Hot Tip: Keep your cables straight

Hot Tip: Keep your cable directions straight

It occurs to me this might have been a useful Hot Tip to offer up at the start of the Amanda knitalong. (Oops.) I’m always encouraging people to knit cables early and often — such an insanely simple thing with such a huge effect. All you do is slip a designated number of stitches onto a cable needle or spare DPN, knit the next stitches from your working needle, then knit the stitches from the cable needle. And voila, a cable! That’s all it is! In my world-class illustration above, you would need to do this exactly two times to create the fabric pictured, and the world will think you’re a savant of some kind. The only trick is remembering whether to hold the cable needle in front or back of the work while doing this, as that determines which direction your cable will twist. Hold it in back for a right twist. Hold it in front for a left twist. I’ve never heard a really perfect tip for remembering which is which, but I once heard Josh Bennett say that the best thing he’s ever come up with is to say to himself, “I’ll be RIGHT behind you.” Meaning if the held stitches are behind the work, the cable will twist right. Right = behind. After hearing that, I mentally added “wouldn’t want to get LEFT out front.” And I’ve never struggled with cable directions since, even though this pair of sayings is relatively random. So I’m offering them up to you in case you find them useful, and fully expecting many of you to have other/better suggestions on top of that. Bring it on!


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18 thoughts on “Hot Tip: Keep your cables straight

  1. Hello

    I’m a distant cousin on your dad’s side (Hester) in all honesty, I think I’m your 75th cousin 42 times removed!😉 (I just know we are related!)

    I learned to knit 50 years ago by my aunt Eileen…whose way of practicing was to teach me

    I learned to cable…when I gave up trying to figure out “mock cables”

  2. Karen, thanks. I for one can do cables any time, any day and attempt to jam so many onto one row. I’m reminded by a sweater I made for my son years ago. I was pulling in cables from everywhere. He and my daughter-in-law don’t even like cables never mind 15 different ones going in so many directions. lolol Live and learn. Whatever you need, I can help too.

    I do love the Reminder sayings for which way to twist: Right behind and left out in front. Since I too am knitting along and then noticing my cable is going in the opposite direction!

  3. Karen, I thought I would share privately that I spent most of the afternoon yesterday on the O-Wool’s website and in email conversation with Jocelyn. She was so helpful and lovely. I never would have found her without your blog.

    I have picked out yarn for 2 projects to purchase from her and was busy this morning finding patterns….lol….as if there’s nothing in my queue for 2015 or 2016. Ha! So very critical to immediately line up stuff for 2017 and beyond!

    At any rate, thank you very very much.


  4. I’ve found that cabling without a cable needle has solved this problem for me….because you end up pulling the stitches in the direction you want the cable to lean…..sure, it was a teeny bit scary the first time, but totally liberating after that!!! (and I don’t have to dig around in the seat cushions—or under the car seat!!!—when I drop the cable needle any more!)

  5. I always chant “right, rear” to myself. Then I know left is out in front. That little bit of alliteration helps me immensely!

  6. I am currently working on a sweater with a 5 strand cable up the middle. Now I will chant your little rhyme as I work. I am a visual person-and so when knitting a sweater with lots of pattern work-I have my chart and colored highlighters next to me :) !
    I agree-that cables are really not so scary! I remember my first cable lesson-we had two women here for a farmstay from Switzerland. They were sisters, born in Norway, and had been knitting since they could hold needles in their hands. As little girls, they knit mittens for the men in the war. When they learned that I had never done cables and thought they were intimidating, they insisted on a lesson. So the next morning, after breakfast, we sat together -they speaking German and me, English, and they taught me how to cable. Cabling knows no language barrier!

  7. Thanks for this neat little mnemotechnic trick! I myself have been going with “I’ll be RIGHT back” and “I LEFT the front door open”, which I picked from Stephen West. And what’s great is that the same trick applies to M1L (make one left) and M1R (make one right) augmentations, when you’re wondering how to pick up the running strand between two stitches.

    • I was going to say “I LEFT the FRONT door open; I’ll be RIGHT BACK” would work marvelously for this too! I use it to remember increases; it had never occurred to me it would also work for cables. Genius!

  8. That’s a good way to remember the cables, thanks. I use a trick with vowels but it works only in French, so will not detail it here. The Right behind you is really clever, I’ll try to use this for my next cable work. The cables I’m working on right now are weaved as I knit, so my worry is on getting them under or over in the correct way, which is slightly more tricky than right and left.

  9. Pingback: Herhmmm…. | Crafted

  10. That’s similar to the trick I use to remember M1L vs M1R – I think “Be right back” and know that to make a M1R I put the needle through the yarn from the back :)

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