Friday, December 05, 2014

Cable Knitting Tips, Part One

ETA Disclaimer: This post is not for beginner cable knitters. As I caution about midway, this post is intended for those of us who have put in miles of cabled fabric and may be wondering about how to make the cables better. Thank you for reading!

Bare Naked Wools Kent DK
I am into my third Glentrekker Cardigan, so what better time than this to focus on some cable knitting issues and solutions for them. First, I want to give you just a couple of cable facts from this project.

The Glentrekker pattern mentions the ubiquitous 2/2 RC (aka C4B, 4-st back cross, etc.) no fewer than 1,425 times. Of course, this includes every instance found in the written instructions for nine sizes as well as its place in the Stitch Glossary, but that's a lot! The symmetrical twin 2/2 LC only owns 171 mentions. That is all to say that the 2/2 RC cable is the default cable in the Glentrekker Cardigan, and I planned it this way. Not only is this a good, basic cable for which I have a soft spot, but it's also present in several of the other larger cables in the sweater, so it unifies the design. It's also used so freely to keep things at least a little easier in a project so riddled with cables. In other projects of this ilk, I have paired the 2/2 LC more often to mirror the 2/2 RC. However, that just involves more thinking. It's easier to remember this: Every stationary 4-st cable made up of knit stitches in the Glentrekker is a 2/2 RC. Period. 

What do I mean by stationary? I mean all cables that do not travel. There are a few 2/2 LC cables (and 2/2 RC) that must move around and eat up purl stitches or move across the reverse Stockinette background to get to where they interplay with others, but the ones that do none of these things are all 2/2 RC. Only we extremely cable-obsessed folks will be interested in this, so I'll move on.

In a more general way, I want to address the problem of loose stitches in cable knitting. Some of these loose stitches occur anytime there is a column of knit stitches before the same of purl stitches, as in many rib patterns. This problem can also interfere with the clean outlines of your cables.
Bare Naked Wools Breakfast Blend DK
Although not a part of a cable, the knit column along the front closure of the cardigan can get a little slouchy, and this same problem may occur in some cables, as I will show you next. For now, have a look in the above photo at the leftmost knit stitch in that column--it wavers a bit. What I have been trying as a fix is to purl the first stitch after that knit stitch by wrapping the yarn under the needle instead of over it, in other words, wrapping it clockwise. This uses less yarn than the usual purl, but it mounts the purl stitch backward. Combination knitters do this on purpose. This is easy enough to fix in the next WS row, and it can accomplish two other jobs for me. When knitting in the round, as with the sleeves of the Glentrekker, it can remind me of whether I am on a RS or WS round. If that purl stitch is mounted incorrectly, I'm on a WS round. If not, then time to twist it again! The other reminder is that when I come to this incorrectly-mounted (now knit) stitch on WS, as when knitting the body of the Glentrekker, I should keep the next stitch (now a purl) close to the needle so as not to stretch it. It was already loosey-goosey--let's not make it worse. This fix is easy to remember and to execute as I work. If that doesn't work for you, and you would like an even more involved fix that can make this particular slackness a thing of the past, Techknitter has some grand fixes here

As promised, here is the same offending problem along the side of the leftmost part of the center back cable of the Glentrekker. See that little vertical line just right of center? Yep, it wavers.

Moving on to another, similar problem...
You probably would not have needed the red boxes to train your eye to the loose stitches in this picture. I had not really noticed this problem until I started researching loose stitches in general. That was when I noticed that all my left crosses, namely my 2/1 LC cables, were all looser than my right cross ones. Why? 

Well, those stitches are being stretched out more. When I execute a right cross, I place the next purl stitch on the cable needle and immediately knit the next two stitches from the left needle before working the purl stitch from the cable needle. That first knit stitch from the left needle technically only moves over by one, and so does not become stretched. However, when I work a 2/1 LC, I first place the next two knit stitches onto the cable needle, then purl the (now third) stitch from the left needle before pulling that cable needle back and knitting the two stitches from it. The last knit stitch that I work has had to stretch twice as far to be worked in the new position. Once I figured out the problem, I had to figure out the solution, and I am still experimenting. 

One maneuver I am playing with is placing all three stitches back onto the left needle in their new order before working them. In other words, not allowing the two knit stitches to hang out on the cable needle while I work the purl stitch. Another possibility is to work the purl stitch after the cable (because this diamond cable sits on reverse Stockinette) by wrapping it clockwise, as in the first discussion. 

I'll have to work a few more repeats of the cable pattern and finish and block the sweater before I am sure about how much this actually fixed things. I was unable to find anyone else discussing this problem, and I may well be the only knitter experiencing this problem, but if you have any insight I would love to hear it! 

I expect that I'll be back with an addendum here, because I will continue to experiment. Until then, please chime in. Thanks!


Unknown said...

Hardest to follow knitting guidance I have ever read! Such arcane description. I will look for easier to understand tips.

Jen Hagan said...

Hello Unknown. Thanks for you input--it helped me to realize that I need to add a disclaimer that this is not for beginners! Also, I found an error in my post--thanks to you! If only you had left your real name so I could thank you directly. Thanks also for reading. :-)

Davina Choy said...

Hey Jen! I've been having the exact same problem as well! Those left-leaning crosses are pulled out of shape on the cross rows. Have you found a solution to this problem during your experiments? Really appreciate you documenting this!

Jen Hagan said...

Thanks, Davina! I had plenty of opportunity to pay closer attention to this when working all four samples of the recently published Figheadh Adcock Aran Cardigan, but forgot that I had promised to try to figure out a remedy to this problem. Thanks for reminding me, though. I will be paying closer attention on my next cabled project and maybe I can add to this discussion. I really appreciate your positive feedback! Happy Cabling!

Michele Schillerstrom said...

I am having a problem with a loose cable stitch, also. I know it's stretched too far but I can't always control it correctly. I cable without a needle but on my current project, I'm doing a 3/2CL so the final knit stitch is wonky. You do seem to be the only one on the web acknowledging the problem. I'm going to try wrapping my yarn clockwise on that stitch to twist it and then untwist it on the purl side. That might help a little bit. Thanks for your blog. I think I'll subscribe. :0

Jen Hagan said...

Hi Michele! I hope you've been able to tighten up that last cable stitch with the solution you tried. I'm so glad my post helped you a little. :-)