Reversible Cable Knitting 101: A Lesson and 4 Free Patterns!

Rosamund's Cardigan, Fall 2009, an example of reversible cable knitting.There’s something intensely compelling about reversible cable knitting: they tap into knitting at its most elemental, turning the structure of the fabric itself into ornament, rolling form and function into one elegant package.

There’s a clean, mathematical precision about reversible cable knitting that is deeply, fundamentally pleasing, especially so because it works off the very simplest principle of knitting: a knit will always be a purl on its reverse, and vice versa. From there, an entire universe of reversible cables blooms.

I have a serious fetish for reversible cable knitting, myself. Collars that pop, cuffs that fold back, scarves and stoles that look good from any direction-I’m always a fan of knitting that is as well-engineered as it is beautiful.

So what makes a cable reversible? In Beyond the Basics in the Winter issue of Interweave Knits, Lily Chin takes you on a tour of the different kinds of reversible cables and how to make them.

She distinguishes between two types of cable reversible knitting:

  1. Reversible fabrics that have cables on both sides. Cables are usually in stockinette, bordered by reverse stockinette to make the cables pop. The areas of reverse stockinette become stockinette on the back side, of course, creating another place to cable.
    Swatch front example of a fabric have reversible cables on each side.

    Figure 1: Swatch front example.

    Swatch back example of a fabric have reversible cables on each side

    Figure 2: Swatch back example.

  2. Cables that actually look the same on the front and the back. Lily brings up a great point in her article: when one group of stitches passes over another, as in a cable, they’re crossing on the back as well as the front. Why don’t they look the same, then, on both sides? Because the textured surface on the purl side obscures the visual impact of the crossing stitches. The solution, of course, is to use a reversible stitch, such as ribbing. Single rib, because it draws in so much, creates the illusion of smooth stockinette on both sides, but other stitches can create lots of different effects.
    Example of reversible single and double rib cables.

    Figure 2: Single and double rib cables

    Reversible cables in alternative stitches.

    Figure 3: Reversible cables in other stitches

More complex cables can combine these principles, turning background stitches on one side into new cables on the other, for unbelievably intricate effects. Very handy when you need a collar that looks good flat as well as up or a great stitch for a shape-shifting wrap.

Try It Now: Free-to-Download Winter Staff Projects

Lisa Shroyer’s Pointed Kerchief uses a reversible cable as a simple accent along a reversible background stitch. Marilyn Murphy’s Rittenhouse Scarf uses reversible ribbed cables and a reversible background stitch between for sides that are truly identical. Sandi Wiseheart does the same for a necklet that can be worn inside and out. And Kathleen Cubley gets complex with cables that travel as well as cross, for a softly ribbed effect across a slinky cowl.

It doesn’t end there, of course. You can trim reversible cables with color, stitch changes, almost anything you can imagine-as long as you can find a way to make it reversible. Here’s Lily again, talking about just a few other applications on this sneak preview of Knitting Daily TV episode 402:

With this guide and Lily’s article in hand, try your hand at making your favorite cable reversible knitting pattern. Where will you use it?

Post a Comment