A lot of new knitters stay away from cables, because they seem difficult. To a non-knitter, a cabled garment is a very impressive thing, because cables look like something that takes a lot of work. In fact, cables are super easy to do! All a cable is, is a set of stitches worked out of order. That's it. Cables can be knit with any yarn and any needles you like. You can make them thick or thin, on a reverse stocking background, or any background you like. There really aren't any rules (and rules are made to be broken anyhow, aren't they?!) as far as cables go.
This is the first in a series of cable knitting. This is just the basics - types of cable needles, and general info on cabling. There will be additional posts and videos on reversible cables, cabling without a cable needle, working from a chart, etc.
Let's start with the cable needles. There are a number of different types, and they are pretty much available at any craft store and your LYS of course. You can even use a DPN, which is my preferred way unless I am working with more than 3-4 stitches, otherwise I don't bother.
Here are some of the different cable needles, and a set of DPNs too. You don't want to use anything larger than the needle you are using to knit with, otherwise the stitches may get stretched. Stick with something as close to your needles size as possible; you can use a smaller cable needle, but then there is the possibility it may slip out of the stitches. The U shaped cable needles are a good choice for going with a smaller size since they hang nicely and don't slide around much. You should use whatever is the most comfortable for you.
As a general rule, the number of stitches wide your cable is, is the number of rows in between cables. For example, if you are knitting a 6 stitch cable, then you will want to cable on every 6th row. Of course, this rule isn't set in stone. You really don't want to work fewer rows because your cables will bunch up and just look like a lump of yarn. You can though, work more rows in between cables. Take our 6 stitch cable; instead of crossing stitches on every 6th row, try crossing on the 8th, 10th, even 12th row. The more rows you knit in between cables, the longer your cables will be. Play around, do some swatching, and see what you like. It's up to you.
|If you look at the top of the picture of this 6 stitch cable, I have crossed stitches on the very next right side row after my first cable. To me, it doesn't look very good. If I were to continue in this way, the fabric would start to bunch up.|
Another generally followed rule is that you cross the same number of stitches over each other. A 6 stitch cable is worked by crossing 3 stitches over 3 stitches. You can change it up any way you like though. Maybe 2 over 1, 4 over 2. Your choice.
Let's talk background stitches. A lot of cables you see will be worked in stocking stitch on a reverse stocking stitch background. This makes the cables pop and stand out. Again, this is not a rule that is carved in stone. You can get equally pleasing results working cables on stocking stitch. This is another instance where swatching is useful, because you can play around with backgrounds and see what you like best. There is no wrong way to knit your cables. Whatever looks good to you, is the right way. You can also space your sets of cables as far apart or as near each other as you like.
Now, for the cable itself. Some slant left, some slant right. You may see patterns refer to cabling the stitches as cable left/right, twist left/right, cross front/back, or another similar phrase. The pattern should give instructions on exactly what the terminology means. Because I may use a term in a different way than another knitter, you shouldn't assume that we both mean the same thing even if we use the same wording. Everybody tends to word things in a way that makes sense to them when writing patterns, so be sure you read your instructions carefully. So, how do you make the stitches cross, or twist, or cable? Easy.
If you want your cable to slant to the left, you will slip the required number of stitches to your cable needle and hold them in front of your work. Knit the designated number of stitches from the left needle, then work the stitches waiting on the cable needle.
|Holding stitches to the front of the work|
|You can see here that the stitches are pulling to the left|
If you want your cable to slant to the right, you will slip the required number of stitches to your cable needle and hold them in back of your work. Knit the designated number of stitches from the left needle, then work the stitches waiting on the cable needle.
|Holding stitches to the back of the work|
|View from the back of the stitches being held on the cable needle|
|You can see here that the stitches are pulling to the right|
You can find cable stitch patterns in just about every stitch pattern book. Here are a few books you may want to look at:
By Barbara G. Walker
A Treasury of Knitting Patterns
A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns
By Melissa Leapman
Cables Untangled: An Exploration of Cable Knitting
By Lily Chin
There is always the internet. Just Google knit cable stitch patterns and you will get a good set of results. A final word about cables. Cabling tends to pull your fabric inward. This fact should already be taken into consideration with commercial patterns; if you are designing your own garment, you will need to be sure to remember this fact, and adjust the number of stitches in your pattern to ensure your garment fits correctly. I have never designed anything (other than a cowl) with cables, so can't offer much more advise. Knitting Paradise has a wealth of seasoned knitters who can probably answer questions on this topic in more detail, or try Googling the topic.
This should get you started with cables. I will be back soon with more cables, stay tuned!
Here is a short video on the info above.