No-Fuss Mock Cables: How to Add Mock Cables without Affecting Gauge

I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to jazz up stockinette garments. I love using cables to add that extra element of interest, but I don’t always want to deal with the necessary swatches and calculations. Because cables pull the fabric in, they require more stitches (and more yarn) to achieve the same width as stockinette fabric. In addition, cabled fabric is warmer and has less drape than stockinette fabric, which is desirable for some garments but not for others.

Mock cables can add interest to stockinette fabric without the need to recalculate gauge and stitch counts. There is no worry about yarn shortages or extra bulk. No cable needles are required, nor any reordering of stitches. The fabric is more subtly textured than true cabled fabric and has more drape.

Mock cables’ gauge is identical to that of stockinette stitch. Also, unlike real cables—for which crossing large numbers of stitches becomes impractical, if not impossible—there is no limit to the number of stitches that can be worked in a mock cable.

In this article, I will start with basic left- and right-crossing 8-stitch mock rope cables and then expand from there. You’ll see how to scale mock rope cables to any size and then how to combine the left- and right-crossing techniques to produce a variety of different effects, including snake cables, plaits, and basketweave.

A mock rope cable is similar to a true rope cable in that the stitches are divided into two equal groups, or “ropes,” with one rope crossing in the same direction over the other to form a twist that leans right or left. And just as for a true rope cable, the number of stitches in the mock rope cable is equivalent to the number of rows in the repeat; for example, an 8-stitch cable will have an eight-row repeat. However, rather than crossing the stitches once every eight rows, as a true rope cable does, a mock rope cable crosses gradually, over the course of the entire row repeat, using a combination of decreases and increases.

Decreases & Increases

The decreases and increases are worked in pairs every right-side row and are separated by several knit stitches. The number of knit stitches that separates the increase and decrease on a given row is one stitch fewer than the number of stitches in a single rope.

The decreases lean, and travel, in the direction of the cable cross: right-slanting decreases are used for right cables and left-slanting decreases are used for left cables. Make 1 increases simulate the stitches that cross in back of the cable and should lean in the opposite direction from the decreases. In the swatch shown in Photo 1, left-slanting Make 1 increases (M1L) were used for the Right Cross Mock Cable and right-slanting Make 1 increases (M1R) were used for the Left Cross Mock Cable.

Photo 1

For a lacier effect, use yarnover increases, as shown in Photo 2.

Photo 2

Scaling Up

Mock cables can easily be scaled up to any number of stitches, making them suitable for larger pieces of fabric such as blankets, pillows, and oversize sweaters. The total number of stitches in the cable must be an even number so that it can be divided into two equal ropes. For the 8-stitch mock cables, each rope has 4 stitches; for the 22-stitch Left Cross Cable shown in Photo 3, each rope has 11 stitches.

Photo 3

Now that we’ve learned the basic structure of a mock rope cable, let’s look at how we can use these concepts to create other types of mock cables. The following examples all use 8-stitch mock cables as their basis, but any of them can be scaled up.

Mock Snake Cable

Vertically alternate a left-leaning mock cable with a right-leaning mock cable. The full repeat will be 16 rows for an 8-stitch mock snake cable. Photo 4 shows a mock snake cable with yarnover increases rather than M1 increases.

Photo 4

Mock Horseshoe Cables

These mock cables are created by placing right- and left-crossing mock rope cables side by side, with no background stitches separating them. The rope cables can lean toward each other or away from each other. If they lean away from each other (as shown in Photo 5), the increases on Row 2 of the 8-row repeat share the same place between existing stitches, resulting in a small hole, but this hole isn’t all that different from the gap that appears when true cables are worked side by side. This hole will not occur when the cables lean toward each other. If you use yarnover increases, you will need to purl into the front and back of the double yarnover on Row 3.

Photo 5

Mock Plait and Basketweave Cables

A mock plait cable is composed of three ropes: two edge ropes and a center rope. For the first half of the row repeat, the first edge rope ( let’s call it rope A) crosses with the center rope while the other edge rope (rope B) is worked straight. For the last half of the row repeat, rope B crosses with the center rope in the opposite direction from rope A. It doesn’t matter whether the edge ropes cross over the center rope or the center rope crosses over the edge ropes, as long as it’s consistent over both halves of the row repeat and the cable crosses change direction at the halfway point. In Photo 6, rope A crosses to the left over the center rope for the first 8 rows of the 16-row repeat and rope B crosses to the right over the center rope for the last 8 rows of the repeat. The total number of rows in a plait will be twice the stitch count of two ropes.

Photo 6

You can expand a plait cable into a basketweave cable simply by working additional pattern repeats. Each pattern repeat adds two ropes (the total number of ropes must always be an odd number). Photo 7 shows a basketweave cable with five ropes. The row repeat will be the same as for a plait.

Photo 7

As you can see, basic mock cables can be used to produce a variety of effects. Try experimenting to create your own cables from scratch, or use true cables found in stitch dictionaries to create their mock-cable counterparts.

Roxanne Richardson is a certified master handknitter living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she designs and teaches. Find her weekly videos on YouTube at This article was originally published in knit.wear Fall/Winter 2017.

More knitting techniques for you to explore, in knit.wear.


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