Pro Tips for Perfect Knit Cables

To me, fall means knit cables. I’ve been working on finishing a knit tee, and it’s gotten me excited about sweater knitting again. I’m so looking forward to casting on a cozy wool sweater that’s covered in cables.

Speaking of that, there’s a new pattern in town, Triona Murphy’s Sprague Lake Pullover, which combines a modern cable motif, a scoop neck, and raglan shaping. Very pretty! And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a new sock pattern from Ann Budd, the Poudre Socks. They’re gorgeous cabled socks—so perfect for fall coziness. Both patterns are part of our fantastic Knits Fall Pattern Collection!

It occurs to me as I’m writing this that it’s about 90 degrees outside. And I don’t care; I want to knit cables, and nobody can stop me! Just check out the beauty:

Knit cables with these fabulous fall knitting patterns!
The Poudre Socks and the Sprague Lake Pullover

With these great cable patterns, I thought I’d share some of my favorite cable-knitting tips with you. Us old dogs can always learn some new tricks, right?

Project
Counting cable rows

Counting Rows in Knit Cables: 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.

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, from knitscene fall 2009

ProjectFixing a Mis-crossed Cable: If you find a mistake in a cable crossing several rows (or even repeats) down and don’t want to live with it, don’t rip out all your work to that point! Instead, insert a small double-pointed needle or stitch holder into the stitches in the row just below the incorrect cable.

Work up to the point of the offending crossing and then drop only the involved stitches from your needle. (If the error involves strands that have since separated, this point may be several stitches away from the original crossing point. The stitches in each strand stay with it throughout the knitting, meaning that you must drop from wherever the original strand’s stitches have ended up.) Ladder the dropped stitches down until you reach the held stitches.

Rework the pattern correctly, using the ladders as the working yarn. Use a blunt-tipped needle to even the tension in any wonky stitches afterwards.

It sounds crazy, but I’ve done this, and it works. Just close yourself in a well-lit room and fix that cable!

More Quick Tips for Knit Cables

• 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.

Project
Three 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 left 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.

• When you bind off cables, decreasing a stitch or two for every inch of width keeps the top of the cables from flaring.

I hope these tips help you in your fall knitting pursuits. Get yourself the Knits Fall Pattern Collection—its a gorgeous assortment—and cast on some knit cables!

Cheers,

1KCsig

P.S. I know you all must have some great cable-knitting tips, so leave a comment below and share them!

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Cable Knitting
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!

3 thoughts on “Pro Tips for Perfect Knit Cables

  1. Thanks for the tip on counting rows-this always takes me a long time to figure out.

    My tip for a cable needle-don’t use one! Learning to knit cables without a cable needle is hands down the best knitting trick I ever picked up, as I was losing cable needles almost as fast as stitch markers! I really like the way the cable looks when you reorient the stitches and then knit them in order. But again, maybe it is just me admiring my skill in cabling without a cable needle.

  2. I use twigs for cable needles. We have cherry trees in the neighborhood; a small branch can yield several needles of different sizes. I rub them with an emery board to smooth them and sharpen the ends in a pencil sharpener. Because the twigs are slightly irregular they don’t slide out, and I can make them any size I need.

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