Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Twisted Tales: About Cables, Part 2

Blue Cable Knit Pattern Texture - Free High Resolution Photo
Public Domain Photograph of Cable Knitting

Basic cables are formed by deliberately working stitches out of sequence.  The greater the number of stitches worked in a cable, the denser the fabric.  Conventionally, basic cables are worked on a background of purl stitches (and sometimes, seed stitch).  Combined with the correct yarn choice, this flat background makes the cables pop, so that they are the focus of your knitting.

In the class sampler, we are working a band of sample cables.  The cables are made using a base of 6 stockinette stitches surrounded by P2, K2 ribbing.  Because we want purl stitches on either side of the cables, our right side row begins with P2, K2, P2.  The 6 stockinette stitches are in the middle and the band ends with P2, K2, P2.  Our pattern is worked only on those middle 6 stitches; everything else remains as ribbing.

In order to see how cables are formed, you can begin by working twisted stitches, pairs of stitches in which the second stitch on the left hand needle is knitted before the first stitch on the left hand needle.  To produce a twist to the right, you knit the second stitch on the left hand needle through the front, just as you would normally.  You then swing your right hand needle tip around to knit the first stitch from the left hand needle and slip the two knitted stitches from the left hand needle.  Be careful not to work both stitches at once and to go into each stitch as you work it, not between.

A twist to the left is made by knitting into the second stitch on the left hand needle from the back and then knitting the first stitch on the left hand needle from the front, then slipping both worked stitches from the left hand needle.

Simple, yes?  Technically, twisted stitches are not considered to be cables because they can be worked in a variety of ways to produce fabric in a class of its own.  They are an easy way to transition into true cables, which involve the same principle of working groups of stitches on the left hand needle before the first set of stitches on the left hand needle. 

Once you have tried some twisted stitches, you’re ready to begin knitting simple stockinette cables.  I’ve included two links here to help you.  Theresa Stenersen has written an excellent article on cables which was published in the Winter 2007 issue of Knitty.  You can find the article by clicking here.  

Eunny Jang, from Interweave Press, demonstrates knitting a basic cable in the YouTube clip below.  Note that Eunny recommends using a singles yarn and, while singles will work in cables (I used one for my hat), I don’t advise choosing singles for your first cables because the yarn tends to split easily.

There are other excellent articles and videos on knitting cables.  Have a look around on the ‘Net,  try things out for yourself and, most of all, have fun!



  1. Do you use a cable needle? I've been working on cabling without one but I still like my cable needle most of the time.

    1. I prefer using a cable needle. Then again, I like to knit socks from the top down on dpn's!

  2. Cables are my favorite, and it's one thing to know how to do them, but it's so exhilirating when you realize that you also understand them. Reading cables was a huge breakthrough for me. This post captures that feeling so well :)

    1. I attempt to teach people how to "read" the fabric, not rely on the instructions. Cables look so impressive, but they're really quite simple to do.