Tips & Tricks For Twisted Stitches

Red Scarf Project Connections Scarf

(Try saying THAT title three times fast!)

It's true that the Connections Scarf I designed for the Red Scarf Project was my first cable-knitting project ever. I've managed to avoid cables until now, thinking that wrangling the cable needle was just too much fiddly knitting for this gal, thank you very much. Then my husband Nicholas asked for a cabled pullover for Christmas. When I started in about my distaste for cable-needle wrangling, he raised his eyebrows and pointed at the knitting I happened to have in my hands at that very moment: a sock being knitted with five very tiny, very fiddly, dpns.

I hate it when he's right.

So that's when I decided to design my red scarf pattern as a cabled scarf. I used the designing process as a way of getting to know the whole process of knitting cables: how they worked, how they fit together, how to incorporate them into a pattern. I learned a few tricks along the way, so I thought I would share those with you.

Use the cable needle that is right for you. I found that I kept dropping the little short/straight needles made specifically for cabling, so I tried a regular sock-sized double-pointed needle. Worked like a charm, because my fingers already knew how to wrangle that one. But that's just me. There's many different choices out there when it comes to cable needles. Try a few until you find the one that works for you.

Corollary: Try cabling without a cable needle. It sounds impossible, but you can learn to manipulate the cable crossings without the extra needle. There are many cable knitters who swear by this technique! I did the first end of the scarf with a cable needle, and then I tackled the second end without one. The effort it took to learn which stitches went where was well worth it, because now I feel as though I am understanding cables instead of just knitting them by rote. We have a list of online tutorials in our Techniques section.

Don't pull on the "held" stitches too hard. When you are holding the cable stitches off to the front or back of your knitting, don't pull them too far away from the rest of your knitting! Too much pulling will distort the stitches in the area of the crossing. Keep them as close to the main knitting as possible in order to help keep the tension and texture of your cable stitches even.

What The Back Looks Like

Watch what you are doing. Until you are comfortable with cables, cable knitting is not the time to multitask! I made several whopping mistakes because I was trying to knit the cables in a restaurant whilst talking with friends. Bad idea. (Lots of ripping out ensued.)

Steam-block Cables wrong side up. This may seem obvious, but just in case: If you are using a steam-iron to block your cable knitting, do it with the WRONG side of the cables facing upwards, or you will flatten all your nice intentionally-bumpy cables. Don't press down–keep the iron just a little bit above the fabric! And try using a pressing cloth to further help minimize the flattening factor.

You asked for it…Lynn G. asked if I would be willing to post a photo of what the reverse side looks like. There you go, Lynn!

What are your cable-knitting tricks?

C'mon, don't be shy. If you have tips on how to work with cables, leave a comment! After all, if I'm going to be knitting Nicholas an entire cabled pullover for Christmas, I'm going to need all the help I can get!

Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? I am working out customizations for the Husband Sweater so I will be ready to cast on when the yarn arrives. What is the Husband Sweater? It's my nickname for the pullover my husband requested I make him for Christmas.

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