So You Want to Knit 9 – Cables

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Oh Cables. Those delightful details that look so scary and complicated. I remember as a kid when I was learning to knit that cables were far too complicated for me. It really put me off for a long time, because I really wanted to make those cables and felt very discouraged. When I started knitting again, I was determined to figure them out. I did some looking online for videos, found out that I needed a special needle, which I promptly bought, and set to work. You know what I realized? They really are not that complicated. Honestly. They look difficult, but you don’t even need that special cable needle. Although, for starting out it definitely helps, and I highly recommend having it. I do still use mine when doing larger or more complicated cables. However, if all you have a small double pointed needle, it will work just as well. I was so happy that I was able to conquer cables. I have been improving on them ever since, and for many of my cables, I don’t need a needle at all. What I would like to do in this post is to alleviate any fears you might have for cables, and make them as straight forward as I can make them.

So, before we get started on making cables, you are probably asking what a cable needle is. It’s simply a small double pointed needle, that typically has a little bend in the middle to hold your stitches a little better.

As you can see in this picture, I have a short little double pointed needle with a small bend in it. That allows me to slip the stitches off the left needle, position the cable needle and still have a pointed end to knit/purl the stitches off. If you find that it is a bit fiddly, or the stitches don’t hold, you can stick an end into your piece just to hold it in place.

Now for those cables. 😀 First, what are cables? Cables are created by simply rearranging the stitches on your needle. You will slip some stitches on to your cable needle, then work some stitches, and then work those stitches that are still on your cable needle. This gives you a twist in your work that is your cable. How it is formed changes only by whether those stitches you put on your cable needle are brought to the front or the back of your work. This creates the lean to your cable, which means the stitches that are in front of the other stitches are leaning to the left or the right. Cables create a very pronounced and visible lean.

I want to start out with some simple cables. I’m going to start with 1/1 cables. That means we will only have two stitches involved in the cable. Lets start with the 1/1 RC. This abbreviation means that you are going to make a Right Cross (right leaning). To accomplish this, we will use our cable needle and slip the first stitch of the left needle onto it as if to purl (which means you slip the cable needle into the next stitch in the same direction as you would purl, but just slipping it off the needle instead of working that stitch), and let that cable needle hang at the back of your work (away from you). The cable needle will keep this stitch from unravelling as you then knit the next stitch on your left needle. Once that is worked, pick up the cable needle, and knit the stitch that is on it, as if it were a regular needle. You now have a stitch in front that has moved from the left position on your needle to the right, which makes it lean to the right. Next is the 1/1 LC. This one means we will create a Left Cross (left leaning stitch). This time, slip that first stitch onto the cable needle as if to purl, and this time let the cable needle hang at the front of your work (towards you). Knit the stitch that is on your left needle, and then knit the stitch from your cable needle. You will now have a stitch in the front that has moved from the right to the left.

The other notations you will see that make variations on the cables is when you introduce purls into them. For example, the 1/1 RPC. This means it’s a Right Purl Cross. You will begin the same way as the RC above, but instead of knitting off the cable needle, you will purl the stitch. You will have a knit stitch that cross over to the right, in front, and then your cable stitch will be purled and will now be on the left. In the 1/1 LPC it’s similar. Your cable needle will be hanging in the front, and you will purl the next stitch from your left needle, and knit the cable needle stitch. As you can see, both of these variations keep the knit stitch as the one that is in front and visible. The purl is tucked in the back of your work and hidden just a little.

One of the things that will come with time is the is the tension you need when working cables. You will find that you can get a bit of a gap because of how the yarn is pulled when working those cables. A great way to work on tidying this up as you go, is that when you are on the next row, you can pull your stitches a little bit as you are working them to even them out just a little. Unfortunately, depending on the size yarn you are using, just pulling the yarn tight when you work the cables isn’t always enough to tighten up the cables, and can lead to puckering in other areas of your work. I find that giving the stitches a little pull with your needle as you are working them in the next row helps even them out just enough.

And that’s it for the explanations. Now it’s time for the demonstration. From here it is just variations on how many stitches you have on your cable needle and that you work from your left. To allow you to practice I have created a dish cloth pattern. This will help you learn some larger cables, and on larger needles, but also teach you the way this looks on a chart, not just written directions.

I will include the pattern at the end of this post for you to follow, but I want to give you some visuals on how these cables will look as you work them and when they are finished. I have chosen to use 3/3 LC and 3/3 RC. That means you will be crossing 3 stitches across the front of 3 other stitches, either going right or left. These are also all knit versions. Let’s start with the 3/3 RC.

Your first step is to work your pattern until you get to the symbol in the chart, or the notation of ‘3/3 RC’ in the written directions. Then you will work it as instructed. The 3/3 RC means you are going to slip the next 3 stitches on to your cable needle as if to purl, and hold it at the back of your work.

Next, you will knit 3 stitches from your left needle. Be sure to snug up that first stitch just a bit to close up the gap that is left where those stitches on your cable needle had been. Next, grab your cable needle, and use it like another knitting needle. You will knit 3 stitches off that cable needle as normal. You now have your 3/3 RC. As you can see your front 3 stitches lean to the right, giving you that right cross.

The next cable you will find in this pattern is a 3/3 LC. As with the RC cable, work until you reach this part of your instructions. Slip the next 3 stitches on to your cable needle as if to purl, and hold the cable needle at the front of your work.

Knit the next 3 stitches from your left needle as normal. As you can see from this next picture, you have knit the 3 from the left needle, but still have that cable hanging out in front. This will give you a good idea of what the cable looks like half way through, and how it closes up and twists.

Now we can finish up the cable, and knit 3 stitches from the cable needle. You will now have a completed 3/3 LC. As you can see, the stitches from the cable needle make up the front stitches, and have a visible lean to the left.

As an extra note on this pattern: I have included both written and charted directions. Take a look at the chart and look at the symbols used for the cables as you work them. The image used will actually look like the stitch you are working. So, for the 3/3 RC, you can see that the first 3 stitches of the image end up going behind the second 3 stitches, to create the cross. That gives you the indication that your cable needle will go to the back of your work, and the front stitches should have that right lean. The 3/3 LC has the first 3 stiches being in the front, so your cable needle goes to the front, and they will become your left leaning stitches. It’s a great extra notation of where your stitches are being held.

These are the only cables used in this pattern. You can now go ahead and work through your little dishcloth. It will give you little ripples for scrubbing texture, and give you some visual interest. This also means you can use these skills in any other project you encounter without fear! As I said above, all cables are derived from the same skills. I hope this post has helped! I know that cables can look complicated, but now you will be able to give them a go, and will be able to start making projects that wow your friends and family!

Pattern

Cabled Dishie
Needle: US 7 / 4.5 mm Straight needles.
Notions: Cable needle
Stitch Glossary:
3/3 RC: Slip the next three stitches purl wise on to a cable needle and hold it to the back of your work. Knit three stitches from the left needle. Knit three stitches from the cable needle.
3/3 LC: Slip the next three stitches purl wise on to a cable needle and hold it to the front of your work. Knit three stitches from the left needle. Knit three stitches from the cable needle.

Pattern:
Cast on 40 stitches.
Rows 1 – 4: Knit. (40 sts)
Row 5: K4, 3/3 RC, k7, 3/3 LC, k7, 3/3 RC, k4.
Row 6: K4, p32, k4.
Row 7: Knit.
Row 8: Repeat row 6.
Row 9: Repeat row 5.
Rows 10 – 37: Repeat rows 6 – 9.
Rows 38 – 41: Knit.

New Release! Ice Queen Wrap

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I have thankfully been able to work a bit more lately. It’s been a rough couple months over here at chez TLCrafts. Unfortunately, I have an issue with my SI joints, which means constant back pain, leg pain, and difficulty sitting upright. So, as you can imagine, blogging and even knitting and most everything else is difficult. This wrap was finished before that happened, and went through the tech editing phase while I was laid up. Then it sat for weeks. I finally did the last tiny edit, and have released it! It sucked that it had to sit, because I absolutely love this wrap. It’s light and airy, and the yarn is so nice! I love the white to blue gradation in it. It fit perfectly with the Ice theme, and the snowflake motif. I also made it so that I could use as much of that yarn as possible. You just keep repeating the pattern until you have what you think is enough to work the last 1/2″ of the border and bind off. It makes the pattern very flexible for using different yarns. You can make it longer, shorter, or even more narrow if you want to remove some repeats. It’s so easy to modify to meet your personal tastes. 😀

I hope you love it!!

New Release – Heat Wave Socks

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Hello! I have finally released my Heat Wave Socks pattern. This little guy was not cooperating with me for the longest time. But, it pulled itself together and has now finished Tech Editing and Testing! It passed both with flying colors. 😀 Now it can be yours. These socks are great for any kind of weather, but especially for warmer weather. The great thing about hand knit socks is that you really can wear them year round. The lace detail in these socks gives some lovely air holes for breezes and AC to travel through to cool those feet down. I have to wear socks all the time thanks to foot issues, but if I have to wear them all the time, they may as well be cute, right? The pattern on these socks was designed to mimic the heat waves that come off pavement in the hot weather. You know the ones that seem to shimmer off the road like a mirage? The pattern zig zags up the leg to give a lot of interest. They also have a bit of a relaxed fit because of the lace, but are not droopy on the legs. If you have (as one of my testers put it) “fluffy” calves, then these will fit great! This pattern is worked cuff down, with a heel flap and gusset.

I hope you love them!!

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Common Beginner Knitting Problems

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I’ve written a number of posts now on how to knit. However, there are some common problems that beginner knitters struggle with that don’t necessarily fit in a how to knit post. They cover a variety of topics, but definitely deserve to be addressed. Many of these problems can be very frustrating, and I would hate for you to quit knitting because of them. Learning to knit is like anything else. It’s learning a new skill. It takes time. It takes some level of muscle memory and some brain memory. If you have to keep looking things up, that is absolutely okay! For example, if you delve into something like socks that require grafting (stitching together), you will come across the Kitchener stitch. I have met so many people that don’t remember how to do it, and they get frustrated. It can be so hard for people to remember, that you can actually buy key chains and other things with the directions on it. Having to repeated look up anything is completely normal, and I would very much encourage it. For the first year or two, depending on how many projects you do, you will probably need to continue to look up how to cast on each time. I know I did. I kept forgetting. And with my brain fog, some days I still get confused and have to go look it up to reassure myself that I’m doing it right. 🙂

One of the initial problems that knitters have, and I covered this briefly in the first how to knit post, is gauge and tension. Gauge is how many stitches or rows/rounds you get for every 4″. This has a huge impact on garments. Tension is how tight you hold your yarn as you work. As a beginner, your knitting is going to be crazy tight. I mean really tight. So tight that as you try to knit, you are going to hear it squeaking. Again, this is normal! This is why I recommend starting out making dish clothes. As you learn to knit your stitches will loosen. If you are making a scarf, this will make for a very wonky scarf that is tight on one end and loose at the other. What you are looking for, are stitches where your knitting needle can be slipped in to knit or purl, with no effort, but not so loose that everything is just dropping off your needles. You want that stitch sitting on your needles to cover the needle, with just a small amount of slack. It’s hard to explain, but when your stitches stop squeaking as you try to knit them, you are there. To get there, you will need to figure out how tight to hold your yarn. When you knit a stitch, you are never going to pull it tight. When you hold your yarn, you are going to have it held just tight enough that it will tighten the stitch for you, but it will still slip through your fingers as you work the stitches. Unfortunately, the only way to learn this is repetition. Some people can figure it out quickly, others take longer. Your speed is just right for you.

When it comes to gauge, this is going to be a lifelong thing that you will need to keep in mind. This is not just for beginners. When a designer writes a pattern, they write it for their own gauge. Gauge is different for every knitter. It depends on so much. Your needles will change your gauge, the temperature in your house, how you are feeling. Everything can loosen or tighten your gauge. Depending on how much pain I am in on any given day can mean that I have to pay attention to my gauge. Especially if I am knitting a sweater. For example, in the sweater I am working on right now, I had to tear out the sleeve. My gauge really tightened up compared to the body. I am re-knitting it looser, and it now matches the body. The important thing is to not lie to yourself. If your gauge has changed, accept it and work to fix it. Don’t do what I do, and think oh it might be okay. It’s never okay. lol Your gut understands more than you do. Take the time early to do the fix.

Another problem that new knitters run in to is the randomly added stitch. You are chugging along just fine, and then realize you have 3 extra stitches on a row. You will do this less and less as you improve, but this is terribly common with beginners. We’ve all done it. But, how did it happen? Well, when you are dealing with stitches that are too tight, you can very easily knit a stitch, and split the yarn that is the stitch of the left needle. That inadvertently makes two stitches. You get two stitches from one thread of yarn. You have bisected the yarn. And 9 times out of 10 you don’t even notice. The number of times you do this, will decrease as your stitches loosen, but it’s good to keep your eyes open. Here is what a split stitch looks like:


As you can see the needle has split the yarn. It can blend in so well that you can keep on going and really not notice. When you split it, you will notice that all your knit stitches make nice lines going up your piece, but then there is this little hole, which you can see to the right of the knit stitch in that second picture. This is the split part of the stitch that should not be there. As you get more comfortable with how your stitches should look, it will get more obvious. Now, this isn’t just a beginner problem either. Some yarns have a very loose twist or are just fluff that makes it super easy to split. You might hear talking about how yarn is ‘splitty’. This is what they are talking about. They get cruising on a project and their needles just keep splitting the yarn. Sometimes they are left with an extra stitch, but something the entire yarn comes off the left needle, and you are left with a stitch to the right with only half of the yarn caught. This can create a weak point, and can be very annoying. Just know that this can happen to even the best of us. If you find a spot like this, check out my post on fixing errors. You can either rip back to fix the stitch, or you can drop down to it to fix it. That post will give you details on how to do that. You can use these methods if you have split your stitch and have extra stitches now. Or, depending on your pattern, if you can find where you split the yarn, you can head over to the post on decreases, and just knit the two stitches that were supposed to be one, together. It will reduce it back to a single stitch. I’ve done this many times, and it’s a super easy “cheat” to get back to the count you need.

This last bit is all about confidence. When you start learning a new skill, it can be a mess. And it can be that way for a while. You will need to learn to embrace the process. Even the ugliest of dish clothes will still clean your dishes. 🙂 And everyone has started somewhere. Never think that you can’t do something. I was told that for a long time, and it caused me to stop knitting for about 15 years. There is nothing you can’t do. Whether you can master it is a different statement, but you can certainly do it. Who cares if it looks a bit messy the first time. Like anything, practice makes improved. Again, that’s why I love small projects when you start. It gives you so many options to learn a multitude of techniques with so little commitment. 😀 But, if you want to branch out into something bigger, do it! Pick a pattern and dive in! Read through the entire thing before you start, and if there are parts you don’t understand, head to the internet to look it up. There are so many people that have blog posts or video’s on how to make a garment, or how to do certain types of stitches that you will quickly have all the information you need to conquer it. Also, ignore the difficulty rating on patterns. All that means is that if it’s harder than a beginner level, there are techniques that you will need to look up and learn. You’ll never grow as a knitter if you don’t dive in to the more difficult patterns. However! If you just want to make simple scarves and that is your happy place, then darnit keep making those! Knitting is all about your happy place. I have friends that feel bad for only ever making garter or stockinette scarves. But they enjoy every second of it! Sometimes it’s because they don’t think they can learn something more difficult, which should never cross your mind. Of course you can, but only if you want to. This is all about your happy place, not mine or any one elses. Rock what you make and have fun!!