Perhaps it’s partly my Irish heritage (the part of my heritage that I feel most connected to) or maybe it has no relation at all but I love, love, love cables!
I have two projects on the needles right now that I am enjoying. One is a little cable-knit poncho for my niece in California (I’ll be knitting a matching one for her little sister, too) the other is an infinity scarf/cowl for my daughter. The poncho has a great cable pattern that I am loving. It’s a Sirdar pattern (#1516), using Sirdar Snuggly Double Knitting (DK) yarn and a size US3 and US6 knitting needle. I’m using my Knitter’s Pride interchangeable needles which have great points for this yarn. You can buy them here or here. I love mine!!!
I’m going to spend this post talking about why cables are so simple and look so difficult and show a few pictures so that, if you’re a newbie to knitting and are a little bit afraid of cables, you’ll jump right in … because they’re really so much easier than they appear to be! Be brave! Go for it! Give it a try! (Rah! Rah!)
It really does look complicated, doesn’t it? I promise you that it’s really not complicated at all. All you need to do is lift a couple of stitches off the left needle and then knit a couple of stitches and then knit the lifted/slipped stitches. Follow along with me, I’m going to show you what I mean in a step-by-step tutorial.
I’ve knitted (or in this case, purled) over to where the stitches are that will be my cable (they are the knitted stitches, 8 of them between purl bumps).
If you examine the photo carefully, it’s just like it was sitting in your lap. The right hand needle is the one holding stitches that have already been worked. The left hand needle is the stitches that will be worked next. You can see the stitches several rows below where I am now working that have been cabled already. That’s a helpful hint. In this pattern, the cables are neatly stacked up on top of each other.
It is time to slip two stitches off the left-hand needle and hold them to the front of my work with my cable needle. I am using a cheap aluminum cable needle that I bought at JoAnn’s ages ago. I lose a lot of cable needles so cheap is good for me.
Slip two stitches from the left-hand needle to the cable needle without twisting or as if to purl.
To the left is a picture of the two stitches slipped onto the cable needle and being “held” in front of my work. If not careful, the cable needle will slip out of the stitches whether you hold it or not. But it’s not a crisis. The only time any damage comes to “dropped” stitches is when you pull. If you don’t pull your stitches, you can slip them right back onto the cable needle (or any other needle for that matter).
Now, I’m going to knit the next two stitches on the left-hand needle. And hopefully I will not drop the cable needle. And then I will knit the two stitches from the cable needle.
When that is done, I’m half way there.
I still have one more part of the bigger cable to do and that means slipping two stitches to the back of my work in the same manner that I slipped the stitches to the front. I will knit two stitches from the left hand needle and then knit the two stitches that are held on the cable needle in back of my work. Wait! I’m going to show you …
Just a note about cables – Cables are always either left-leaning or right-leaning. When you hold your cable stitches to the front the cable will be left-leaning (I remember that by thinking about left having the “f” in it which stands for front). And in the same vein, the right leaning cables will always be worked from stitches that are held to the back. (I haven’t got a mnemonic for that, but you have the one for the left-leaning so I hope you don’t need one for the right-leaning …. right?)
Here is my work after having knitted the first four stitches (two from the needle and two from the cable needle held in front.)
Now it’s time to finish the cable.
We are going to slip two stitches from the left-hand needle to the cable needle and hold it to the back of our work. (This will be a right-leaning cable … can you see how the first part of this cable that we just finished is leaning to the left?)
Once the two stitches are on the cable needle and at the back of the work as in the photograph to the right, you can knit the next two stitches from left-hand needle … and then knit the two stitches from the cable needle.
You’ve just worked a cable! Woo! Hoo!
My two fingers are marking the eight stitches that we’ve just manipulated to make this “double” cable. The first side we knitted (on the right in this photo) leans to the left and the second side (on the left in this photo) leans to the right. Can you see this??? Under my fingers are two purl bumps … there are purl stitches on both sides of the cable. Purl stitches make the cable pop!
The other cable in this pattern is a simpler four-stitch cable.
The process is the same as far as the knitting goes. This cable leans to the left and then it leans to the right. Yup, you guessed it! When making up this cable, one time you’ll bring your cable needle with its two stitches to the front (left-leaning) and then the next time, you’ll bring it to the back (right-leaning).
Every cable pattern has a number of rows that it takes to make the cable happen consistently (and look just right!) This pattern just happens to have an eight-row repeat and the “difficult” rows are the first and fifth. These are the rows where I use the cable needle and cross or twist my stitches. The other six rows are super simple combinations of knit and purl stitches.
So now you’re ready to cast on some stitches and give cables a try, right? I hope this has helped to make you feel more comfortable with the idea of cables … cast on 22 stitches with any plain-colored light yarn and an appropriately-sized set of needles and give this a try! Here’s your “pattern”…
Cast on 22 stitches
Set up Row (wrong side of knitting): K2, P4, K3, P8, K3, P4, K2
Row 1 (right side of knitting): P2, C4B, P3, C4B, C4F, P3, C4B, P2
(remember: C4B means hold 2 slipped stitches to the back of work, knit 2 from working needle, knit 2 from cable needle and C4F means hold 2 slipped stitches to the front of work, knit 2 from working needle and then knit 2 from cable needle)
Row 2 (and all other even rows): K2, P4, K3, P8, K3, P4, K2
Row 3: P2, K4, P3, K8, P3, K4, K2
Row 5: K2, C4F, P3, C4F, C4B, P3, C4F, K2
Row 7: repeat row 3
Row 8: repeat row 2 (obviously)! This is the end of the 8-row repeat.
Give it a try and let me know how you do!
For now, I’ve gone knitting!