How to read cables

The “Cable Knitting Techniques” class I taught last month seems to be about ready to fall off the edge of my conscious memory, but there were a few things that I thought I’d talk about here before that happens.

In the class (and in the online information I put together), I mentioned learning to read your cables – but that brief mention doesn’t really convey much information.  So here are a few tips on ‘cable reading’.  That ability will most likely spare you some grief and save you some time!

We’ll be looking at the same braided cable at two different stages:

First, what I call the “cable crossing row”.  Here, the cable crossing has been completed, and several more stitches worked.

Cable crossing row... the cross has just been completed.

Then, what I call the “plain row”.  This is the next row, which would be a ‘wrong side’ row on flat knitting.

Plain row... the row following the cable crossing row.

I’m sure you can see some differences between the two pictures – I will not yield to temptation and try to get you to play a game of “Find the Differences”!  No, I’ll be nice.  Instead, I have used the same pictures and marked the things I want to show you.

Cable Crossing Row:

1) The purple arrow marks the cable stitches on the needle.  See how they’re all bunched up together?  This happens immediately upon working the cable cross.

1a) You will feel a significant bump right below the needle.

2) The white line follows the line of the stitch just below the one looped around the needle.  This is the stitch that was stretched/stressed by the cable crossing.  It leans at an acute angle, feeding into the stitch on the needle.

3) The green arrows show the length or area of the segment to be crossed next time.  This section looks like it covers about the same area as the segment below… so it must be about time to do another cable cross, right?  Wrong!  Read on.

Plain Row:

This is the next row after the cable crossing row; whether it’s a wrong side row or a right-side round, the knit stitches were knitted, and the purl stitches were purled.  On this row, the stretches/stresses of the cable crossing get to relax and settle in a bit.

1) The purple arrow marks the cable stitches on the needle.  See how neatly spaced they are on this row?

1a) The bump is  farther away from the needle, and is a bit flatter than it was before.  Again, that’s because the crossing has been able to relax.

2) The white line follows the line of the stitch just below the one looped around the needle.  This one is much more vertical than the one in the previous row.

3) The green arrows show the length or area of the segment to be crossed next.  Here, it looks longer than the segments below it.  This is deceiving – it’s easy to forget that these stitches will be tucked under during the next cable cross, and will then look shorter, just like the others.

So next time you are working on a cabled project – before you make a mistake! – take the time to learn how the just-crossed bumps feel in that particular yarn and pattern, and to identify how the segments look just before they’re crossed.

Then, if you get to a point where you don’t know where you are in the pattern (say, for example, that you are just picking it up again after weeks or months!), you can check how the knitting feels and see how it looks.  You’ll be much more confident about finding your place again so you can pick up right where you left off.

And now, your bonus tip for sticking with me this long – a priceless cable-correcting tip from Janet Szabo’s Cables: Volume 1, The Basics:

Find the cross (you may be able to slip your finger or a needle between the ‘ropes’ of a cable cross) and snip the yarn on the front cross.   Undo those stitches and slip the stitches above and below on coilless safety pins/paper clips/stitch holders.  Work them through to the back, then use project yarn to graft them together behind the work and weave all ends in.  Ta da!  No ripping back, no dropping down ladders, no hours of re-knitting!  Thank you, Janet!

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