I don’t know about you but when I first started knitting, cables were the most mystical and mysterious stitch pattern in the world to me. I couldn’t fathom how you could possibly take a flat piece of fabric and somehow incorporate those elaborate braids and twists! It was one of those things that took a little time and a few tutorials but once I understood it, it made total sense.
Even this braided cable is fairly simple once you understand the idea behind it. In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to make a right leaning cable, a left leaning cable, and a braided cable. Once you have the hang of it, you can use the basic steps to create any type of cable you can imagine! You could have the direction of the twist alternate as you go… You could create braided cables that then braid together… You could even create a cable that climbs like a vine all over your fabric. That’s the beauty of techniques like this one… Once you have a handle on it, you can take it to whatever level you want to.
For this, you will need:
- knitting needles
- a cable needle (reffered to in patterns as “CN”) or a double pointed needle (or “DPN”)
NOTE: You will be slipping stitches to and from this third needle, whether you use a needle specifically designed for cabling or whether you simply use a DPN. You’ll then be slipping the stitches back to your primary needles OR knitting the stitches directly from the third needle. If you choose to do the latter, I would highly suggest using a DPN in the same size as your primary needles to keep the tension neat and tidy.
The only rule to keep in mind is this: when you decide how many stitches wide you want your cable to be, make sure the number can be divided in half (or in thirds in the case of the braid). For this tutorial, my right and left leaning cables are 6 stitches wide. The braid is 9 stitches wide. Also keep in mind that the wider the cable is (or the higher the number of stitches) the more difficult it may be to create the cables. You’ll see why in a second.
For a traditional cabled pattern, you’ll want to create contrast between the cables and the rest of the fabric. A basic purl stockinette is perfect for this. I put sections of 3 purl stitches in between each of my cables for a nice, even, squared look. That being said, you can do whatever you want with your project! These things aren’t rules by any means.
Start off by knitting in a simple rib for at least an inch. Again, you could use whatever stitch pattern suits your fancy but a simple rib gives a good contrast to allow you to see the cables well. Each of the knitted sections will become a cable.
Left Leaning Cable
Follow the rib pattern until you get to the first cable (or the section that will become a cable). Using your CN or DPN (henceforth referred to as your CN), slip the first half of the cable’s stitches purl-wise*. In my case, I am slipping three stitches onto my CN.
*This means inserting the needle as if to purl but simply slipping the stitch off the needle rather than working a purl stitch.
Hold the CN to the FRONT of your work, as seen above.
Reaching behind the CN, knit the second half of the cable as normal. You’ll be skipping the stitches on the CN temporarily. And that’s the magic of the cable, revealed! You are simply knitting the stitches out of order, or twisting them.
If you were to pause here, this is what your project would look like.
Now you can slip the stitches back to your working needle and knit them as normal (they may be a little tight, since they are reaching around the others) or…
… if you are using a DPN in the same size as your primary needles, you can simple knit the stitches straight from the DPN.
Once you’ve completed these steps, this is what your cable will look like. You’ll then finish your round or row of cables and then knit in the basic ribbed pattern for a little while (I would suggest at least an inch, so that your stitch pattern doesn’t look too cramped or feel too stiff). Once you have done this, the cable will loosen a bit and you’ll begin to see the beautiful twist starting to take shape.
Right Leaning Cable
For the right leaning cable, follow the same basic steps but hold the CN to the BACK of the work instead of the front. Also, make sure to hold your working yarn, BETWEEN your primary needles and your cable needle (shown above) so that nothing gets twisted. Or at least, nothing that you don’t want to be twisted!
Again, reach across the CN and knit the second half of the cable as normal.
Then, stretch the stitches on the CN over to the left and knit as normal, either directly from the CN or after slipping the stitches back to the primary needle.
This is what it should look like before continuing in the rib stitch for an inch or so.
For the braided cable, follow the same steps but instead of slipping HALF of the stitches, slip a THIRD (in my case, three of the nine). Hold the CN to the front for the first twist.
Now, here’s where the braid will differ from the standard cables… For the standard, you would knit in the rib pattern for about an inch before working another cable row/round. For a nice, square cable I would knit as many rows as my cable is wide in stitches – in my case, my standard cable is 6 stitches wide so I would typically knit 6 rows of standard rib before working another cable row/round. Whether you decide to cable more often than that or less often, for the braid you’ll want to knit HALF of your chosen number of rows, work a left leaning cable, then work the other half of the rows, then work the right leaning cable. Since my standard cables are typically 6 rows of rib between cable rows/rounds, what I did was work a left leaning cable, knit 3 rows of rib, knit a right leaning cable, knit 3 rows of rib. That completes the stitch repeat for the braided pattern.
To simplify and walk you through step by step (starting with the last step, which was to work a left leaning cable)… Knit three rows of standard rib. Knit the first three stitches of the cable as normal, as well. Then, slip the next three stitches to your CN and hold to the BACK.
Reach across the CN and knit the final three stitches as normal.
Stretch the CN over and knit those three stitches. Below is what your braid should look like after a few stitch repeats!
What do you think? Was that as complicated as you had imagined? Are you inspired to include some cables in your next project? Tell all in the comments below!
Personally, I’m feeling inspired to test the limits of this technique and see how crazy of a pattern I can come up with! 😂 Tag your inspired makes with #createdmakers so I can see what you come up with!