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.
A drop shoulder pullover can be knit in a combination of knit-in-the-round and knit flat, whether it’s knit from the top down or the bottom up. If you add cables to the pattern, like in the Saddle Up pullover, well, it gets a little trickier.
Cable patterns are almost always written to be worked flat, with a right side and a wrong side. The cable crossings are worked on the right side rows. This simplifies things a little bit. You know those right side rows are the ones to watch out for.
At some point, you may need to work in-the-round. Then, you have the right side facing you all the time. Figuring out when to cross cables can be a little more difficult.
Here is a 4-stitch cable, where two stitches are crossed over two stitches, every 4 rows. The lines in the photo indicate the outside stitch of this Left Cross. See that hole just to the left of the crossing stitches? That’s caused by the crossing. (On a right cross cable, the hole would be on the right of the cable.)
When this cable is worked flat, there is a Right Side Row where you worked the cable cross, followed by a wrong side row, right side row and one more wrong side row. On the next Right Side row you would work a new cable cross.
When you work in-the-round you only have the Right Side facing you. Then you have Round 1 where you cross the cable, followed by Rounds 2, 3 & 4. Then cross again.
If you put something straight into the hole created by the crossing and run it under the horizontal bars to the needle, you should see the 4 bars. I used a sewing up needle but your cable needle may be handy and it would work great.
When you can count 4 bars, you are ready to cross again on the next round. If you have a 6 stitch cable, crossing every 8 rows/rounds, you would work until you can count 8 bars from the hole created by the last crossing. It works.
Have you tried this? I don’t use a cable needle. I was going to say I don’t own one but I think I do. It’s in the container with my set of straight needles which I also don’t use. Why do I still have them? That’s a very good question. Let’s not go there today.
One of my internet friends wanted to know how I get my cables to look so neat and tidy. My first thought was that I had no idea. I just do them and they turn out that way. But then, the next day, I remembered that I don’t use a cable needle. It’s not that I didn’t know I don’t use a cable needle, that would be sort of crazy, it’s that I haven’t used one for quite a long time so it doesn’t occur to me that they are needed to work cables.
So I did a video to show you how I do it. Thanks CD for the question that prompted this. I hope this visualization helps.
Only use the tips of your needles. Push all the stitches on your needles to the tips so you can maneuver your needles without pulling any of the stitches.
Take your needles to the stitches. Load the stitches going to the Back first. Once they are on your needle, Leave Them Where They Lie, usually slightly to the back of your work. Don’t move them because they will pull the stitches that are still hanging free.
Load the stitches going to the Front.
Cross the stitches to the Right or Left and load the stitches on your right needle onto the left needle. Check that you crossed them correctly. If not take them off and start again.
Knit across the cable stitches.
It’s a little risky but so satisfying and no cable needle to lose, imagine that!
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.
Do you know how I-cords work? They are a little bit of knitting magic. When paired with Garter Stitch they do all sorts of good things.
First, 2 or 3 stitches of I-Cord on the outside edges of garter stitch give it a tidy finish. This is sometimes called a Built-in I-cord because you work the I-cord edge as you knit the garter stitch fabric.
Secondly, because these outside stitches are slipped every other row, they give the edge stability. They are a tiny bit shorter because they are not worked every row. These I-cord stitches hold the edges firmly so the edge won’t stretch.
Garter Stitch with 2-stitch I-Cord edge: Knit to last 2 sts, bring yarn forward, slip the last 2 sts. This row is worked over and over, on both the right side and wrong side of the fabric.
When you slip the last 2 sts, your yarn is attached to the 3rd stitch in from the tip of the needle because that was the last stitch you knit. So what happens in the next row? You need to pull the wool across the back of your work, from the third stitch to the first stitch so you can knit the row. This pulls the first stitch around towards the back of your work, as you knit it.
Because these two stitches are slipped every other row they look like stockinette stitch. A 2-stitch I-cord is the tiniest tube you can knit around the edge of your garter stitch fabric.
The Saddle Up pullover begins with a Garter Stitch Saddle with I-cord edges, of course.
The Saddle begins at the left shoulder and is worked across to the the right shoulder, with a hole for your head in the middle. Pretty straight forward, right?
But that’s not all there is to it, of course. That would be way too easy. There is another way of working the 2-stitch I-cord.
There are occasions when you would like both the I-cord stitches to be rolling to the wrong side of your work. This can be done, too. The Saddle uses this technique for the Back of Neck stitches.
2-Stitch I-Cord rolling to the wrong side: Right Side Row: Knit to last 2 sts, leave yarn in the back, slip last 2 sts. Wrong Side Row: Purl 2 sts, knit to last 2 sts, yarn forward, slip last 2 sts.
What is that line down the middle of the Saddle? The shoulders of the Saddle for this pullover need a lot of extra stability since the sleeve will be trying to pull it down. So I added some non-stretchy stitches right down the centre. It looks like an I-Cord but it isn’t. The middle 2 stitches are slipped every other row and work the same way, in that these 2 stitches are a tiny bit shorter and won’t stretch. Thanks L for pointing this out.
There is one more reason for all this I-Cord business. A 2-stitch I-Cord gives you a sideways stockinette stitch for every garter ridge. In the Saddle Up pullover, stitches are picked up & knit along the bottom edge of the Saddle to form the Front which is worked flat, down to the bottom of the armhole. If you pick up & knit into the I-Cord stitch that has rolled to the back the Saddle, you get a very lovely line of stitches running between the Saddle and the Front. It will never stretch and it’s so very neat and tidy. Don’t you think?
You can add I-cord stitches to any garter stitch project. You may get to love them as much as I do.
Are you are interested in knitting this Saddle Up, drop shoulder pullover with me? I’m publishing each section as I get it done and tested. I’ll update the pattern with each new section as we go along. The Saddle section is up for sale.
I’m interested in any comments, corrections or problems you have with this pattern. I’ve included lots of photos and my blog posts will be featuring this pullover for the next month. Happy to have you join me.
While I was walking this last week, I had an idea. It just shows that walking can be hazardous to your blog.
I was strolling along, wondering what I would talk about on this blog post, well not really wondering, because it was going to be about cables, but there seems to be a problem. Cables aren’t the problem. The problem is I’m always going to rattle on about what I’m knitting at the moment. Since I’m designing and writing the pattern as I progress, that’s what you’re reading about.
That’s not going to stop. I almost always have some new idea on the needles in my hands. Right now it’s a drop shoulder, top down pullover with cables. This is my first prototype, for my son.
What I find frustrating is the delay between designing something and the pattern publication date. Maybe you find this too. I go on and on for months about a sweater I’m knitting. Then the pattern goes to test knitters and needs photographs and edits. Procrastination kicks in just about here, especially around photos. It won’t come out for several months after I’m done talking about it and definitely onto something new.
So, here goes. This is the idea. I will publish the pattern in stages. I’ll post the beginning of the pattern on ravelry for a small fee. We can call it a Knit-A-Long, sort of like a mystery sweater. I’ll talk about some aspect of it on the blog every week and send you an pattern update every week or so. We can knit the sweater together. This gives me the chance to write my blog as if I was teaching a class where I give you the instructions one page at a time over several weeks. I can tell you so much more about techniques and sizing in the blog than I can in a pattern.
The pattern is the Family Saddle Up pullover with cables. All sizes from 1 year old to large adult in any yarn (my suggestion would be for worsted, heavy worsted/aran weight or chunky weight yarn). The pullover will knit top down with saddle shoulders and drop sleeves. The saddle shoulders and the yoke will be knit flat to the bottom of the armholes, then joined in the round to the bottom. We’ll pick up the sleeves and knit down to the wrists.
I’ve cast on for a second sweater so I’m ready to go.
I’ll knit both the navy and white pullovers as we go along. While I’m at it, I’ll probably do a 2 year old size because I have a little guy to knit for.
I’m going to start next week. If you’ve got some sweater yarn and some free time, I hope you’ll join me. Stay tuned.
How do you choose cables that go together on a sweater when the choice is yours? It’s not so hard. Here is how I get started. Maybe this will be helpful to you.
I am knitting a Top Down, drop shoulder sweater. Beware, any pattern in a stitch dictionary is meant to be knit bottom up. If knitting Top Down, turn the book upside down when you’re looking at the photos because that’s what they will look like when they are knit. If you do this on the subway you may get some interesting looks.
I chose two different centre patterns that were both 32 rows deep.
On the left is Tangled Ropes, pg.80 in Charted Knitting Designs, A Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. Walker. On the right is #119 Crosshatch Bias from Knitted Cable Sourcebook by Norah Gaughan.
Now I chart them. This is swatching with a pencil. Even if they are charted in the stitch dictionary I do it again.
Is it hard to chart?
I love the Tangled Ropes but … I wore out an eraser charting this.
I found it hard to chart and I think it would be a little too complicated to knit for this project.
Look at this one, the Crosshatch Bias. Even though there are many cable crossings, they all cross the same way on each line. It doesn’t get any better than this.
OK, decision made. The centre pattern is settled. I’ve started knitting and it looks complicated even though it’s quite straight forward to knit. Gotta love that.
Then do the same for some side patterns. This time I need them to work with the 32 rows of the centre pattern, meaning that the repeats of the side patterns must add up to 32 rows.
I want one more wide pattern and found a couple I liked. One that was 8 rows deep and a second one that was 16 rows. I’m going with this one.
Then I need a small pattern to take up some space. A 4 stitch cable worked over 4 rows goes into 32 rows quite nicely.
Next, setting them up. Yes, still some work to do before the knitting can start.
If you can’t think of anything else to do, start a new project. That’s a good motto, don’t you think? I’m trying to convince myself to sew in the ends of the two V-Neck Cardigans I have finished. And that’s the trouble, right there. I think they’re finished. They are not. They require some after-knitting care and I struggle to do this with every single project I do. Every. Single. Project.
So of course, I started something new. A new sweater. It’s an idea I’ve been thinking about: a saddle shoulder, drop sleeve pullover with cables. Worked from the top down, of course.
So here we go. I started with a provisional cast on for an 8″ saddle which will be 4″deep on the front and 4″ deep on the back. I worked the shoulder in garter stitch to the width I wanted to the neck opening edge. Then I put the Front Stitches on hold and knit across the Back of Neck first.
Next I worked a small number of stitches for the bottom of the Front neck opening. This is going to give me a 3″ deep neck opening. I will pick up for the neckband later. Then I cast on for the other side of the neck opening and knit the other shoulder.
When it’s folded at the top of the shoulder it will work like this.
I hope this works because I’m quite captivated by this idea. Cables are coming up next. What do you think?
Sometimes a project catches you and you just can’t put it down. The V Plus Cardigan has a hold on me. Not just because I need a couple of new cardigans but because I’m back to sweater knitting, my first love. I can’t wait to get this published so you can get started too.
I finished the body of my first prototype. You might catch that the body wool is left over from the Salt & Pepper version of the Family Crew Neck pattern. I added the green stripes in the yoke to make the wool go a little farther since I didn’t have quite enough for a second sweater. (Briggs and Little, Heritage)
I’ve wet blocked the body just to make sure it’s all that it should be. Do you ever block part way through?
Before I embark on the last sprint, the sleeves, I wanted to be sure.
I’m so enamored with this cardigan that I started a second one. (Patons Classic Wool worsted) It’s interfering with the sleeve knitting but it doesn’t take much to do that.
Two, two, two cardigans on the needles. I am welcoming winter. Come and get me, I’ll be ready!
It’s definitely fall here. Although the weather is still warm, there are intermittent cool days which are causing my needles to twitch. It’s time to get back to sweater knitting. I’m ready to go. One navy, cabled, drop shoulder pullover coming up.
Meanwhile, my testknitters are knitting away on the Crescent FAN Shawl and giving me terrific feedback. I’ve finished my 3 colour version with all the stitch patterns and it’s blocking, waiting for a good photo day.
I’m knitting a garter stitch version in DK weight now. It’s terrific TV knitting. You might recognize the colours. They are leftover 50g balls from the Family Crew Neck striped version. I did have to buy one more colour to use these up. Doesn’t it always go that way?
And just to keep those twitchy needles working, I’ve picked up the V-neck cardigan that I was working on in the spring. Oops, I don’t think I told you about that one. It’s been languishing all summer but now it’s time to get going on it too.
Isn’t it satisfying to have lots of knitting to do?!
Designs sometimes have a forward/backward two-step dance to them. First step forward was knitting the blue and then gold bands for the shawl. When I realized that this crescent shawl shape was too curly, I ripped back. Yes, a large step backwards. Moving forward, I fixed it and I really like the overall shape.
Once I had it this far along, I decided that the V shapes where too small. I wanted to knit more texture stitches across the rows.
So I ripped the gold out one more time. Yes, one more time stepping back. I made the texture stitch shapes larger at the base. Now, after knitting this section again, I finally have it just like I want it. The shapes are like FANs so I changed the name of the pattern. Why not? Nothing is written in stone yet.
The gold yarn is 80/20 fingering by Shelridge.com and stood up really well to three knits. Yay.
I’m knitting the last band of colour as you read this. There is no stopping me now!
The pattern is off to the testknitters and I’m contemplating knitting another one. Hmm, what to choose this time? DK weight? Yeah, that would work.