Different Lines by Veera Valimaki - An asymmetric garter st shawl
Garter St - the quintessential beginner stitch. When we first learn to knit, garter st is where it's at for most of us. Our knitting instructors, grandmas, moms, aunts, or friends hand us 2 straight needles, some horrible worsted weight yarn, and teach us to perform the most basic of all stitches, the knit stitch. So enamored are we with the knit stitch, that we practice and practice by (oftentimes) knitting several rectangular, flat pieces in just the knit stitch. As we become familiar with tension, gauge, and keeping st count, we create numerous, if not oddly shaped, garter st items. (For those of you new to knitting: garter st is when you knit every st in every row in a flat piece of knitting.)
Transverse Shawlette by Wendy D. Johnson - a garter st shawl with lace border
But because we are eager to learn, young, and naive in our knitting, we quickly cast aside the garter st to upgrade to the very saucy, stockinette st. It's not long after that, we believe a Herbert Niebling design will likely be next. ;) We peruse Ravelry and see lace, cables, entrelac, and more... and then it becomes inevitable (we believe at the time) that we've outgrown the childish garter st.
Wingspan by Maylin Tri'Coterie Designs - a garter st shawl knit in short rows
This was the case for me. In my haste to show my knitting chops, I cabled, knit up Nieblings, tackled entrelac, and made socks - never looking back and certainly never knitting that horrid, toddler st, the garter st. Then one day, I was browsing the online book store and saw Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knit One Knit All, a book chalk full of knitwear designs, all in garter st. I felt my face squish up as if I was talking aloud to EZ and saying, Elizabeth! Garter st? Aren't we past this? You, certainly, are beyond garter st! I listened in disbelief as knitting podcasters and bloggers hailed the book as another EZ masterpiece. All I could think at the time was, What the hell are these knitters thinking? They must certainly be the kind of knitters who enjoy cheap acrylic. Why would anyone knit such a simple, ugly stitch on purpose?!
Rustic Autumn Shawl by Karrie Steinmetz - a garter st triangular shawl with diagonal rib
It wasn't until about a year later when I needed to knit a simple gift for someone, that I picked up my needles and knit a garter st washcloth. I figured the recipient wasn't a knitter and wouldn't know the difference, wouldn't know that it's the easiest of all stitches. I also figured that since it was such a small item, I wouldn't get too bored with knitting garter st. Then I started knitting and something happened. My snobbery of garter st disappeared. As I sat one lazy afternoon on my porch, washcloth in hand, something occurred to me - I like garter st. Perhaps it's the simplicity that I admire so. The simple act of sitting, meditatively, knitting in the same motion over and over again, nickel-plated needles click-click-clicking in a rhythmic unison with the movements.. Or perhaps it was the simple discovery of the beauty of the stitch. It's simple, textured appearance is rustic, but not sloppy. The fabric has tremendous potential for stretch and bounce. And there is a certain beauty in the landscape it creates. Although it could be any one of these, I suspect it was the combination of all of these things that transformed my opinion of garter st.
Crosswords at the Coffee Shop by Karrie Steinmetz - a garter st crescent shawl with lace and garter border
Today, I am enamored with garter st. I don't feel the need to knit Nieblings for every project or involve myself in intricate patterns to show my knitting chops. I knit for peace, tranquility, relaxation, and fun. Does that mean I only knit garter st now? Heck no. But I dearly love it. I think coming full circle from excited about garter st, to sick of garter st, to hating garter st, back to loving garter st is proof of my growing as a knitter. And like all things I've learned in knitting, growth is good for the soul and certainly for shawls! ;)