Many triangular lace shawls – including my 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. 

To begin this type of shawl, 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.

This tutorial will illustrate how to execute the following instructions to form a garter-tab cast-on:

CO 3 sts. provisionally.  Knit 14 rows.  Knit 15th row, then pick up 7 stitches along the border of the small garter stitch rectangle you have just knit, then undo the provisional cast-on, put the 3 cast-on sts on a needle, and knit them (13 sts total).

So, first you will use a provisional crochet-chain cast to cast on 3 stitches.  A provisional cast-on is any type of cast-on which creates live loops or cast-on stitches that you can later knit.  The crochet chain provisional cast-on is just one of many options.  To work it:

1. Using scrap yarn, tie a granny knot.

2. Insert a crochet hook through the granny knot, then yarn-over to wind the yarn around the hook.

3. Use the crochet hook to pull the yarn which was wound around it through the knot, creating a new loop. Repeat steps 2 and 3, wrapping, and then pulling the yarn through the loop below to create a chain of loops. You should chain a few more loops than the number of stitches you want to cast-on.

4. The completed crochet chain. This is the top side - it looks a little like a flat braid.

5. Flip the chain over to see the underside - it looks like a little row of bumps.

6. Insert your knitting needle under a bump.

7. Wrap working yarn around the needle, as though you were knitting a stitch. Then, just as though you were knitting a stitch, pull a loop back through the crochet chain, creating a stitch.

8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until you have the required number of stitches on your needle.

You have successfully cast-on 3 stitches provisionally!!  Now proceed to creating the garter tab:

9. Knit 15 rows (or the number called for in your pattern). This creates a tiny rectangle of garter stitch, which is your 'garter tab'.

10. To pick up stitches along the edge of the garter tab, insert the tip of the needle through the work, 1 stitch in from the edge, wrap the yarn around the needle, and pull a loop through the work, just as though you were knitting a stitch. Repeat this step until you have picked up the required number of stitches (in this case, 7).

On the needles, I now have the 3 stitches I started with, plus 7 stitches that I picked up along the edge of the garter tab.

11. Now undo the crochet chain by pulling the end of the yarn through the last loop which had secured it, and tugging gently on the end to unzip the crochet chain.

Now you can see the exposed cast-on loops or stitches.

12. Put these cast-on stitches on the left-hand needle, then knit them.


Voila!! You now have cast-on a total of 13 stitches!  This is your first RS (Right Side) row, so you will work a WS (Wrong Side) row, and then begin knitting your lace shawl from the pattern charts!  Soon it will begin to look like a tiny triangle, and it will almost certainly be love at first sight!

After working the first chart, the pattern begins to appear!