Reading cable charts

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Most knitting patterns give cable instructions in chart form. These charts show the cable stitches, turning rows, and often some background stitches. Depending on how complicated the cable pattern is, the chart may show you one repeat of the cable or an entire piece.

Although chart symbols aren't standardized, every pattern has a key to the symbols used. Figure 11-1 shows a chart for a 6-stitch left-twisting cable.

The chart represents the front side of your knitting. Each square in the chart represents a stitch. Here's a breakdown of this chart according to its legend:

II A horizontal line in the square indicates a stitch that you purl on the right side and knit on the wrong side.




1-6 stitches

1-6 stitches

Figure 11-1:

Chart and key for a 6-stitch cable that twists to the left.

Knit on right side Purl on wrong side

Purl on right side Knit on wrong side

6 stitch left cable slip 3 sts to cn and hold in front, k3, k3 from cn

1 The empty squares represent the cable stitches, which you knit on the right side and purl on the wrong side. In Figure 11-1, the six empty squares tell you that the cable is 6 stitches wide.

1 The cable symbol in the turning row indicates (via the key) whether to hold the stitches in the front or the back. Usually, the symbols mean the following, but be sure to check your pattern's chart key before you begin knitting:

  • When the cable symbol begins at the bottom of the square and jogs to the top (as it does in Figure 11-1), you hold the yarn in front.
  • When the cable symbol begins at the top of the square and jogs to the bottom, you hold the yarn in back.

Finding the right cable needle

Various styles of cable needles are available. We prefer to work with a needle shaped like a U with a short leg, because it seems to stay out of our way better than the other kinds and the stitches on hold don't slide off. The other versions have different advantages. For example, the straight needle-type makes it easier to knit cable stitches being held directly from the cable needle, but we sometimes lose stitches with this version and never have been able to figure out what to do with the LH needle while knitting stitches from the cable needle. Try the different types as you practice cables to see which best suits your knitting style. Refer to Chapter 2 for info on the different types of cable needles.

When you knit cables, you don't have to cross stitches on every row (thank goodness!). You only cross the stitches on the turning row. After the turning row, you work several plain rows, and then you work another turning row.

When following cable charts, you may find it helpful to color in the turning rows. Use a magnetic board and strip to mark your place on the chart to help you stay on track. Sticky notes work well, too. If you're knitting a pattern that has several panels of different cables, use stitch markers on the needle to help delineate the separate panels.

Remember to pay attention to your knitted piece as well as your chart or instructions. Check to see whether you're cabling in the right direction and have worked the correct number of rows. When you learn to read what's happening in your work, you hardly need the chart or the markers after you knit a couple of repeats of the entire pattern.

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