Cables and Careful Pattern Reading

Basic cables are straightforward—they are simply a reordering of the stitches.

pic of knitting

Start of a New Project!

Here’s the general process for knitting a cable:

(1) a specified number of rows are worked “plain”
(2) a set number of stitches are put onto a cable needle* and are either held at the front of the work or to the back of the work**
(3) the same number of stitches that are held are now knit
(4) the stitches from the cable needle are knit

Repeat Steps 1-4.

For example: if stitches in the order 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 are worked into a cable, the order of the stitches after performing the above step 2 once becomes 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3. The photo below shows the stitch order being changed just once. Can you see the row where this occurred?

pic of knitted cable

C6F Cable

So why am I thinking about this? The pattern for the new project has a non-standard*** way of describing the cables.

Usually, the pattern instruction for the cables would be something like the following (here I’m ignoring everything BUT one of the cables):

Row 1: C6B
Rows 2–6: knit the knits, purl the purls
Repeat Rows 1–6.

pic of C6B cables

Rows 1–6 repeated three times here.

The instruction C6B means “make a cable using 6 stitches with the stitches held in back.” Basic cables tend to be symmetric, so half of the 6, or 3 stitches are held to the back.

So C8F would mean “make a cable using 8 stitches with the stitches held in front” and when the cable is worked, 4 stitches are brought to the front on a cable needle, the next 4 stitches are knit, and then the 4 stitches from the cable needle are worked.

Back to the pattern. The pattern for my new project uses C6B to mean Rows 1-6 above, not just Row 1, the row in which the order of the stitches are changed. Moral of the story: It’s important to CAREFULLY READ THE PATTERN and to learn how to “read” knitting.

* There are a variety of cable needles out there and some knitters work their cables without a cable needle. For the longest time I used a double-pointed needle until I found these:

Pic of cable needles

Look at those nice little ridges that keep the stitches from sliding off! This one shown is the size of a US6/4-mm needle.

** The position in which the held stitches are put (either to front or back of work) affects the slant of the cable.

*** non-standard = not the way I’ve personally seen it done before (although I guess I have now)

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