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!


Diagram of cable, prior to cable crossing row

Cables in knitting are formed by crossing stitches, and creating a twist in the fabric.  Every cable pattern is basically just a variation on this theme.  This tutorial illustrates how to cable by knitting a very basic 6-stitch cable. As you see below, you will be knitting the leftmost 3 stitches first, then the rightmost 3 stitches, and this re-ordering of the stitches will form the cable crossing.

1. Knit (or purl) along until you reach the cable, then stop.

1. Knit (or purl) along until you reach the 6 stitches that form the cable, then stop.

2. Slip the first 3 stitches of the cable, one at a time, from the left-hand needle onto a cable needle. This cable is a front-cross cable, which twists to the left, and so you will just let the cable needle drop to the front of the work. If you were working a back-cross or right-twisting cable, you would drop your cable needle to the back of the work.

3. Knit the next 3 stitches from the left-hand needle.

3. Knit the next 3 stitches from the left-hand needle.

4. Lastly, knit the 3 stitches that were on hold on the cable needle.

4. Lastly, knit the 3 stitches that were on hold on the cable needle.

Then you’re done, and since you knit the 6 stitches out of order, you created the twisted in the knitted fabric which forms a cable!  Continue knitting as established, and your cable will show more clearly after a few rows.  Typically, you will only do this cable cross maneouver every few rows (for a 6-stitch cable, you will do a cable cross every 6th rows, for a 4-stitch cable, you will do a cable cross every 4th row, etc.)

This 6-stitch cable is the cable pattern used in my Chunky Cable Hat – a free pattern.

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There are several ways to incorporate beads into your knitting, but this tutorial illustrates how to place beads using a tiny crochet hook.  This is a neat and tidy method which results in beads which sit upright over a single stitch.  It is also the method used in my Photosynthesis Shawl pattern.

– #6 beads
– 0.6mm crochet hook


When using a crochet hook to place beads, you place them individually, just before you knit the stitch. They sit on the stitch, with the entire loop of the stitch pulled through the bead, and then you knit the stitch normally, which locks the bead in place within the work.

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1. Knit along until you reach the stitch which will be beaded, and stop before you knit it.

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2. Insert the crochet hook into the bead to pick it up.

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3. Using the hook, pick the stitch off the left-hand needle, and allow the bead to slide down the shaft of the crochet hook, and over the stitch.

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the bead is now in place over the stitch

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4. Once the bead is over the stitch, place the stitch back on to the left-hand needle.

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5. Lastly, simply knit the stitch (which now has a bead on it) as usual.

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Blocking serves to relax the stitches into a more uniform and flowing fabric. With knitted lace it is almost essential, as it stretches the work open, and reveals the pattern, and once the fabric has dried, it will more or less hold the shape it was blocked out to. But I find even with plain stockinette stitch, it completely changes the finished product, so for me, it’s definitely worth the effort.

I always wet-block my knitting, as I find it most effective.

To do this, I follow a few simple steps:

unblocked stockinette stitch square - curls at edges, not at all flat

1. Cast off your knitted article, and weave in the ends. For the most invisible weaving in of ends, I unwind the yarn into plies, and then with a very sharp darning needle, I skim through the purl bumps on the back of the work (or with lace, I try to work through back side of the most solid parts of the pattern), piercing the yarn to draw the ply through several inches of knitted fabric. Then I trim the ends. Note that on the sample I’m using for this tutorial, I didn’t bother to weave in my ends, but usually I would.

soaking in water

2. Immerse the piece into a bowl or sink of lukewarm water, adding wool wash or hair conditioner if you please. Let it soak there for 20 mins or longer, and squeeze it gently to push all the air bubbles out of the yarn.

squeeze out water

3. Lift the work out of the water, and gently squeeze as much water out of it as you can. Do not wring the piece, as this will put too much tension on it, and could damage your knitting. With very delicate fibres, be even more gentle.

roll up in a towel

4. Lay the damp knitting out on a towel, and roll it up inside the towel.

stomp on towel

5. Stomp on the rolled up towel, until most of the water has been squeezed out of the knitting. It may be necessary to use a second towel if the first gets too wet.

pin out to correct dimensions

6. Pin the damp knitted fabric out on a flat surface. I use a piece of cardboard, but there are products created specifically with blocking in mind. I use regular sewing pins with coloured heads, and haven’t ever had a problem with rusting, however, some people recommend stainless steel pins. Pin the work out to the desired size, and leave it until it is completely bone dry.

finished product

7. Unpin and you’re done!

Further info on other methods of blocking can be found at:

To wind a centre-pull ball of yarn by hand:

yarn spaghetti

1. First, unwind a skein (hank) of yarn using either a swift, or just by draping the skein over my knees, and gradually unwinding it and dropping it loosely onto the floor, or into a paper bag or box, so that it forms a loose pile of yarn spaghetti.  If you have pets or children, I think the best thing to do is to drop it into a bag or box, so the critters can’t tangle it up.

2. Holding the end of the yarn with your thumb, begin to wrap the yarn around 2 fingers, several times in one direction, then switching the angle at which the wraps are made every so often.

3. Continue winding until you have a little ball on your fingers, and then take your fingers out, and put your thumb into the centre hole, and then continue to wrap the yarn, turning the ball every so often to wrap at a new angle.

Wrap gently, being careful not to make too tight a ball, as this will put strain on the yarn.

Be sure to always have the yarn end poking out of the centre, and be careful not to lose it by wrapping over it.

4. Eventually you will run out of yarn, and have a lovely hand-wound centre-pull ball of yarn!

For most types of yarn, it works to pull from the centre of this type of ball, and this also allows for 2 strands of yarn to be held together from the same ball, or for 2 pieces of knitting to be worked from a single ball (for example, when knitting 2 pairs of socks at the same time from a single ball).

However, some delicate or ‘sticky’ yarns, such as mohair or lace-weight silk yarn can be difficult to pull from the centre, as their strands tend to stick together and tangle.  In these cases, it is best to knit from the outside of the ball.

Enjoy your lovely hand-wound balls!