Make Seamless Shawl Edges with the Garter Tab Cast-On

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If you find yourself becoming shawl obsessed, you'll definitely want to know about the garter tab cast-on!

The best way to explain what the garter tab cast-on is to take a look at a swatch with garter tab and a swatch without. 

See how the top swatch has that little dip in the top edge? That's the center neck. Notice how the bottom swatch (with garter tab) has a straight line all the way across the top edge.

The garter tab cast-on creates that nice smooth, seamless edge for your shawl.

Any shawl that starts at the center neck, especially triangle shawls, can benefit from a garter tab cast-on. Shawls usually start with a low number of stitches — say 3 cast-on stitches — then build out from there, which can cause that little dip to develop along the edge.

If you look at those swatches and think, "So what? No one's gonna see the back of my shawl anyway," well we're with you! The garter tab certainly isn't necessary. It's just a way for the shawl-obsessed knitters to up their game!

Garter tab cast-on tutorial 

There's no one perfect way to make a garter tab cast-on, so depending on your project, you may just need to follow the instructions in your pattern. Most garter tabs, however, follow the same method.

In a nutshell, here's what we're going to do:

  • Cast on 3 sts using long-tail cast-on.
  • Rows 1-6: Knit.
  • Row 7 (Right Side): K3; rotate the rectangle, pick up and k1 in each of 3 garter stitch ridges on the side of the tab; rotate the rectangle, pick up and k1 in each of the 3 original cast on stitches — 9 sts total.

Let's break that down just a bit so you can see how it works:

Step 1:

First, cast on 3 sts using long tail. Easy peasy! (Here's a reminder of how to do the long-tail cast-on .)

Step 2:

Next, knit 6 rows. You'll end up with a little rectangle.

Step 3:

On the next row, knit 3 stitches but do not turn your work. Instead, rotate the work so that the side edge is on top.

Step 4:

Insert your needle into the first garter stitch ridge. Pick up and knit a stitch. You should have 4 stitches on your needle.

Step 5:

Repeat Step 4 two more times, inserting the needle into the next 2 garter stitch ridges.

At this point, you should have 6 stitches on your needle. The goal here is to turn the rectangle into an arch. (You'll see how that arch is completed in the next step.)

Step 6:

Once again, do not turn your work. Instead, rotate the rectangle so that the cast-on edge is now on top.

Step 7:

Insert your needle into the first cast-on stitch. Pick up and knit a stitch.

Step 8:

Repeat Step 7 two more times, inserting the needle into the next cast-on stitch. When you finish, your last stitch will be close to the yarn tail you left from your cast on. That's one sign that you stitched the garter tab correctly! You should now have 9 stitches on your needle.

From here, you can continue knitting your shawl as your pattern instructs.

How do you begin your shawls? Do you think it's totally necessary to have a neat, streamlined edge?

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Make Seamless Shawl Edges with the Garter Tab Cast-On