How to Basic Cable Stitch


Knit Maker 102


Lesson Info

How to Basic Cable Stitch

Alright, so one of the great mainstays of knitting in general, probably something other than just plain stockinette that you always associate with knitting, are cables. Obviously very traditional. But if you look on the runways lately, there's a lot of really cool things that are being done with cables, usually with extreme knitting, or big knits. So, really chunky, huge cables, wrapped in unusual ways. I've seen a ton of people map out these cables that create different shapes. There was one that was going around the interwebs for a while that was a strand of DNA that was knit. It was a cable variation of that. So they're really cool to play with, and fun. But, some people are a little intimidated by them, because you have to bring in a different needle. And I'm gonna show you how easy it is, so that we can shatter that fear, and go from there. So this is just gonna be a basic cable, and I'm gonna show you over here. So here's a swatch. And this is just a little piece of a cable ... T...

his is the C6F cable that we're gonna do, and I'll explain what that means in a second. And it's just really super basic. And the one thing that's different from this that I'm gonna be showing you, is that there's not a little stitch on either side, to create a separation between the cables. So this cable looks almost like it's completely embedded within the fabric. For the other one that I'm gonna show you, and for the swatch that you have as bonus materials, that you can download, there's gonna be a little purl stitch on either side, and that kind of makes it pop out more. Both are just design choices. Sometimes it's really nice to have this almost subversive cable, and then you wouldn't need to have that stitch to break it up. But a lot of people like to have that strip definition, so I'm gonna show you how to do that. When we're talking about yarn for cables, as long as it's a nice, smooth yarn, you're really good to go. Normally if you use a yarn that has a ton of different color variations, the cables get lost. Again though, that can still be really cool. It can be subtle, subversive, you can rock it. But really sort of plain, like this is a tweed. Or something like this. Both of these are this Plymouth yarn. It is Homestead. It's a good, solid, this is a worsted weight. Weight doesn't necessarily matter, but a nice solid, clean yarn, that'll really let that stitch work shine. Alright, before we actually get our needles going, I'm gonna show you a chart. So often ... Well usually if you go into more complex cables, you'll have some form of a chart. So, it may or may not be written out as a normal pattern was, but there will almost always be a visual representation. For the type of cable that we're doing today, you could totally get away without a chart, but I wanna give you the foundation to know how you would read one, should you come across it. So, normally there would be key explaining all of this. I am your key today, so you don't need to worry about that, but it would explain what each symbol means. So, you're always gonna read, if you are working flat, meaning, working on one side of the piece, flipping it over, and working the wrong side of the piece, versus working in the round, you're going to read from right to left, and then back from left to right. Now for this project, or for this swatch, it doesn't really matter which way you read it, because they're totally, it's absolutely symmetrical. For some patterns it would matter, so you would read again, right to left, left to right. If you're working in the round, however, you're never working on that wrong side of the fabric, so you'd always read right to left. Alright, so, each one of these little squares signifies a stitch. So each one this way also signifies a row. And we talked about, you probably are familiar with just that general concept, if you've ever looked at a yarn label, and seen the little gauge grid that they have. It's the same sort of general principle. Alright, and so each of these symbols, or lack thereof, represent something. So this generally, if it's just a blank box, this usually means just plain old knit stitch on the right side, and plain old purl stitch on the wrong side. This dot right here, this means the opposite. This means you're gonna purl on the right side, and on the wrong side, you would knit it. So as you can see for this particular pattern, for the first four rows, you're only doing a little purl stitch, which I mentioned before, when we were talking about the swatch. You're knitting the six stitches that will then be the cable, and then purling on the other side. So you're bookending with purls, and then you're setting up the rows in stockinette stitch. Why you setup the rows, why you do a bunch of rows, before you actually do the cable action, is because you need to create the fabric, the length, so that that will give you, so that you can cross it to make that cable. Because if you didn't have the length, it's like it's harder to cross, right? You wanna have something that's beautiful and elegant, you need to have the fabric to do it with. So all those straight rows in between creates that fabric. Alright, so here's the symbol for the particular cable that we're going to be doing. It is a C6F, and all that means is, cable six stitches front. Another way to think of it, is this is going to be a left leaning cable. So whenever you see an abbreviation like C6F, and again, abbreviations, and this swatch project, like this practice swatch, will be in our bonus materials, you know that you're talking about ... So the number signifies the total number of the cable. Not just the number that you're gonna be adding to the cable needle, which I'll show you in a second. It's the overall number of stitches, okay? So, we know that we're gonna be only working, so the C cable. The six ... That is silly that you're having to look at this. Let me use this, so you don't have to try and get that. The six is the overall amount of stitches. And the F signifies front. That's which way the stitches on the cable needle is going to come. So you can either bring it in the front or the back. That's all those letters mean. And again, there would be a key or an explanation of that within whatever pattern is for what the abbreviation means. Okay. So, we know that we have our ca- we've kind of gotten an idea of how we're gonna cable. This is showing, this is the symbol that this is going to slant left, which means that this piece is gonna do the opposite. It's gonna wrap around it. That's all this means. Alright, we're gonna ditch that. Now for this swatch, I actually also wrote it out, so that you can read across. Not everybody likes charts, and not everybody likes to just read, so I'm giving you both options. Not that you don't like to read, but some people do better if the information is just in chart version, and some people do better just reading out the actual instructions. So we've given you both here, just for confidence, and I also, I actually prefer working with both so I can double check myself one way or the other. So, I've gotten started on a piece already, and all that I've done here is, I've created a swatch, and this will be in the instructions, that has a garter stitch edge. That's just so the piece doesn't roll up into itself. And then I have worked the first rows that are just the knit, knitting all the stitches except for the purl bumps. I wanna also mention, I'm gonna bring this in for a second, the chart is only for this cable portion. The rest of the swatch is not charted out. It's just in stockinette stitch, so there's no reason for it. And nine times out of 10, that's how it'll be, mostly because it would take up a lot of real estate if you were, especially if you had this huge stockinette sweater, and then there was just a lone cable up the center, you don't really need to have a big chart showing all of those other stitches. So this is just to show you that cable portion, and I actually added the little purl bumps on either side, just because I wanted to, frankly. So I also recommend putting in markers, stitch markers, just so you know if, if you're like me, you're probably knitting while you're binge watching something on Netflix or whatever, and it'll just be a little bit of a reminder that it's time to work on that charted period. Alright, so, for this particular swatch, let me just get over there. I also added a reverse garter stitch border on this particular swatch. And that is just purling on the right side, and knitting on the wrong side. Again, I just didn't want the piece to roll, so that you could see it. Alright, so, we're going to be ... I've knit all the rows up to, I've knit rows one through four, and so now we're on our money row. We're on row five, and this is where the cabling begins. It's where the excitement begins. So we're gonna knit up to the marker. Or excuse me, we're gonna knit up to one stitch before the marker. It says so knit to one stitch before the marker, and this is where the chart will start taking place, and then it says purl one. Okay, then we're gonna just slip our marker over, just to get it out of the way. And this is when the cable action happens. Alright, so, whenever you're working with a cable, when you're cabling, you're only actually putting half of the stitches onto the cable needle. So, for this one, we're doing a cable front. So, we want to slide the stitches, the first three stitches onto the cable needle. And then we're just gonna let them hang free and easy, to the front of our work. So they're just hanging out, chilling for a while. My marker fell off, we'll just get that out of the way. And then you're gonna knit the next three stitches. Okay, so now it's time to work the stitches from the cable needle. So, don't worry, you're not gonna have to hold a bunch of needles at one time. The needle in your left hand can just kind of hang out. It's totally fine there. Nothing's going anywhere. And then you can take your cable needle, and adjust it so that the long, pointy side acts as just a regular needle. And then you're just gonna knit those stitches, directly from the cable needle. Sometimes they'll come off, don't worry. Set the cable needle aside. And you have just created your first cable. Your first left leaning cable. Alright, so, then I would slip the marker. Do the purl. And then you'd work it to end. I'm gonna continue working it all the way to the end, because I want to show you what you do on the wrong side of the cable. There's nothing new about it, but I just want you to be familiar with the fabric being just a wee bit different than it would be if you were just working a flat piece. Okay. So I'm flipping my piece over. There was a border for this swatch, and so it was, as I mentioned, it was reverse stockinette, so that means on the wrong side we're knitting those stitches. And then all of the knit stitches from the wrong side, or on the right side, are now purl stitches, so we're gonna go ahead and work purl stitches to one stitch before the marker. Although, is this the ... No, this is not the side that the marker fell out. You'll also be able to read the stitch, if the marker does fall out, as it might. You'll be able to tell that the stich pattern changes. So ... This is one stitch before the marker. So I'm going to knit it, and that creates that purl bump on the opposite side, because the opposite ... The back of the knit stitch looks like a purl stitch. And then we're gonna go back, so this is where our cable was. You can see it looks a little, kind of knotted up. It kind of is knotted up. Just ignore that. It doesn't matter. You're just gonna purl it the way that you would any other stitches that needed to be purled. You just work all the way across them. Okay, those are the six cabled stitches. Then I'm gonna knit that next stitch, and then you would just work all the way to the end. Alright, so, for this next swatch, let me just grab a needle, I've worked one cable already. We'll bring this in a bit. So I've worked this cable, and then I've worked the subsequent straight rows after that. So on this, I actually included this in the whole chart, I worked rows six, seven, eight, nine, and 10, which means I'm back again to a cable row. So I'm just gonna show you one more time, just so you get to see cables more than once. Alright so, we're purling for our edging. Reverse stockinette is actually used a lot too, as sort of a bed for cables. If you were doing a bunch of cable work on a piece, you might make most of the piece in reverse stockinette, and then just add those stockinette cables, so they would really pop all over the place. Alright, so we're one stitch from the marker, so we know we need to purl. We also know, even if we didn't have the marker, we'd be able to read the stitches. Meaning, we see that this is a knit stitch, because they all have those little V's. If you can see right here, we know this is a purl stitch, because it's got that little turtleneck. So we can just tell. And even if you're not paying attention, if you're kind of sliding your fingers along, you can feel that they feel different. So, purl it. Slip that marker back. And now we're ready to cable again. Alright, so we know we have six stitches to cable, which means we only take half of them, and we put them on the cable needle. So we're gonna slide all three of them. And you can either do it one at a time, or put all of them on at once like I just did. Doesn't matter. Knit the next three stitches. We'll let that other needle go if you want, or you can hold it. If it doesn't bother you to hold two at the same time. I usually let mine go, but some people, that makes them feel nervous, or afraid their stitches are gonna fall off. You could hold it in your fingers and just not use it, like that. And then knit the next three off the cable needle. Totally just a preference, whatever makes you feel the most comfortable. Set that aside. Slide that marker. And then you would just continue working all the way to the end. And I'm gonna bring this over to you. So you can see a little bit of the difference that I was talking about, how I said here, there is not that little purl bump, so this is sort of more of a mellow cable. It kind of melds into it. But see how just that one stitch on either side, really cuts some definition into it? Totally just a preference, but it's a really fun, simple way that you can differentiate, or you can call it a design feature. And that really is the foundation for working any cable stitch. So you no longer need to be nervous. You've got this. You can totally cable now. So let's see what else we can do.

Class Description

Are you a beginning knitter ready to advance your skills? Join Vickie Howell and learn how to knit advanced beginner projects like hats, mittens, and chunky lace cowls.

This class will give you both the confidence and the practical tools you need to take the next steps in your knitting process. As you build on your basic knitting skills, you’ll learn how to:

  • Work with advanced tools, like fancier yarns and double-pointed needles
  • Pick up stitches and knit in the round using double-pointed needles
  • Read a knitting chart
  • Increase using the M1 and kf&b methods
  • Decreasing using the k2tog and ssk methods

Vickie will guide you through the creation of bobble stitches, cable knits, mosaic color-work, how to block your projects, and basic lace knitting.  

Don’t be afraid to try out more complicated projects and produce more elaborate knitted goods! You’ll leave this class in it to knit it, with the confidence and tools you need to create gorgeous work.


Ramona Morrissette-Nagai

She is engaging, warm, and educational.