. (I did produce a range of shapes reminiscent of mustaches!) I believe I tried throwing in extra increases in the rows where the dip starts (to bring the dip up, rather than the hump down). I am intrigued to see what great knitting minds will come up with to solve this.

  • I’d like to save this article but there’s no “save” flag icon?

    • You’ll need to sign in. Then come back and it’ll be there.

  • Disregard my previous comment… I wasn’t logged in!

  • Just last night I cast on (twice) for the Woodlark Shawl which uses a garter tab–I so wish I had waited one more day. This tutorial is really helpful. Thanks, Kate!

  • Thank you, Kate, for the “why” of garter tabs. I’ve done them lots of times, but never took the time to understand about the gap that would arise. I’ve learned something today, woo hoo!

  • Just tossing this into the mix: on the Pressed Flowers Shawl, which is a triangular mosaic shawl with center increases at the top as shown here, Amy Christoffers has you cast on provisionally, and knit the whole shawl. Then at the end, you come back, undo the provisional cast-on–2 stitches on each side of the center, and GRAFT THEM TOGETHER. Close the gap, so neat and pretty.

    I didn’t quite understand why she did this until I saw your first photo in this article!

    • As I am about to start that very shawl …. that makes perfect sense.
      Though I always somehow screw up my provisional cast-on. One day it will unzip, because one day I will do it right.

  • CO 3 sts with larger needles in CC1, using long-tail method. Place a removable sm in each of the 3 sts. This will make it easier to pick up them up later on. I found this method on a pattern by Oceane on Ravelry and it is really so easy. You just pull up on the stitch marker and the needle slides right in.
    Hope this helps someone. I tried it with a 3 stitch cast on and was shocked how well it worked. Now it is all I use.

  • Thanks, Kate! This explains so much.

  • Wonderful … the clearest and cleanest explanation I have seen in years of knitting garter tabs.

    Can Kate explain the difference between this type and the “y/o” version that i think I once did from Evelyn Clark’s “Knitting Lace Triangles”?

  • Thank you so much for this explanation! I have long been confused about how to pick up the stitches, so this is *super* helpful and just in time for an upcoming project.

  • I’ve knit a few shawls, but never saw the need for the tab. (Still don’t, it IS fiddly.) I can’t remember seeing the little “v” that the tab fills in. Your explanation is excellent. Thanks for that.

  • This is great. I actually like the way it looks with a missing section, but it’s nice to have someone explain how to avoid it when desired.

  • “Some clever knitter, at some point” — the first time I saw a garter tab cast-on for a shawl was in patterns by Evelyn Clark. She may not have been THE first, but she was certainly one of the first. (And speaking of Evelyn Clark, she may also have designed the first single-skein shawlette of the modern era: the Swallowtail Shawl, published in Interweave Knits, Fall 2006.)