Close up on the cabled end of a textured handknit shawl draped over a dress form.

How to Knit Reversible Cables

The Basket of Blossoms Shawl is designed with a reversible cable. This is a great option for all types of garments and accessories where the wrong side will show.

What makes cables reversible?

There are two types of reversible stitch patterns. The first is patterns that where the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ sides are not identical, but both sides are visually appealing and can be worn facing out. In the case of cables, you can knit a fabric with cables on both sides, where the purl stitches between cables on one side become the cables on the reverse side. The scarf shown below is an example of this type- the purl columns between the 3 cables on one side become the 2 cables on the reverse side, and vice versa.

Close-up on the two ends of a handknit scarf, showing the 'right' and 'wrong' sides.
Two ends scarf knit with reversible cables where the two sides are not identical.

Reversible Cables Based on Ribbing

The second type is stitch patterns that are truly reversible, meaning they appear the same on both sides. Most truly reversible patterns are based on ribbing, and that is the case for fully reversible cables. In the case of the shawl pattern, the cable is a 6 over 6 cable cross that is knitted in 1×1 rib, so that it appears as a 3 over 3 cable. With the ribbing, the purl stitches recede so that all you can really see are the knit stitches in the cable. While it doesn’t look exactly the same as an all-knit stitch cable, it still makes a very attractive cable and you really can’t see the purl stitches unless you pull the fabric apart a bit.

Close up on the cabled edge of a handknit shawl in a rosy DK weight Finn yarn.

Working this type of cable is no more difficult than working any type of ribbing. The trick is to make sure that you always knit the knits and purl the purls, in order to maintain the ribbing pattern. On the cable cross rows, be sure that you keep the knit stitches and their corresponding purl stitches together – you should always have an even number of stitches on the cable needle.

Try it and let me know what you think!

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