Substituting One Knitted Cable for Another

It seemed like a really good idea at the time.

Ever since my sister Liz asked me to make her the Central Park Hoodie, I've been planning on substituting a bit of custom cablework in for the cables in the original design. It's not that I don't like the original design; I do. But the truth is, I never, ever, not even for a weensy, teensy moment considered knitting the design As Is. Right from the very first, I was hunting down stitch dictionaries and sketching out alternate cable ideas.

I've been swatching for a couple of weeks now. Yes, that's what I said, swatching. For two weeks. I've also been ripping out for two weeks, because this didn't work and that didn't look right and the other was too big and another was too complicated.

Swapping out a cable (or any other stitch pattern, for that matter) isn't as easy as a simple cut-and-paste of the charts. Here are a few Things To Keep In Mind when substituting stitch patterns:

1. Scale. The first cable I chose was only a few stitches wider than the original, but the overall pattern repeat was twice as long (first photo). This made for a cable that looked gigantic on the sleeve, completely overpowering the simple style of the hoodie itself. Another pattern I tried was shorter, but too wide. Make sure that the substitute pattern's repeat isn't so big (or so small) that it looks odd on the garment you are making.

green hoodieslv1 2. Does it affect the fit? Consider how your new cable will work with the rest of the fabric. I found that one cable pattern didn't look right against the ribbed background of the original hoodie; it needed to be on a solid reverse stockinette background. This would change the fit of the hoodie, as ribs draw in more than reverse St. st. Cables themselves not only make the fabric draw in more, but can also make the fabric less stretchy. Make a big enough swatch, with ALL the stitch patterns on one swatch, so that you can see how they work (or don't work) together.

3. Stitch & row count. Do you need to add a stitch or two to your cast-on to make the pattern repeats come out evenly? Do you need to adjust the length of the garment for the same reason? Maybe, maybe not. If you do, make sure you know how much adjustment is needed, and how this will affect the final garment.

4. Pattern matching at seams. The Central Park Hoodie is done in pieces and seamed; I like this method of sweater construction because it allows me to more easily adjust for fit along the way. Having seams, however, means I have to plan the edges of each piece carefully: Not only do I need to add an extra seam stitch which will disappear into the seam, but I need to consider how the remaining edge stitches will "match up" once they are sewn together. (Don't forget to match patterns at the underside of your sleeves!)

5. Flow from one section to another. This hoodie has a wide ribbed cuff and border. If I just toss random cables on the main body, the cables might look random, unless I also plan how they flow out of the ribbing. My first swatch, I made sure the branches of the cables were the same width as the ribs, matching them stitch-for-stitch. In a later swatch (third photo), I actually adapted the ribbed pattern so that the cables started in the ribbing. This gives a more polished look to the overall design (although the cable itself is still too wide for the sleeve.)

There's a ton of cabled hoodies out there. The original Central Park Hoodie is popular because it is so classic, so elegant, and so versatile. If you want to customize it with your own stitches, a little swatching and planning ahead will help your hoodie stand out from the crowd.

Which cable pattern have I decided on? None of the above. I'm still swatching, and having fun learning about designing with cables along the way.

What kind of yarn am I using?

Several of you asked what the beautiful blue yarn is. It's the one my sister chose: Cascade 220 Superwash Wool in colour #1910. (The green swatch in the second photo is a different yarn I was using just to test cables with.)

Do you have any interesting cable patterns you love? Let me know! After all, wouldn't it be fun if I ended up using YOUR idea in my sister's sweater?

– Sandi

Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily each week. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, you can follow her: sandiwiseheart.

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