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Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters

Combination Cables

I spent several cold winter days shooting this entire series of cable videos so, please, forgive me if I occasionally begin by saying things like “once again” or “we previously….”. Until I sat down and started editing the videos I wasn’t always sure which ones would include what information. The videos all seemed to edit out longer than I anticipated so some related topics were not ultimately covered in the same video. 

You are not limited to simple columns of cables on a knitting machine. By paying attention to which stitches are returned to the needles first, you can create all kinds of fancy, intricate-looking cables by working simple cables in pairs or groups.

It is always important to remember that the stitches that are returned to their needles first will show on the knit side of the fabric, but it is especially important when creating cables. One wrong crossing always seems to visually just pop right off the fabric and there is no hiding that kind of a mistake.

Sometimes I think of cable crossings in terms of right/left, meaning that I should cross the stitches from the right first and then from the left. You can also think of it as crossing towards the left and then towards the right. It doesn’t matter as long as you understand and can control the direction of the crossings and can be consistent throughout your fabric.

With paired cables, I tend to think about crossing in/out (or out/in) as the stitches relate to the center of the whole cable. Again, it doesn’t matter what you name the motions you use as long as they mean something to you and you can be consistent throughout.

Working From Charts

The solid, unbroken lines from lower left to upper right indicate that this is a right/back crossed cable.

Unless you work from a specifically machine knit pattern, cable charts are usually drawn for hand-knitters who almost always cross cables when working on the right side of the fabric. In a typical cable crossing, like the one shown at left, there is usually a solid, unbroken line designating the stitches that are knitted last so that they sit on the face of the fabric and define the direction of the crossing. 

In this example (handknitted) the cable is worked by slipping the first 3 (for example) stitches onto a cable needle and holding them at the back; then knit the next 3 stitches from the left-hand needle before knitting the 3 stitches from the cable needle. On a machine, you would remove both groups of stitches from their needles and return the right stitches to the left group of needles first and then the left stitches to the right needles to get the same effect.

When you move beyond columns of single cables and start pairing them up for braided effects, it becomes even more important to work with stretchy yarns as each cable tends to pull against the adjacent cables and things can get pretty tight. You definitely want some tension on the stitches to help define the shape of the cables, but you never want to risk breaking the yarn or damaging your machine. I almost always bring needles out to holding position after crossing cables. In fact, I usually just replace the first set of stitches on their needles in working position and then, as I return the second set of stitches to the needles, I pull them out to holding position in the same motion. If the needles are “kissing” and risk hooking onto each other, I nudge them back to upper-work position instead.

It isn’t always possible to have nice stretchy yarns to work with and if you have your heart set on a cabled cotton or acrylic sweater, you may need to rely on drop stitch or bridging to increase the size of some of the stitches. I often use short rows (bridging) to add a couple of extra rows to the stitches that will show on the knit side of the fabric. The extra rows make it easier to cross lots of wide cables or multiple cables close together and, more importantly, the extra rows help the cables stand up from the surface. I’ll show you some bridged cables in the next blog post, but figured I should mention it here.

I often count repeats, rather than rows, when working cables and many other hand-manipulated techniques. Very often I will make a list of row numbers and then use various symbols and short hand to designate what to do in which row. For example, if cables are supposed to cross to the right, I might show an arrow pointing to the right next to the row numbers; for popcorns, I often use a large dot (bullet) to designate those rows.  Some row numbers  may end up with several symbols next to them to indicate that there are cables to cross and corn to pop all in the same row. It is especially convenient when there are some cables that cross every 4 rows and others that cross every 6 rows. Whatever you do, don’t just rely on your memory or a head count to keep track of it all.

Gull and XO cables

The cable at left is a Gull Cable where the pairs of cables always cross out and then in. The cable on the right is a Hugs and Kisses Cable where the pairs of cables cross out/in twice and then in/out.

These cables, which are shown in the video are both based on pairs of cables and can be worked with two 2×2 or two 3×3 cables. Gull (also called Wishbone cables) always cross the same way – each of the cables crosses out, away from the center every time. So, I tend to think out/in for each of the cable pairs as I work them. Hugs and Kisses (X’s and O’s) cross out/in twice and then in/out twice so that the cables appear to open and close.

Braided and Woven Cables

The cable at left is a basic braided cable; the one at right is a woven cable. Both share the concept of splitting pairs and alternating the direction of the crossings from vertical repeat to vertical repeat. There is one less crossing in every alternate repeat.

Braided cables are worked by splitting pairs and alternating the direction of the crosses. In the first row of cable crossings, both cables cross right/left. In the next repeat there is only one cable that is formed by taking half of each of the previous cables and crossing left/right.

Woven cables are an extension of braided cables, usually worked over more groups of needles. They also utilize split pairs. In the example at left, there are four cables in the first repeat that cross right/left. The next repeat has one less cable because each of these cables is worked with half the stitches from each of the cables below, crossing left/right. The groups split so that the left pair of stitches from one cable below and the right pair from another form the new cable. The split pairs and alternating direction of the crossings are what contribute to the woven appearance of these cables.

8 Comments

  1. Mary on April 10, 2019 at 1:12 am

    Great video!! Thank you for helping us!!

  2. Maud Brorson on April 10, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    Hi, I have question about your classer on Craftsy. Now as they have changed, I cant find “your classes” that i bought.
    Could you please tell me how to find them!

    I love your way of teaching and look forward to everything that you tell and show!
    Thank You so much!
    Maud Brorson, Torsby, Sweden
    maud.brorson@telia.com

    • Susan Guagliumi on April 10, 2019 at 1:31 pm

      Hmm. Since they changed to Blueprint, I have also had problems with the site. I think they now call it something like “own forever classes” but if you cannot find that on your dashboard, you need to contact them directly – there should be a help button somewhere on your page – as I have nothing to do with the mechanics of the site. Wish I could help, but I really cannot. Glad you like the classes. In the next few months I will be privately releasing some new classes so stay tuned!

      • Jo on April 11, 2019 at 12:50 pm

        So if I am wanting to buy a class would it be better to wait for your new private ones or are the existing ones on Blueprint safe to sign up to? Thank you and greetings from UK.

        • Susan Guagliumi on April 11, 2019 at 1:35 pm

          Totally different. The 3 Blueprint classes start with the basics and build from there. The class I am currently producing is highlighting about 60+ techniques from the new book, Open Spaces, which would not be a class that beginners should start with. Not sure what your level of expertise is so you will have to judge for yourself.

  3. DelightedHands on April 11, 2019 at 8:42 am

    What I love about your teaching style is that you show us not only how to do the technique but you have the confidence that we will be able to do it also; and then we do! Thank you for this!

    • Susan Guagliumi on April 11, 2019 at 1:36 pm

      Thanks! That is what I always hope for!

  4. Diana Ghouse on April 29, 2019 at 11:12 am

    Susan, you’re a delight! Thank so much for your videos. They are so easy to watch and very informative too! I’ve enjoyed your craftsy class and look forward to more classes. I have a Brother 260 & 930e. Is your machine in the video a bulky? I would love to see videos on Passap! Not sure who even teaches with Passaps?
    Knit happy, Diana

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