One of the things that always amazed me about knitting was CABLE knitting. How in the world do you take two straight needles and some yarn and come up with these BEAUTIFUL patterns that criss and cross and make their way up your sweater, hat, etc.?
The answer is that you will need one additional material (a cable stitch holder*) and that it is really not that hard. Basically cable knitting is just reversing the order of the stitches every few rows (according to pattern instructions). It takes a little bit of time to get the hang of things, but then becomes rather easy. I actually found it fun, looking forward to the rows using the cable needle and I absolutely loved seeing the pattern revealed as I worked through the rows.
Because this blog is not intended to be a tutorial, I would like to share with you my method of how to learn to cable knit. Put quite simply, search the YouTube videos for “How to knit a cable.” I watched a few different videos before deciding, “I can do that!” Then it’s all about practice.
As with any new skill, I think it’s important to start small. Don’t decide to learn cables by creating a cable knit sweater. Instead, make a small swatch that will not be used for anything but practice. Once you have the basic idea, you can branch out to create useful projects. In my “Learn Knitting” manual, I found a picture of a scarf with a cable down the middle and four ribs on each side. I didn’t mind practicing some ribbing, but I certainly didn’t need to focus on 8 ribs per row. My focus was intended to be on the cable.
I studied the pattern carefully, learning the various abbreviations. Learning to read a knitting pattern can be overwhelming at first, but because I have experience reading crochet patterns I did not find it to be much of a challenge. One of the tricky things about cable stitches in a pattern is that they can be written with a variety of abbreviations (e.g. 2/2 RC, C4B, etc.). Luckily, the cable stitch is usually explained in the pattern if you read carefully. Armed with this information, I created my own mini-pattern that would allow me to practice cable knitting. The gauge and size does not really matter, unless you are planning to use the sample swatch as a gauge for future projects. I recommend using cheap yarn (since it’s just practice) and medium size knitting needles (I used size 8). Be sure your cable stitch holder is thinner than the needles you are using.
Cable Sample Swatch Pattern
Special Abbreviation: 4/4 LC: slip next 4 sts to cable needle and hold to front, k4, k4 from cable stitch holder.
Cable Sample Swatch: Cast on 26 sts.
Row 1 (Right side): K2, p2, k2, p3, k8,p3, k2, p2
Row 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10: P2, k2, p2, k3, p8, k3, p2, k2, p2
Row 3: K2, p2, k2; p3, 4/4 LC, p3, k2, p2; k2
Rows 5, 7, and 9: Repeat Row 1.
Repeat Rows 1-10 until you are comfortable making cables. Bind off and weave in yarn ends.
This is how my sample looked as I was working on it:
*The only other thing I should mention about cable knitting is that there are two types of cable stitch holders. I used the one that looks like a hook. I felt like it was easy to “hook” the stitches off the needle, leave the hook and stitches hanging in the front of my work without dropping them, and then pick them back up off the other end. The other type of cable stitch holder looks like a straight line with a dip in the middle. I have not used it to compare, but I feel like it would make things more complicated and I would be more likely to drop a stitch. Most likely with a little bit of practice, they would work equally well. If you have one you prefer, feel free to share in the comments!
One other bit of information that is important for ANY knitter is learning how to count rows or stitches. If you need help with this, I recommend checking out this webpage: http://blog.lionbrand.com/2013/09/23/the-ups-and-downs-of-knitting-counting-your-rows/ It not only includes basic stitch counting, but teaches you how to use a stitch marker while cable knitting.
Once you’ve conquered the sample, have fun finding your own project to cable knit!