Knitting Cables

This week, let’s work up a dishcloth that gives you an opportunity to get to know how to knit cables. This technique is used a lot in knitting patterns and can range from looking very subtle to quite dramatic.

You have probably seen cables on

  • Aran sweaters
  • the backs of mittens or gloves
  • on socks or toques
  • or on scarves

Cabling is a common technique. I find that beginners sometimes struggle a little bit with the coordination involved in how to maneuver the cable needle with the stitches that you slip to create the twist. It generally doesn’t take long to get the knack of it though. There are a number of tools available to help you with this process. Some like to use a double pointed needle (dpn); however you can also use cable needles or stitch holders. Here is a photo of some of the tools you can use to hold the slipped stitches.


I found a really nice video that explains the process really well. Here is a link to it. There are many other cable videos. I particularly like this one. Feel free to search for others. I encourage you to watch this video before you attempt today’s pattern if cables are new to you. I expect it will be a lot easier for you to watch this than to try and visualize it from anything I might write to describe the process. 🙂 I have included photos in the pattern too.

The other thing that will be different in the pattern today is that I will be including a chart.

A chart is a graph that maps out the stitches in the pattern.

Many people find following a chart easier than written instructions. Some like a combination of both. I have met very few who don’t like using them (once they understand how they work). Charts will have a legend that tells you what the symbols mean. One thing to be aware of is that often each symbol will have two meanings. One is for when you are knitting on the right side and the other for when you are on the wrong side. So for instance, let’s say you are knitting a section in stockinette (stocking stitch) a Knit stitch may be represented by a blank square when you are knitting on the right side, but that same blank square usually represents the purl stitches when you are knitting the wrong side.

Tips for chart reading.

Each row of the chart will be numbered. Right and wrong side rows begin on opposite sides of the chart.

◄ The right side rows read from right to left;
► the wrong side rows read from left to right.

Most often, the chart represents a pattern that repeats. In the case of today`s pattern, the repeat is 4 rows.

A pattern holder is a handy tool.

The most basic is simply a piece of thin metal large enough to hold a pattern; it will often have a lip at the bottom. The ones I have seen are painted white. It will probably come with long straight magnets that you place at the bottom of chart row that you are working. You move the magnet up the chart as you progress. Knitter’s Pride makes them in two sizes; they fold up for easy travel. The more complex your chart the more you will love your pattern holder! (You won`t need one for the pattern I`m posting today. It`s only 4 rows and once you`ve done the pattern a couple times you won`t need to check the chart anymore.)

If you don’t have a pattern holder, or you don’t want to spend the money on one, you can make pencil marks at the end of each row as you complete them. For relatively simple charts, this works very well. I find that if I’m working a pattern that has more than one chart, or that the pattern is very complex, it’s really easy to get confused.

So you will want to work out some sort of system to track where you are.

Often the chart contains only one full span of the pattern and then you have to repeat it a number of times. If you are making pencil marks, you may want to do hash marks to indicate how many times you`ve done each row. Also, do use pencil so that you can erase the marks. You may want to use that chart over and over again if you find you love the pattern.

If you are like me and struggle with ADD getting in the way of things that ought to be easy, one tip is to either highlight or lightly shade the wrong side rows on a complex chart. I don’t know how many times I caught myself mindlessly using the right-side stitches on the wrong side of my work.

With a more complex chart, I like to look for stitch combinations that repeat throughout and highlight them. For instance let’s say that there is a stitch combination as follows: k1, yo, k2tog (this would be represented in the chart). I like to go through and highlight all the instances of that combination the same colour on my chart. Then when I see that, I know to do that combo. It also helps me to anchor where I am on the chart.

Oh, and these are simply suggestions. What works for me and what I like may not work for you. So if you try out my tips and you don’t like them, my feelings won’t be hurt.

I hope you enjoy this pattern.

And here it is!


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