Work Short-Rows in Cables with the Colbie Tank!

Designer Mari Chiba has worked with Knitscene quite a few times over the years, but her excellent Colbie Tank from Knitscene Spring 2015 is her first cover project. When it came time to narrow down options for the cover, I loved the bright pop of pink against the green ivy we’d found hanging—especially because we’d shot this issue at the end of September, when there usually isn’t any green to be found in Colorado!

I asked Mari to talk about her design, to give us some insight into this great knitting pattern for spring. Head over to her website for more excellent knitting discussion, including a post about her Misty Pullover!


I’m so thrilled to have my Colbie Tank from Knitscene Spring 2015 on the cover! The top cable part is worked in Louet Gems Sport weight, so that the cables have lots of great definition and hold their shape well. The body is worked in Louet Euroflax Sport, a linen yarn that gets softer as you wash and wear it. If you haven’t knit with linen before I definitely encourage you to try it. This magical fiber gets softer and softer the more you wash it, drapes beautifully, and is lightweight and cool for warm weather.

The top starts with the cable, and then the body is worked down first flat, then joined and worked all in one piece to the bottom hem. This simple top gave me a fair bit of grief when I was trying to figure out how to make the cable lie perfectly flat. What happens when you knit a rectangle and try to wrap it around a circular shape? It doesn’t sit flat! In the photo below is one of my early attempts at knitting the cable. You can see it didn’t work out very well.

Even if you try to knit a flat piece with slanted edges, you just can’t make straight lines curve around a circular shape. No amount of blocking could change this fact. Trust me, I tried. So, how do you turn a strip of knitting lay flat around a circular shape? With short rows! In the Colbie Tank the short rows are worked into the cable pattern, so that without disrupting the braided cable the top of the tank will curve around your neck.

Thinking about casting on for your own Colbie Tank? Here are some of my thoughts, for when I eventually knit another one:

  • I think it’d be quite lovely to do the neck and the body in two different colors, to do a bright pop color for the cable, and a neutral for the body.
  • The linen will get softer if you put it through the washer and dryer a few times, but I worry about putting the neck part in the dryer. Although Gems is washable, I just don’t like putting wool in the dryer. Next time instead of picking up stitches along the cable to knit the body down I would probably knit the body piece separately, and put in through the washer and dryer a couple of times with some towels and jeans (so it gets plenty of agitation) then seam it to the cabled neck piece. That way it’ll already be super soft and flowy, and in future washes I could machine wash then lay flat to dry without worrying about damaging the cabled neck.

I want to whip up my own Colbie Tank, but I’m stuck trying to figure out colors (and trying to finish my Tessellating Leaves Scarf and a Thyri Pullover to boot). I’m leaning toward all black—classic and chic—or trying Mari’s idea of mixing colors for a little bit of spice. What colors would you choose for the Colbie Tank?

Happy knitting!

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