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Knitting Tip: Counting Cable Rows (and the Heather Hoodie Vest)

Aug 3, 2009

I think we might have an instant classic on our hands, folks! The response to the Heather Hoodie Vest from the fall 2009 Knitscene is causing a stir all over the web and in LYSs--and basically anywhere knitters and Knitscene meet!

People are comparing the vest to the venerable Central Park Hoodie, which so many of you have knit and loved, and I think the Heather Hoodie Vest deserves the comparison.

With its lovely cable detailing amid swaths of clean stockinette, the Heather Hoodie Vest will be flattering on many bodies. I really love how the hood grows organically out of the stockinette section on the back of the vest, with that wide ribbing all around the edges to the button band. I really like the tone-on-tone buttons, too, but I know there are people out there who are going to jazz it up with some fab button choices, or maybe even a zipper instead of buttons.

And Lamb's Pride Bulky is so nice to work with--that slight mohair aura is really beautiful, and at 3.5 stitches to the inch, the vest is a fast knit, too. The Lamb's Pride Bulky color choices are almost endless--good luck deciding on a colorway! 

This kind of casual styling is perfect for fall; I can imagine wearing this vest to a football game in early October, for instance, or to the last of the farmers' markets before they close for the winter.

The cable work on this project isn't difficult, but there is a technique from this issue of Knitscene that I want to share with you.

Counting rows is something that we come across all the time in knitting, and it's usually an easy task. In stockinette stitch, you simply count a column of knit stitches and each stitch in the column counts as one row.

In reverse stockinette stitch, you count each purl bump in a column, and each bump counts as one row.

In garter stitch, each garter ridge equals two rows, so you count each ridge and multiply by two.

I always knit the first and last stitch of any garment piece, which makes for easy seaming because it gives you a nice garter column at each edge, and I can count the rows easily since each of the bumps at the edge equals two rows just like each garter ridge in a garter stitch project equals two rows.

So I'll bet you're thinking "Counting rows--why is she talking about this, it's so easy!" Well, I'm talking about it because I want to pass on some tricks from Kristin Roach about counting your rows in a cable, which, if you've done cable work, you know isn't as easy as it sounds.

All patterns call for cable crossings to be done every such-and-such number of rows, but it's difficult to count rows from a crossing because the stitches are distorted when they're pulled across each other. I never used to be sure exactly which row was the crossed row, but I'm confident in my counting after reading these tips in Kristin's Knitscene article.

Place the tip of your needle at the hole in your cable (where it twists). That is your cable row. From there you can count rows up or down (see the illustration at left). Count each V from the row after the crossing row (where the point of your needle is) including the stitches on your needle-here there are 5 rows after the cable row. You don't want to count the cross row itself if you are trying to determine how many rows have been worked since the cross.

You can also place a stitch marker in the last stitch of the cable when you work your cable cross row. Count the Vs worked since the marked stitch to check which row you're on. Just remember to place a new marker each time you work a cross row. If you're working multiple traveling cables, this is very helpful. Place a stitch marker in each cable.


 Thanks, Kristin, I know we'll use this tip a lot.

Happy counting!


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ElonkaV wrote
on Mar 7, 2010 11:42 AM

I m soooooo looking for the Heather hoodie pattern, please can someone help me?

CaryS@3 wrote
on Aug 11, 2009 2:58 PM

I fell hard for this vest when I first saw it in the magazine at my LYS!  Now, there are five us and counting who are starting the project together!  Three are using the Lambs Pride, one is using Galway Chunky and I am using yarn spun from my own flock of Corriedale sheep.  I am planning to lengthen my vest and also work the cap sleeve a bit differently, but otherwise leave it alone.  It is a beautiful cable.

Thanks for a great tip to go along with this fall's cable knitting ;D

AnnaliseO wrote
on Aug 7, 2009 11:41 AM

When counting cable rows you include the stitches on your needles?  In counting stockinette stitch rows you do not count the stitches on your needle (since that is a half row - as your diagram indicates)  so I just wanted to make sure that I understood that correctly.

DanaG@2 wrote
on Aug 5, 2009 4:20 PM

I tended to have trouble identifying the cable cross until I started to keep a split ring marker on the reverse side of my knitting. A cable pattern is usually framed by reverse stocking stitch. I therefore mark the back of my piece which is a knit stitch. This area is not usually distorted by the cable cross. The marked stitch is the first row of the cable pattern rows. I then can keep track of which row of the pattern I am on. If there is more than one set of cables, I use a different coloured marker.  dana/upknitcreek

AmyS@124 wrote
on Aug 4, 2009 8:02 AM

I am really adverse to using a bulky yarn, as I am already bulky, thank you very much!  How would you go about adapting this to worsted weight?   Thanks.

on Aug 4, 2009 6:25 AM

I've found the easiest, most reliable way to count rows is to lay a contrasting color piece of yarn over the first row you want to count as the starting row.  The yarn should be placed between the stitches; just lay it over the last row of stitches.  It will hang out both on the right and the back side of the work and can be easily removed to be used at the next row starting point

AnaMarie wrote
on Aug 3, 2009 3:40 PM

When counting after your cable crossing, remember that the stitches that make up the hole are the row BEFORE you crossed, and the first row after the hole (the one that goes across all the stitches in the new order) is the cross row.  Just making it more clear that you don't count everything after the hole, but that the row closing the hole is the one that is your crossing row and you count everything after that.

In the illustration: The dark, light, dark row is the cable crossing, and the dark row the needle is under is the row that closes the hole, so not the one you count first.

GerdaP wrote
on Aug 3, 2009 1:54 PM

Thanks for the tip it is always inevitable that one of my cables is longer and I don't discover it until it is sewn up and I am wearing it, or my daughter Sheila notices right away!

KBKnit@2 wrote
on Aug 3, 2009 1:28 PM

For those of you that have an iPhone, there's a couple great applications on iTunes for knitting.  The first one is called StitchMinder.  You can track rows completed, pattern rows, decrease row, and increase row.  The other application is called KnittyBag where you can track your inventory of knitting needles and crochet hooks.  They are free apps.

Kymmiam wrote
on Aug 3, 2009 12:29 PM

Kristin Roach is one of my knitting pals and I'm so excited to see her work being published! She's a rising rockstar--go Kristin!

MelanieD wrote
on Aug 3, 2009 11:57 AM

Just what I need today - a new skill! Thanks!

Oh, and may I just say how impressed I am at how fast Interweave Knits arrives here in Europe - more thanks!

on Aug 3, 2009 10:28 AM

I LOVE the vest !   Would really prefer long sleeves.  Any suggestions as to length to make and cuff cast on ?