Live-Loop Stitches & Cables: An Introduction
Digging into Interweave Crochet isn’t just about the gorgeous patterns, selected with care by our crochet-savvy editorial staff. Many times, there are techniques to learn that you may have never considered before. The fall issue features this story on live-loop crochet. Never heard of it? Designer and master crocheter Sue Perez has got you covered!
I used to assume that crochet stitches were like dinner and dessert: you had to finish one before you could move on to the next. Not so! You can delay the completion of a stitch, or series of stitches, by temporarily keeping the last loops “live” on a hook. You complete the stitches later in a method I call live-loop crochet, creating beautiful knit-like cables (see the Blue Spruce Hat from Interweave Crochet Fall 2017).
A live stitch (or live loop) is any stitch or loop that has not yet been secured in the way a stitch is normally secured; it’s sitting there available and waiting for you to do something with it. For this technique, there are three kinds of live loops: the working loop before the cable, the cable loops that look like knit stitches and create the cable, and the live-loop stitch that follows the cable.
Live-loop cables can be made by drawing up loop(s) between “live” stitches. Drawn-up loops between live stitches are referred to as cable loops. Live stitches are then joined behind cable loops, leaving cable loops free in the front. This technique is easiest when worked in the round. As each round is worked, a loop is pulled through each cable loop that was held in front from the previous round, creating a flexible, I-cord-like cable that can travel over the fabric surface without disrupting background texture or stitch count. (The cable loops are structurally equivalent to knit stitches, but to avoid confusion, this article uses only crochet-specific language.)
To create live-loop cables, work a round normally up to the cable. The last stitch and working loop before the cable, although complete, will be considered “live” until they are joined to the stitches after the cable.
Cables can have any number of loops: more loops mean a fatter cable (see I-cord Swatch). To start a cable, insert your hook into the stitch or space specified in the pattern and draw up as follows:
1-lp cable: Insert hook, pull up a lp
2-lp cable: Yo, insert hook, pull up a lp
3-lp cable: Insert hook, pull up a lp, yo, insert hook,pull up another lp
4-lp cable: [Yo, insert hook, pull up a lp] twice
1 PULLING UP A 4-CABLE LOOP
2 WORK A LIVE-LOOP STITCH IN NEXT STITCH
Work a live-loop stitch (see below) in the next stitch. Live-loop stitches are made by working the stitch to a point that leaves one extra loop on the hook.
LLsl st: Insert hook in indicated st,
yo and pull up a lp, keeping lp on hook.
LLsc: Insert hook in indicated st, yo, pull up a lp, yo,
draw through 1 lp, keeping extra lp on hook.
LLhdc: Yo, insert hook in indicated st and pull up a lp, yo,
draw through 2 lps, keeping extra lp on hook.
3 REMOVE HOOK
With loops still on hook, tug hook firmly upward, holding parallel with work, to “set” stitches and make joining easier. Remove hook from loops.
Join the live loops, leaving the cable loops free in the front of the work. Follow these steps to join the live-loop stitches:
4 Place cable loops on stitch holder or bobby pin
Insert hook into rightmost live loop (working loop before cable is considered a live loop) and then insert hook into next live loop.
5 Draw (don’t tug) second loop through first.
One loop is left; this becomes the new working loop. Continue with the rest of the round.
For the Following Rounds
To continue the cable on the following rounds, work to the indicated stitch.
6 Insert hook from front to back into next cable loop, keeping left “leg” of loop forward.
7 Yo and pull up a loop. Repeat across cable.
8 Work stitch after cable as LL stitch.
9 Remove hook and place cable loops on stitch holder. Reinsert hook through working loop and live loop.
Join stitch before cable with stitch after cable as in step 5, passing behind cable to leave cable loops free. Continue with the rest of the round.
To curve a cable left, work one stitch past cable before pulling up cable loops. (The loop passing behind the cable counts as the stitch after the cable.)To curve right, stop one stitch short. Gradual curves work best; anything more extreme can distort the cable and/or fabric.
Stitches can be crossed within cables, or entire cables can be crossed, by working farther loop(s) first while holding nearer loops out of the way. This process may require multiple stitch holders.
Skip desired number of cable loops, holding them to front of work. Reaching behind skipped loops, pull up a loop in each remaining cable loop, then pull up a loop in each skipped loop.
Right cross (keeps rightward-leaning loop[s] on top): Skip desired number of cable loops and hold them behind while pulling up a loop in each remaining cable loop, then pull up a loop in each skipped loop.
TIPS AND TRICKS
Shorter stitches (sl st, sc, hdc) make the best background for live-loop cables; always draw cable loops up to a size that matches the surrounding stitches.
If working spiral rounds, a nonspiraling stitch pattern (such as 2-hdc or hdc/sc clusters, worked in the second stitch of each cluster) can prevent “drift.” If a plain background stitch is preferred, adjust cables one stitch left at necessary intervals to counteract drift (try every third row for hdc), being careful to maintain the overall pattern.
Proper hook insertion will prevent twisted cable stitches, but if you find a twisted stitch, it can easily be repaired (even several rows later) by frogging one row at a time of that cable only back to the error. Each frogged row will release a large loop of yarn attached to the stitches on either side. Correct the error, then use released yarn to hook cable back up, one row at a time, tugging firmly upward on each finished row before picking up the next.
Remember to allow extra yarn for your live-loop cable projects; slightly “grippy” yarns give best results.
Finishing the cables can vary from pattern to pattern. Consult the patterns for the Blue Spruce Hat or the Bristlecone Mitts from Interweave Crochet Fall 2017 for information on finishing specific cables.
SUE PEREZ lives in Wisconsin. She loves crochet, cycling, and photographing wildflowers. She works in a bead store to support her yarn habit and is writing a book about live-loop crochet. Find her at www.mrsmicawber.blogspot.com.
This article originally appeared in Interweave Crochet Fall 2017.