Setting Up Cables

Designing your own garment? Maybe you are working on the Saddle Up pullover with me and it’s time to work the cables. Here’s what you need to know.

Cables pull your fabric in as soon as the first cable is crossed. You have to make sure you accommodate for this fact or … well, your sweater or project will be much smaller than you had anticipated.

Let’s say you want to work a 4-stitch Rope Cable (worked by crossing 2 stitches over 2 stitches). This cable is worked in stockinette stitch and is a pretty common cable to work.

Once you start crossing this cable, it is no longer the width of 4 stitches. It is closer to the width of 3 stockinette stitches.

If you have a sweater where you want to introduce a 4-stitch Rope Cable, set it up for 3 stockinette stitches to begin with. Then increase 1 stitch before you work the first cross. That’s it.

A basic rule of thumb: for every 3 stitches of the cable, set up 1 less stitch. Add them back in by working increases before the first cross.

Here’s another example: 6-stitch Rope Cable where you will cross 3 stitches over 3 stitches – set up 4 sts and before the first cross, increase 2 stitches (now you have 6 sts for the cable).

This is fairly straightforward, except … (you knew this was coming, right?), the more complex the cable, the harder it is to do this successfully. Do I have to say the S word? Yeah, I do. You have to swatch!

Elizabeth Zimmermann had some great advice. Her suggestion was to cast on 96 stitches and knit a hat with all the cables. It will fit someone.

That can work as your swatch. Measure across the cable once you have worked the cross several times. Use your stockinette stitch gauge to figure out how wide the cable is in stockinette stitches. That is the number of stitches to set up and how many stitches you need to increase before the first crossing.

Example: Let’s say you have a 12 stitch complex cable, repeated several times on your hat, measuring 1.75″ across. Your stockinette gauge is 20 sts = 4″ OR 5 sts = 1″. 1.75″ x 5 sts = 8.75 sts, rounded up to 9 sts. Set Up the cable with 9 stitches and increase 3 stitches in the first row to 12 stitches and cable away.

Norah Gaughan has coined the phrase SSE: Stockinette Stitch Equivalent. The SSE for the complex cable above is 9 sts, even though the chart for the cable is 12 sts wide. Yeah, I know, this can mess with your head.

I would like to recommend her book, Knitted Cable Sourcebook for this information. There are tons of cables in this book and they all have an SSE. She’s done it for you. No swatching necessary. I don’t receive anything if you buy this book. I’m so happy I bought it. You might know that I am not a happy swatcher.

The latest section of the Saddle Up pattern is in your ravelry library. Update the pattern and set up your cables. Have fun.

Cheers, Deb

Any Gauge and Gauge-Free patterns by Deb

DebgemmellMods ravelry group

Author: debgemmellmods

I'm a Knitter. The capital K means every day, everywhere. I'm co-owner of Cabin Fever with my sister Lyn. We have published over 100 patterns and 11 books. I'm also working on a new set of patterns for Any Gauge knitting. Dive into your stash and cast on for a Top Down sweater that fits, or an accessory to use up those odd balls of yarn.

2 thoughts on “Setting Up Cables”

  1. Hi Deb,
    Yep too much for my non-math brain so I’ll stick to patterns that just have it all sorted & tell me what to do. And the “S” word was not the one I was thinking of lol. I do enjoy your newsletters thanks.
    Peg B

    Liked by 1 person

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