Cable knit designs

Cable knit designs DEFAULT

Cable & Twist Stitches

Cable and Twist stitches have a shaping effect that in a way is similar to a Rib Stitch, in that they create both relief and depth to any project by creating raised ridges. However, Cable and Twist patterns differ in that these ridges are knitted, so the yarn crisscrosses the surface of the fabric to give a braided or lattice effect.

Cable stitches are created by transferring a number of stitches to a Cable Needle while stitches from the left-hand needle are knitted, passing either in front or behind the cable. The stitches on the cable needle are either then transferred back to the original needle or knitted directly off the cable needle. Twist stitches are a variation (or mock version) of the cable technique that is produced without the requirement of a cable needle.

Cable stitches create a very dense fabric with little flexibility than normal knitting with a much narrower gauge. They are often associated with Celtic designs particularly Aran knitting named after the islands off the west coast of Ireland.

Whilst the prospect of adding a third needle to your knitting may sound daunting, cable knitting is relatively straightforward and gives brilliant texture to any project, whether its a pillowcase done in entirely in the Woven Cable Stitch that resembles the basketweave stitch rotated through 45 degrees or the poster child for cable stitches, the Braid Cable Stitch. Please check out our collection of Cable and Twist Stitches below.


How to cable knit: beginner’s guide and 24 cable stitch patterns

You’ve probably seen cabled knits on the high street and you might even have a cabled jumper, hat or scarf in your wardrobe. But did you know how easy it is to do it yourself? Learning how to cable knit is simpler than you think, and in this guide we’ll show you how it’s done.

In our guide on how to cable knit you’ll find:

How to knit cables

Cabling is the word that knitters use to describe any technique that crosses a set of stitches over other stitches. Crossing stitches allows you to create all sorts of textured effects, including twists, braids, rope-like patterns and chunky cables.

To work traditional cables, you need to place a set of stitches temporarily onto a cable needle, and hold them at the front or back of the fabric while you work another set of stitches. You then work the stitches on the cable needle. This moves the cable needle stitches to the left or right, creating a textured column in your knitted fabric.

With cable patterns it’s a good idea to make a tension square, because the stitches that are crossed over tend to ‘draw in’ your fabric. So if you cable quite tightly, this may throw off your stitch tension. If in doubt, make a swatch!

Usually all the cabling is done on the right side of the fabric, with the stitches on the wrong side worked plain to maintain the overall effect. The cable itself is usually worked in stocking stitch (knit on right side, purl on wrong side), on a background of reverse stocking stitch (purl on right side, knit on wrong side). This makes the cable stand out from the rest of the fabric.

So if the instructions for the wrong side read something like ‘work straight’ or ‘work stitches as set’ or ‘work stitches as they present themselves’, it usually means you should work the cables so they remain in stocking stitch on the front, and work the background so it’s reverse stocking stitch on the front. Reversible cables can be created by working the cables in a ribbed stitch, with the background in garter stitch or moss stitch, so that’s reversible, too.

Fishermen’s sweaters

Traditionally, cables were used to embellish the pure wool jumpers worn by fishermen. Each village, boat, family and individual had their own design. But each symbol also had its own meaning. For example, ropes are a wish for safety and good luck for a big catch; the honeycomb pattern is used to represent the nets and is a reminder of hard-working bees; and zigzags represent the dangers of the sea such as cliffs and storms.

Fishermen’s sweaters were designed for harsh weather – as the stitches twist over each other, the fabric created is thicker and more wind resistant. Because of all the twisting, yarns with good elasticity are best. Wool and acrylic yarns are well suited to cabling, but it is possible to get good results from cotton, viscose or silk, although cables knitted with these yarns may become stretched after some use.

Good stitch definition is vital for cables and they stand out best on smooth yarns in a solid colour, so avoid fuzzy or variegated yarns. High-twist yarns also give very good cable definition.

Reading cable abbreviations

Cable stitches usually have a single abbreviation, such as C4F. C stands for cable; the number is the stitches that are affected by the cable (4 means you put two onto the cable needle); and the letter tells you which side of the fabric to hold them (F for front, B for back). Cables are most often even in number (such as four and six).

Cables can be described in different ways, so do check the pattern abbreviations. Cable stitches held at the front will look like they’re twisting to the left, so a stitch that reads C4F is the same as one that reads C4L. Similarly, cable stitches held at the back will create a lean to the right, so a stitch that reads C4B is the same as one that reads C4R.

The number of rows a cable repeat takes is commonly the same as the number in the abbreviation. So a C4F will usually have three rows worked ‘straight’ for every cabled row – four rows in total. Use a row counter to keep track of which row you’re on.

Reading cable charts

Cable charts, like cable abbreviations, will often give one symbol for the entire cable section. When working charts in flat knitting, read right side rows from right to left, and wrong side rows from left to right. When working charts in the round, read all rows from right to left.

The charts will usually have numbers up the sides which will help you to keep track of where you are in the pattern. Another trick is to cover up rows you’ve already worked, to avoid working the same row twice – sticky notes that you can reposition are really handy for this, though you can also buy magnetic strips to use.

See our guide on how to read cable charts for an in-depth tutorial on knitting cables from charts.

How to knit a cable stitch

C4F knitting stitch: how to Cable 4 Front

The easiest cable technique, and the one most people try first when they’re learning how to cable knit, is Cable 4 Front (C4F). This twists the stitches to the left and creates the ‘twisted rope’ effect that you’ll probably recognise.

To practise this cable stitch, we recommend you use a smooth wool or acrylic-based DK yarn and a pair of 4mm needles. Cast on 22 stitches and on the first row, purl 9 stitches, knit 4 stitches, purl 9 stitches. This will be the right side of the fabric. Work the second row: K9, P4, K9. This will be the wrong side.

On the next row, you can start cabling. Work the row as follows: P9, C4F, P9. It might help you to place a stitch marker on both sides of the central column of four stitches so you know where the cabled panel starts and ends on every row. Work three rows ‘straight’ (as for your first, second and first row again), then repeat the cabling row on every fourth row. Pull the yarn tightly either side of the panel.

Keep going until you’re happy with the technique. Don’t worry if it looks uneven – cabling can take a little while to master, so just carry on practising.

You Will Need

  • Yarn
  • Knitting needles
  • Cable needle

Step 1

To work the C4F cabling technique, work the stitches of the background in reverse stocking stitch, up to where the cable pattern starts. Then take the yarn to the back of your knitting.

Step 2

Next, work the cable on the central column of stitches. To do this, slip the first two stitches purlwise onto a cable needle or a spare double-pointed needle. Hold these stitches at the front of the fabric.

Step 3

Knit the next two stitches from the left-hand needle, then slide the two stitches on the cable needle up to the end of the needle and knit them so that they are now both on the right-hand needle.

Step 4

Bring the yarn to the front of your knitting, and pull the yarn tight to avoid ladders along the side of the cable stitches. Purl the next stitch and continue as instructed in your knitting pattern.

C6B knitting stitch: how to Cable 6 Back

Twisting your cables in the other direction is just as simple. When you Cable 6 Back (C6B), you’ll create a twist that leans to the right. Working the cable over six stitches instead of four will also give your cable a chunkier look.

To practise this cable stitch, we recommend you use a smooth wool or acrylic-based DK yarn and a pair of 4mm needles. Cast on 22 stitches, and on the first row purl 8 stitches, knit 6 stitches, purl 8 stitches. This will be the right side of the fabric. Work the second row: K8, P6, K8. This will be the wrong side.

On the next row, you can start cabling. Work the row as follows: P8, C6B, P8. To help keep track of the central column of six stitches so you always knit the cable in the right place on the row, place stitch markers on both sides of it. Work five rows ‘straight’ and then repeat the cabling row on every sixth row. Pull the yarn tightly either side of the panel.

Keep going until you feel confident with the technique. If it looks uneven, don’t worry – the more you practise the neater your cabling will get.

Step 1

To work the C6B cabling technique, work the stitches of the background in reverse stocking stitch, up to where the cable pattern is going to begin. You could mark this with stitch markers.

Step 2

Next, work the cable pattern on the central column of six stitches. To do this, slip the next three stitches on to a cable needle. You could also use a spare double-pointed needle instead if you don’t have a cable needle.

Step 3

Take the cable needle with the three stitches to the back of the fabric (here, the cable needle is at the back of the knitting). Knit the next three stitches, pulling the first stitch tight to avoid ladders in the cable.

Step 4

To complete the cable, bring the cable needle to the front of the fabric and knit the three stitches from the cable needle. Purl the next stitch and continue as instructed in your knitting pattern.

Cable needles: what to buy

The simplest cable needle is short and straight with points at both ends. Cable needles with a ‘V’ bend in the middle are more likely to stay put while you hold stitches on them. Some cable needles are ‘U’ shaped, so you can let go once the stitches are on. Slide the stitches onto the shorter end and knit off the longer end.

Cables are best worked in 4ply, DK, aran or chunky yarn. Cable needles usually come in pairs, one thin and one slightly thicker. Use the thin one for 4ply and DK yarns, and the thicker one for aran and chunky.

Crossing stitches over each other may cause them to stretch. You can avoid this by using a cable needle slightly smaller than your ‘main’ needles.

We recommend using a cable needle when you’re learning to cable knit. Once you’re more confident at cabling it’s worth learning how to cable knit without a cable needle – it’s not as scary as it sounds, honest! Some knitters find they prefer cabling this way, while others stick to using a cable needle.

1. Straight cable needle

These classic straight cable needles from KnitPro are made in their gorgeous Symfonie wood. The tapered tips make it easy to pick stitches up, while grooves on the needles help to keep them in place. This three-pack includes sizes 3.25mm, 4mm and 5.5mm.

Buy KnitPro Symfonie Cable Needles

2. V-shaped cable needle

Pony’s popular cable needles have a curve to keep your held stitches where they’re meant to be, and are sleek and lightweight for easy knitting. The pack includes two needles, one 2.5mm wide and one 4mm, great for lighter weight yarns.

Buy Pony Cable Needle

3. U-shaped cable needle

This U-shaped cable stitch holder from Clover is designed to help prevent dropped stitches, making it a great choice for beginners. It comes in a set of three, sized small, medium and large, to suit a range of different yarn weights.

Buy Clover Cable Stitch Holders U-Shaped

4. Flexible cable needle

The Prym Yoga is a multi-functional cable needle, so as well as being great for cabling it also has a variety of other uses. Its flexible shaft means that it’s handy for holding or marking stitches, or using as a spare knitting needle. 4mm wide, it comes in a pack of two.

Buy Prym Yoga cable needle

Free cable knitting patterns: 3 to try

1. Knit a cable hat

Everyone needs a snuggly hat for winter, so make your first cable project this cosy head-warmer. Our unisex design is quick to knit, so grab a ball of your favourite DK yarn and cast on today!

Knit our free unisex cable hat pattern.

2. Knit a pair of fingerless gloves

Cable knitting isn’t just about traditional gansey patterns (although we love those too), so get creative with these playful owls, made from easy-to-knit cabled shapes and finished with button eyes.

Cast on the owl fingerless gloves knitting pattern.

3. Knit a bottle cosy

Keep your drink cool and your hands warm with our beer bottle cosy pattern. You can either knit it using a mixture of cables and intarsia colourwork, or make it in one shade for an easier knit.

Get the free beer cosy knitting pattern.

Cable stitch abbreviations

The world of cables can be confusing, especially if you see an abbreviation you’ve not done before. Sometimes cables can be called twists, so you might see T4F rather than C4F, but they often mean the same thing. If you’re working from a pattern, it should give you an explanation of the abbreviation and how to work the stitch. In case you do see a term you don’t know, here’s a guide to explain some of the cabling and twisting techniques you might come across.

As you read through all these different cabling techniques, you’ll see that some twists work with odd numbers of stitches, while others create rib-effect cables by mixing up knit and purl stitches. There are near-endless possibilities for cabling and twisting stitches to create all sorts of effects!

C2B: Cable 2 Back
Slip next st to cable needle and hold at back of work, K1 from left needle, then K1 from cable needle.

C2F: Cable 2 Front
Slip next st to cable needle and hold at front of work, K1 from left needle, then K1 from cable needle.

C3B: Cable 3 Back
Slip next st to cable needle and hold at back of work, K2 from left needle, K1 from cable needle.

C3F: Cable 3 Front
Slip next st to cable needle and hold at front of work, K2 from left needle, K1 from cable needle.

Cr2b: Rib Cross 2 Back

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Cables. We’ve all seen and admired them — expressively textured motifs that look like raised columns twisting around each other, criss-crossing, or meandering across planes of knitted fabric.

Surprisingly, cables are quite simple to work. In the most fundamental sense, they are made by knitting groups of stitchesout of order— you place a couple of stitches on hold, work the next stitches, then return to work the previous stitches you placed on hold. As a result, these groups of stitches quite literally cross over or twist around each other. The most ornate cabled motifs are formed by clever interpretations and variations on this essential technique of knitting stitches out of order.

Anatomy of a Basic 2/2 Cable Cross

One of the most basic and familiar cable motifs involve narrow columns of stockinette stitches twisting orcrossingover each other every couple of rows. Typically, these columns are surrounded by a background of reverse stockinette and appears like twisted rope.

In this swatch we have two “rope” columns. Both columns involve 2 knit stitches crossing over its neighboring 2 knit stitches every 4th row. The column on the rightmost edge slants to the right and the column on the leftmost edge slants to the left. We’ll show you how to work this cable, also called a 2/2 (Two-by-Two) Cable Cross, here.


First you’ll need (in addition to your yarn and your knitting!) acable needle. These are small needles designed specifically for holding stitches aside as you knit a cable. They come in various diameters, can be made out of various materials, and are sometimes curved or have grooves in the middle to help your held stitches stay in place. However, you can also use a standard double-pointed needle for the same purpose.

We recommend choosing a size or diameter that is slightly smaller than the needle size you’re using for your project, but not so small that the stitches you’re placing on hold slip off.

Knitting a 2/2 Right Cable Cross

Step 1.Work as directed by the pattern up to the stitches you will be cabling.

The 2/2 Cable Cross involves 2 stitches crossing over another 2 stitches. It’s worked over 4 stitches total, so here we have our 4 stitches ready and waiting on the left needle (LN).

Step 2.Slip 2 stitches (one half of your 2/2 Cable Cross) purlwise from the LN to a cable needle (CN) or double-pointed needle (DPN).

Step 3.To make a 2/2 Cable Cross (or any other cable cross) that slantsto the right(2/2 Right Cable Cross), maneuver your CN so that the held stitches areto the backof your work (behind your LN).

Tip:Most, if not all, cabled patterns will always instruct you where to hold your CN for a particular cable, so don’t worry if you don’t always remember where to hold your CN for a right (or left) cable cross!

Step 4.Skipping the 2 stitches held on the CN (at the back of your work), knit 2 from the LN.

Step 5.Knit the 2 stitches you’ve placed on hold. You can knit them directly off of your CN (as we’ve done here), or slip them back to the LN before knitting off of the LN.

And there you have it — a lovely little cable that slants to the right!

Knitting a 2/2 Left Cable Cross

Step 1.Again, work as directed by the pattern up to the stitches you will be cabling.

Here we have our next 4 stitches on the LN ready to go for another 2/2 Cable Cross.

Step 2.Just as before, slip 2 stitches purlwise from the LN to a CN.

Step 3. For a 2/2 Cable Cross that slants to the left (2/2 Left Cable Cross), keep your held stitches at the front of your work.

Step 4.Skipping the 2 stitches held on the CN (at the front of your work), knit 2 from the LN.

Step 5.Then, knit the 2 stitches you’ve placed on hold on the CN, whether directly off of the CN (as we’ve done here), or after slipping them back onto the LN.

Voila!You’ve just worked a 2/2 Right Cable Cross and a 2/2 Left Cable Cross.

When you stack these cable crosses on top of each other, as we’ve done here (every 4th row), you create a lovely twisted column that resembles rope. You can play with how many stitches you cross over each other (3/3 or 6/6, perhaps?) or how many rows or rounds you work between your cable crosses.

Tip:Sometimes it can be tricky to count how many rows you’ve worked after a cable cross row. Here’s a tip — when you work a cable, you’ll get a small little hole at either side of the cable cross (it’s natural!). Find the hole (the one on the left side will always be more pronounced than the one on the right side) and insert a needle tip into it. You’ll see ladders — maneuver your needle behind the ladders and come out of the topmost “rung”.

The bottom-most “rung” indicates the row where you made your cable cross. The steps above it indicate how many rows have been worked after the cable cross row. Here, we see that 3 plain rows have been worked after the cable cross row.

Limitless Combinations

At its root, knitting cables is simply knitting stitches out of order. However, once you introduce into this equation some very clever variations — manipulating how many stitches cross over each other, experimenting with how often the stitches cross and at what points in the fabric, playing with different textural stitch patterns, or exploring symmetry and asymmetry in the direction of cable crosses — you’ll find that the possibilities for the combinations you can create are quite endless!

If you’re interested in learning more and crossing over to the spell-binding world of cables, we highly recommend Norah Gaughan’sKnitted Cable Sourcebook, where she says herself, “Honestly, after 40-plus years of working with [cables], I feel as if I have barely begun to uncover their potential. It is an exciting adventure to which I welcome you.”

And if you’re eager to get cabling right now, explore the cabled patterns in our extensive pattern archive!

How To Knit Cables C6F with Linda Whaley Knit Studio.

17 Cable Knitting Patterns


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