Cable Knitting : Keeping Track of Rows in Your Cable Knits

Kelli Kemery’s Thinleaf Jacket (Knitscene, Winter 2014) is simply spectacular. It’s a classic cardigan updated with a high neck, offset seed-stitch button band, and beautiful cable knitting on the back. And the button band is knit at the same time as the rest of the sweater—no picking up tons of stitches!

Learn everything you need to know about keeping track of your rows in cable knitting in this exclusive blog from Knitting Daily.
Thinleaf Jacket

The knot and braid cable on the back of this cardigan packs a visual punch, but it’s not at all hard to knit. If you can follow a chart and you know how to knit a basic cable, don’t be afraid of the ThinLeaf Jacket!

I thought I’d share a basic cable knitting technique with you: how to count rows in cables. Even the most experienced of us lose track sometimes, and it’s so easy to knit a couple of extra rows (or one or two few rows!), which mars the look of the cable work. Make your cable knitting easier with designer Kristin Roach’s tutorial.

Counting Rows Within a Cable

While cable knitting is simple, it’s easy to lose track of what row you’re on.

How to Count Rows in Knitting

The first step to creating picture-perfect cables is to learn the basics of row counting. The tip of your knitting needle is the best tool for this task.

Count your rows while knitting cables by counting one V for each row and working your way from the top to the bottom.
Figure 1

The Knit Side (Stockinette)
Figure 1:
Each stitch looks like a V. You can count your rows by counting one V for each row and working your way from the top to the bottom. Always count the stitches on your needle as one row!

Each row in your cable knitting is a paired line of dashes that alternates slightly, so you can count one dash for each row and work straight up from the bottom to the top in your cable knits.
Figure 2

The Purl Side (Reverse Stockinette)
Figure 2: Each row is a paired line of dashes that alternates slightly, so you can count one dash for each row and work straight up from the bottom to the top.

Counting Rows in Cable Knits

Cables are often set on a ground of reverse stockinette stitch, with the cable worked in stockinette. Learning to count rows in this scenario is a good place to start. 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. Often the stitches of a cross row are extended slightly as they’re stretched into their new position. In Figure 3, the medium gray row is the row where the cable twist (or cross) was worked. Count each V up from that point and include the stitches on your needle—here there are 5 rows after the cable row. You don’t want to count the cross row itself here if you are trying to determine how many rows have been worked since the cross.

The medium gray row in this cable knitting figure shows the row where the cable twist—or cross—was worked. Now place a stitch marker in the last stitch of the cable in your cable knitting project when you work your cable cross row.
Figure 3; Figure 4

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 (Figure 4). 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. If you’re working embossed cables—cables worked in reverse stockinette—count rows in the same way but count purl dashes instead of knit Vs.

—Kristin Roach, Knitscene Fall 2009

I usually do put a stitch marker on the last stitch of the cable, as Kristin advises above. It makes me feel better to know exactly where I am in my knitting! In my cable knitting, I use a lot of tips that I’ve learned in Knitscene. Here are some of them.

Quick Tips for Cable Knitting

• Slip stitches purlwise to the cable needle to avoid twisting stitches.

• Metal cable needles can be handy for quick knits, but if you’re using a slippery yarn, use a bamboo needle to avoid dropping stitches.

• If the difference between a left cross (3/3 LC) and a right cross (3/3 RC) eludes you, just remember: stitches held to the front = left cross, and stitches held to the back = right cross.

Are you knitting cables right? Learn about the different types of cable knitting needles in this exclusive blog.
Different types of cable needles

• Many types of cable needles are now available, and holding onto three needles can feel a little awkward at first. Finding the needle just right for you can make knitting cables much more enjoyable. Shown to the right are some of the typical cable needle shapes.

• Whichever cable needle you choose, use a cable needle that is smaller than your knitting needles to avoid stretching out the cable stitches.

• Cable needles in a pinch: A double-pointed needle is the best choice for a cable needle substitute, and some knitters swear by them for all their cable knitting needs. But looking around you can produce some great alternatives-pencils, paper clips, scrap yarn, a little piece of wire, even a toothpick are all adequate cable needles when you need them to be.

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P.S. Do you have a cable knitting tip to share? Leave it in the comments for us!

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Cable Knitting, Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

16 thoughts on “Cable Knitting : Keeping Track of Rows in Your Cable Knits

  1. I use a piece of contrasting yarn to make a marker–it’s tied to make a pocket the same as the # of rows in the cable pattern. I move the pocket like a stitch marker to the next row. It’s very easy to keep track of what row you are on and you can use a different one for each cable or type of cable in the pattern. It’s also very portable.

  2. I use a specially made stitch marker that has a chain link for each row in the cable pattern. I switch to the next link as I move from row to row. When I move from the last link to the first, voila!, I know I am ready to cable again.

  3. Thanks for these tips! In addition to my own version of what you have outlined here, I also use the worksheets from

    I find that they let me know at a glance exactly where I am in any pattern, cabled or not. AND, if I have to put a project down for any reason, I can pick it even months later and be able to dig right in!

  4. I have two comments.
    1. I have a collection of small twigs that I use for cable needles. I shaped the ends in the pencil sharpener, removed the bark, and smoothed them a little with sandpaper. They are cheap, light, and because they are not perfectly straight they never, never fall out of the work.

    2. I use a piece of old yarn in contrasting color to count the rows Each time I cable (or every 2 rows) I flip the yarn back and forth from front to back. This makes it really easy to count rows

  5. I also use After This Row for keeping track of my of my rows ( It’s especially helpful when working cables but I use it for all of my projects.

  6. I pull the needle out of the all the stiches I am crossing, then slide the left needle into some and the right into the others and put them on to the left needle in the order in which they will be knit – then knit them – don’t need to drop my yarn to do this.