Garter Tab Cast On

by stephen on July 31, 2011

I use the garter tab cast on for most of my top down shawl designs like Daybreak, Herbivore, Akimbo, Pogona, and the 2011 Mystery Shawl: Earth & Sky.

The stitch counts in the photo tutorial below represent the exact same instructions for the beginnings of Transatlantic, Pogona, and Earth & Sky. You can use the same tutorial for my other shawl designs, but the cast on number or garter stitch rectangle length may be slightly different.

1. Cast on 3 stitches. My default cast on is the long tail method, but just about any cast on will be fine here.

2. Knit 6 rows. At the end of last row, do not turn to work other side. Sometimes this little rectangle can look wonky, especially when worked with fine yarn. Give it a little tug and make sure it is not twisted for the next step.

3. Rotate piece 90 degrees clockwise so that you are looking at the long side of the garter stitch rectangle. Pick up 3 stitches (1 in each purl bump from the garter ridges).

4. Knit into those 3 picked up stitches. The picked up stitches can be picked up all at once as illustrated in the photo above or you can pick up and knit those 3 stitches one at a time.

5. Rotate piece again clockwise so you can pick up 3 stitches along the cast on edge. This can be the trickiest place to pick up stitches. Just locate 3 strands of yarn along that cast on edge to pick up.

6. Knit into those 3 picked up stitches. You now have 9 stitches scrunched up in a little blob.

This photo shows those 9 stitches spread out a bit more.
spread out

You are now ready to begin the first rows of the shawl.

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen in Toledo July 31, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Thanks so much, Stephen. That helps. I think. ;-) I know you put a great deal of time and energy into to setting this up for all of us, and that is what I wanted to let you know I appreciate. Your time and energy. For all of us rabid knitters. This will be fun, and we’ll learn some new things along the way and exercise our brains a bit, right?

Go rest a bit!

Andres P. Nevarez August 1, 2011 at 1:21 am

Thank you buddy, nice to have a visual.

Teri August 1, 2011 at 8:23 am

Great photo tutorial !

In japan, when I was a child I learned a cast on edging / method very similar And fun. I forget the exact Japanese name of it, but it meant tiny dumplings. A popular item made was a little ” secret treasue ” scarf where within one of the dumplings you enclosed a tiny object that only you knew about ,( usually a beach pebble ) for sentiment , good luck , and to help make wishes come true. Your clue #1 reminded me of that.

penelope August 1, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Great tutorial for that little tab!

Ragga August 1, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Amazing photos. Clear and clever too! Hugs from Iceland

Char August 2, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Thanks for the visual – made that step so easy.

Lilo August 3, 2011 at 6:36 am

Thank you for this photos! Could I put this link on my new shawl personal pattern to explain this construction please?

Kathleen August 5, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Love this tutorial! It’s fantastic to have such clear instructions and pictures to follow for this cast on. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain and post it. I’ll be referring back to this often. Happy knitting :)

trèfles August 8, 2011 at 10:42 am

Hi stephen !
a big thank you !! I am French and I am a huge fan of your models! my favorite is the “clock work”! but I think it may soon be dethroned by the new subblimes models such as the spectra and other! In any case, thank you for this tutorial very useful!

Chris August 11, 2011 at 9:03 am

You can also do a provisional cast on to have three live sts at the beginning edge. I convert all shawl patterns to this cast on. Depending on the number of edge sts, it usually equates to the 3rd row. Just look at the rows to see which one has the stitch count you end up with after the cast on.

stephen August 12, 2011 at 12:54 am


Linda B August 15, 2011 at 2:35 am

As ever Stephen, …. you are a star. :)
Lovely clear photographs and instructions. This will be a well used tutorial without any doubts !

Lee Bernstein August 22, 2011 at 7:14 am

Stephen, I cannot thank you enough for posting this. Your photos make it all so clear. (I’d be embarassed to tell you how many times I tried to do this last year before beginning my Daybreak — by looking at various other tutorials, it took me forever to get it.)

Not any more. Leave it to you to make it easy — great blog post!

Portia August 25, 2011 at 9:00 pm

This is great! I’d love to see a similar post on the knit to purl yarnover from Pogona. Baffling! :)

Nathalie September 18, 2011 at 1:24 pm

It’s a very clear explanation :-)
I really wish I had had it under my eyes the day I started my first shawl… Reading the stuff just did not make sense at that time…

Tara/tsknits September 27, 2011 at 11:56 pm

Thanks so much for this!!

Caitlin October 12, 2011 at 2:05 pm

You saved my butt. I was starting a shawl that didn’t specify what type of cast on this was and after months of never starting the pattern someone !told me what it was called! and your pictures explained swimmingly. I am now well on my way to having a lovely shawl, yay!

Elyce October 16, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Thanks so much~! I plan on starting my first shawl in the next day or two. This tutorial is exactly what I needed. <3

Rich_in_NFPA October 26, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Stephen — thanks for the tutorial. I’m just getting ready to start your Pogona pattern and was certain I didn’t understand the instructions. After seeing the pictures I know I actually did understand. This is the first shawl I’ve ever made and I was feeling confused. With the fingering weight yarn it was difficult for me to see what was going on. Now I know I was on the right track. Thanks for the explanation and your great designs.


Pamela October 26, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Wow. How about that. I had no idea what these instructions meant and this is so clear! Thank you!!!

Naniluce October 28, 2011 at 1:29 am

Thank you very much for this tutorial which will really help me! Very nice of you.

annette October 30, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Is the yarn overs on this suppose to leave a hole between the edges and the stripes?

yenulka March 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm

This tutorial is brilliant!!!
Thank you very very much, it help me with my first shawl :)

tout chocolat March 15, 2012 at 8:00 am

merci! J’ai enfin compris!

guerin marina March 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm

I did it!!!! I can knit my shawl now!!

Macatawa July 30, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Thank you, Stephen! 7 starts on my first shawl type construction — Age of Brass & Steam. Could not get that first part done correctly, I see now & also know is a garter tab. Sweet! – Mary

Valerie T September 4, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Thank you for the wonderful tutorial on garter tab starts! Since I like to knit with the yarn double the first row after the cast on so I have no ends to work in, I was frustrated when working with tiny needles and dark yarn — I just couldn’t seem to pick up those darn three stitches correctly (duh)without splitting yarn. Now I have learned to leave my skinniest dp or circular needle in the first three stitches. When I turn the corner to pick them up, I just knit right off the skinny needle and they are easy to find and to knit smoothly.

Filambulle September 7, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Les grands esprits se rencontrent!
I engineered the same process, but with a provisional cast-on that give a perfect, totally invisible cast-on. :) I also use it on all my shawls. I am not able to create such perfect photos as yours though, and I hope my pattern’s readers understand my explanation!
Tech knitting is fun, isn’t it?
Greetings from Switzerland

martiG September 23, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Thank you SOOOOO much! So clear on all levels, words and pictures!! You did a big service to many taking the time to set up this tutorial!!!!!

Emily October 31, 2012 at 8:11 am

Thank you! This is very clear and attractive.

Jill Seelig November 3, 2012 at 6:23 pm

I just started making this shawl and the pattern does not explain xCB. Can you help?

Fraro January 3, 2013 at 9:38 am

merci Stephen pour le tuto très clair, merci pour les modèles cadeaux et pour tous vos modèles; j’ai tricoté le daybreak et herbivore en 2012
janvier 2013 je commence le Metalouse…
Bonne année

anu February 21, 2013 at 6:24 am

thank u so much. it helped me a lot

Moni March 7, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Stephen estimated from Argentina thank you very much!

Elaine April 2, 2013 at 2:25 am

Very helpful, thank you!

christine May 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Dude, you rock. This tutorial is wonderful. I just finished my first Esjan…and am hunting for new yarns/colorways to make another. Your patterns are very clear, and your designs are intelligent. Many thanks!!

Jessica-Jean June 3, 2013 at 8:40 pm

New knitters are forever asking about the precise meaning of the phrase “pick up and knit”. It takes me more than a few words to explain; you’ve done it excellently with two lines and two photos!! Now, every time that question reappears, I shall be passing on this link JUST for those.


Tiphanie June 26, 2013 at 1:28 pm


DEB September 8, 2013 at 3:30 pm

wow, I am going to try this for sure…..looks so simple!!!! I love to try new things!!! Thanks for the share Stephen!!!! DEB

Jarrod December 29, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I am off to a good start with your Vulpix pattern. I can’t wait …… Thank you very much and I so happy to be in good company.

Sandra Ballou February 24, 2014 at 6:36 pm

I fell with this picture better I really really really wanted to know how to make it um, I am intimidated by the first six stitchesI have the yarn, I’m making this shawl fpor someone special and I just can’t get that first six stitches …is there a place in this computer where i can listen …… like an audio book, or DVD? Sandra919, DE

Anja March 6, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Hi. I need more visuals to learn how to knit metalouse. Can anyone please make a blog with instrutions or a youtube video. I did what these instructions told, and do not understand the instructions on the pattern after these:

Row 1 [RS]: K3, yo, p to m, M1R, slm, p1, slm, M1L, p to last 3 sts, yo, k3.

Row 2 [WS]: K3, yo, k to last 3 sts, yo, k3.

Row 3 [RS]: K3, yo, k to m, M1R, slm, k1, slm, M1L, k to last 3 sts, yo, k3.

Row 4 [WS]: K3, yo, p to last 3 sts, yo, k3.

Repeat last 4 rows 16 more times. 215 sts. Repeat Rows 1 & 2 once more. 221 sts.

Please …. help :-)

Tiffany May 15, 2014 at 11:24 pm

Wow! Thank you so very much for your awesome tutorial!! I’m a new knitter and your tutorial was just the bee’s knees!!

ann May 17, 2014 at 10:07 am

Thanks, Stephen,

This is even clearer than the one on the Craftsy Shawlscapes lessons (which I love). Thanks!

I love your designs and color-sense. You liberate the imagination! And your presentations are delightful.

Wren May 17, 2014 at 5:12 pm

This is the best tutorial I’ve seen for the garter tab cast on- thanks!

Rusty June 15, 2014 at 10:04 am

Thanks so much. Working on shawls for teaching a class and this helps a great deal!

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