How To Work a Cable Pattern Without the Chart

One of the things I love about knitting cables is they look much more complicated than they actually are. Yes, you can create really complicated cable charts, but at their most basic, cables are simple stitches knit out of order so that they cross over one another. You either hold a set of stitches to the front or back on a cable needle; or, if working without a cable needle you simply rearrange the stitches on your working needles.

The Winding Stream Socks have a cable chart that, with only 10 stitches, is simple enough you may not even have to look at the chart once you’ve worked through it once. All you need is to be able to ‘read’ the knitting, and you can anticipate what comes next. If you look closely at the chart, you can see that it breaks down into a series of just six steps, repeated over and over again. Let’s look at the chart for the left sock.

The cable chart starts with 3 columns of knit stitches, separated by purl stitches. I’ve color-coded them in the charts below: red, blue and green. These columns ‘travel’ toward each other and then cross over and under each other to form the pattern, and you only have to worry about one or two crosses at a time. The steps are as follows:

Step 1. The red and blue columns travel toward each other, crossing in front of the background purl stitches between (left and right 2/1 purl crosses). Meanwhile the green column simply continues on it’s merry way.

Cable Illustration Step 1

Step 2. The blue stitches cross in front of the red. (2/2 left cable cross)

Cable Illustration Step 2

Step 3. The blue and red columns now need to move apart again; this time the blue continues moving to the left and the red is on the right. (2/1 left and right purl crosses)

Cable Illustration Step 3

Step 4. Now the red column continues straight ahead and it’s the green column’s turn to join the dance. The blue and green stitches move towards each other, again crossing in front of the purl stitches between (more left and right purl crosses).

Cable Illustration Step 4

Step 5. The green stitches cross in front of the blue stitches. (2/2 right cable cross)

Cable Illustration Step 5

Step 6. The green and blue stitches move away from each other, crossing in front of the purl stitches between. (left and right purl crosses)

Cable Illustration Step 6

Now even thought the colors have switched around, the order of knit and purl stitches is the same as at the beginning, and we’re ready to start the repeat again.

I’ve created a little animation of this to show the flow of the stitches across the work (full disclosure – I wrote this post just so I could have an excuse to play with animation):

It helps to remember two ‘rules’ for this chart: 1) There is a ‘rest round’ in between every round with cable crosses. On those rounds you simply knit the knits and purl the purls as they present themselves; and 2) Knit stitches always cross over purl stitches.

The chart for the right sock works exactly the same, only you work steps 4-6 first and then steps 1-3. Once you understand how the cable works, you can start to anticipate which cable cross occurs next. It may seem difficult at first, but with a bit of practice you can get into the flow and work the pattern without the chart!

Please do leave a comment if you found this helpful, and let me know what other tips and tricks you’d like to see.

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