I just finished watching Arne & Carlos’ latest video tutorial on starting the toes of toe-up socks. They use what looks to me like a variant of the figure-eight cast on. You can use the Turkish cast on, which wraps the yarn in a spiral fashion around both needles, but if you plan to use double pointed needles (DPNs), it’s really tricky to knit that first row. Turkish cast on works much better when you use two circular needles.
What got me to thinking about garter tabs is that one shawl I’m making (Ilisidi) where you have a continuous cable across the top edge of the shawl. It’s constructed in a similar manner to garter tab shawls, but in order to get the utter coolness of an unbroken, seamless cable across the top, you have to use either a provisional cast on, or the Turkish cast on.
Many triangular and semicircular shawl patterns use the garter tab method of construction. In a garter tab, you cast on “s” number of stitches, knit “r” number of rows to make a rectangle (the “tab”), then pick up “r” number of stitches along one side and pick up “s” number of stitches across the bottom of the rectangle. This method of construction allows you to knit from the center outward in both directions and from the top edge down. This manner of construction is used in Vanessa Ewing’s “Cable Edged Shawl.”
Frankly, I have never liked this method of construction because I’ve never been satisfied with the way the end result looks. In particular, I don’t like the way picking up stitches across the bottom looks. If you use the Turkish cast on to cast on for the “tab,” then you don’t have to pick up stitches across the bottom because they’re already there. You get a seamless, invisible join.
This is how I used the Turkish cast on to construct the Ilisidi shawl. (Click on the picture to enlarge it.) It’s the same principle as the garter tab, but uses the Turkish cast on instead of a regular cast on. In this version, you only have to pick up the stitches down the side. The stitches along the bottom of the “tab” are already there. When you start knitting the cables in that direction, it looks seamless, because it is! (Of course, there’s a trick to knitting a cable in both directions at the same time.*)
Using the Turkish cast on for the foundation row of the “tab” enables you to make as wide a tab as you need. The Ilsidi shawl has a “tab” that’s 19 stitches wide and 21 rows long — long enough to pick up 19 stitches for that downward cable. Also, you don’t have to use garter stitch to make the tab. You can use whatever stitch you want to make the border. If you want a cable along that top border, you don’t have to go back after you’ve finished the shawl body and knit one on.
* When you're doing a braided cable, the cable going toward the left is "normal." The cable going toward the right is technically a mirror image of the "normal" cable, so the rightward cable's crosses have to "mirror" the leftward cable's crosses: For the first cross, the leftward cross is C6F, the rightward is C6B. For the second cross, the leftward cross is C6B, the rightward is C6F. Drove me nuts until I figured this out.