Cables are Cool

Cables are Cooool <<<click for pattern page on Ravelry

First off, you have to say the title of this hat in the correct way. You have to use your best number 11 (Matt Smith) Dr. Who voice. (link is to video). It is a subtle reference, but hey, I like to amuse myself.

Cables are Cool: A two color cable hat featuring slipped stitch color work by Barbara Benson

Cables are Cool

Now – you probably know I have a weakness for slipped stitch/mosaic style color work. I keep dreaming up ways to incorporate it into other knitting techniques to try and do something a wee bit novel. And it avoids stranding. I don’t like stranding. I mean I can totally do it if I really want to, and I might yet design a stranded pattern, but for now I am having too much fun with slipped stitches.

Cables are Cool: A two color cable hat featuring slipped stitch color work by Barbara Benson

This is the smaller version

Which led to this hat. My newest victims are cables. How to create a cable that looks like two different color cables that weave in and out of each other. I think I managed the effect quite well. Now, this isn’t a beginner level pattern. I had to create my own cable nomenclature (which might give you a clue to why these two posts came about) and fiddle about with the charting software a bit. But I think I ended up with something that makes logical sense.

Cables are Cool: a two color, slouchy cable hat with slipped stitch color work by Barbara Benson

I love it when I catch Fatimah laughing

And then there was the matter of yarn. I wanted to use something that had a wide palate of colors that people could choose from and that was a joy to knit with. Luckily I was able to work with the amazing color minds at Dream in Color and they provided their luscious new revamp of their worsted base Classy. Super soft and easy to work with, I am thinking it will become my go-to for when I want a plied worsted yarn. Nice and floofy and in a bajillion colors, I just couldn’t go wrong.

Cables are Cool: a two color, slouchy cable hat with slipped stitch color work by Barbara Benson

I like the brim and think I could have gone even bigger.

For shape I wanted to go with a nice slouch, mostly because it allowed me to repeat the cables more – because more cables = good. I decided to end the cables before I really got into the crown decrease because really, who wants to fiddle with the decreases and the cables at the same time? The fun thing with this technique is that it allowed me to have this cool stripey pattern on the top. If you wanted you could switch to knitting in solid after you finish the last cable and have a solid top.

Cables are Cool: a two color cabled hat featuring slipped stitch color work by Barbara Benson

See, laughing

After finishing the first hat I had a ton of yarn left over and I decided to go ahead and knit a smaller version. The Adult/Large is a very loose fitting hat. It stays on but does not bind the head. Because of that people with heads on the smaller end of the spectrum might find it a bit too big. Hence a smaller size. But it is for quite small heads and will therefore also be appropriate for your bigger youths (tweens/teens). While knitting the smaller hat I also tried out a brim variation because – well, why not? Because it is just ribbing you could make it as long as you want to have a big fold-over brim. I went with four inches total for a 2 inch brim when folded.


Between the different sizes, brim options and color choices – you can really make this hat your own. I cannot wait to see what people knit up? What do you think your preferences would be?



BitterBlue – the reveal

It started innocently enough. One of my fabulous testers for In Uffish Thought sent me a note with her progress. She mentioned, off-hand, that she had to resist the urge to put a bead at the tip of each point.

I could have named this shawl Cascade Effect, I might keep that name for the future. But its name is BitterBlue.

Lace shawl worked in gradient yarn with gradient beads by Barbara Benson.

One last tease

The process of knitting my sample for Uffish was quite enjoyable, I really like the shape and the knit was pretty simple. In the past I have explored different designs with the same shaping – why not with this shape? Of course, Uffish features the teeniest of cables, so the logical next step was lace (for me at least).

Beads and lace play so nicely together.

BitterBlue - a lace shawl knit in gradient yarn with gradient beads, by Barbara Benson.

An alternate color scheme “Magic Carpet”

And if a few beads are good then more are better, right? Then the gradient yarn idea hit me and I thought to myself “Would it be possible to do a gradient in beads? What if the gradient in the beads went in opposition to the gradient in the yarn?” Yes, this is how my brain works.

BitterBlue - a lace shawl in gradient yarn with gradient beads, by Barbara Benson.

This is in the namesake color BitterBlue

There had to be enough beads to make the gradient visible as a “thing” but I didn’t want to overkill. The final product is the result of a delicate balance of my personal desire for the sparkle and my desire to not be beading anymore. Because beading is time consuming – but oh so worth it.
BitterBlue, a lace shawl worked in gradient yarn with gradient beads, by Barbara Benson.

This is the full size and shape

As I mentioned in my teaser post, this project represents the creative efforts of not just myself, but a couple of other very talented ladies. Kelly from The Unique Sheep and Ellen from Earthfaire contributed their amazing abilities in their respective fields to create this end result – which I think is the perfect meeting of yarn, beads & knitting. They have put together kits of these two color schemes and there are a few that will be available here if you missed out on the pre-order.
The pattern itself is fairly straightforward knitting. Knits, purls, yarn overs and basic decreases with some slipped stitches thrown in for good measure. I am not gonna lie, the beading slows you down – but it isn’t difficult. Just bust out your wee crochet hook and you are on your way. As with In Uffish Thought, the pattern is worked from one pointy end towards a long bind off (which naturally I beaded) and is therefore fairly flexible in sizing & yardage.
BitterBlue- a textured lace shawl knit in gradient yarn with gradient beads, by Barbara Benson.

So many ways to wear this shawl!

Earthfaire is hosting a KAL for the shawl in September in their Ravelry group and I will definitely be there to answer questions and provide cheer-leading. But mostly to ooh & ahhh at the pretties. ;) I could post about a dozen more pictures, but I think it better to go ahead and release the post into the wild. Hope you love it!
To wrap things up I wanted to send out an enormous Thank You to Lois. Lois is the reason why there is a sample in both of the colors, while I knit the original in the BitterBlue, I did not have the time to do the Magic Carpet version. Lois applied her experience with both beading and The Unique Sheep gradiances and produced the beauty that you see up there!


Pondering Patterns

Remember way back in May when I went to TNNA? I know, it seems like forever ago … but it has been fresh in my mind. Immersing myself in the world of knitting and yarn was a fantastic if exhausting experience. My primary goal for the trip was simply networking. I figured that I had (and have) a whole industry to learn and my best bet was going to be doing more listening than talking and trying to learn as much as possible. All in all the trip was an overwhelming success for me.

But, I also had a secondary, you know – just in case it happens – goal. I wanted to investigate the idea of getting my patterns out there into local yarn stores in hard copy. Why you might ask? Well, believe it or not, there are knitters who are not on Ravelry. Heck, there are knitters who aren’t even on-line (much). And while I personally prefer the more direct contact I get with knitters that direct digital sales provides, I would like to reach those knitters that prefer to have a printed copy of the pattern in their hands.

I understand, I don’t like reading books on an e-device and I am sure it is a similar thing.

As is happens, the stars aligned, one thing led to another and I ended up talking with the amazingly talented Heather Zoppetti who is the one woman force of nature behind Stitch Sprouts. The impetus behind writing this post was a new blog post on the Stitch Sprouts blog announcing the New Designers. I am totally excited, and frankly slightly stunned to be included among all of the talented designers at Stitch Sprouts. Many of them I met and got to know at TNNA (hurrah for the break down team!) and I wish I could have them all living around me so that we could plot and scheme constantly. But alas, designing is a relatively solitary pursuit.

I now have my very own page on the Stitch Sprouts site – here is a screen grab for proof:

Stitch Sprouts designer, Barbara Benson

A snap shot of the website.

The upshot of all of this is that your local yarn store can now carry my patterns! All they have to do is go on the Stitch Sprouts site and sign up for the upcoming catalog. And really, I think it will be well worth it. There is such a great variety of patterns in both knit and crochet that, even if they don’t like my stuff, they are sure to find something that will be a hit in their store.

Along with the patterns, Heather also carries some absolutely lovely yarns and some really fun stitch markers. My favorite of the stitch markers are these:

Stitch Sprouts paper stitch markers

The weigh pretty much nothing

Do you know what these are made out of? Paper! And where did the paper come from? Old Stitch Sprouts catalogs! Isn’t that brilliant? They take the old catalogs and instead of chucking them in a landfill they get torn into wee strips and turned into beads. Heather then turns the paper beads into snag-less stitch markers et voila! Upcycled. Totally one of those “why didn’t I think of that” moments when I found out.

Big news to round out the Summer, eh? If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask. And if you think that your LYS would like to carry my patterns, please pass the info along. Thanks!

au Courant

What do you want to hear about? Do you want to have a detailed description of the pattern proposal process and the wonderful experience that was working with Twist Collective? Or do you want to peer into the dusty corners to try and understand the slightly off mind that would even dream of combining these two techniques? Maybe you want to see my relatively pitiful attempt at a “fashion sketch” that is required for pretty much all proposals?

Or do you just want to see the pretty pictures? Because we can totally do that!

Hand knitted color-work lace stole from Barbara Benson

Photo by Linus Ouellet courtesy Twist Collective

I was waiting impatiently to see how the photography for this shawl turned out … and I was not disappointed. I hope you love it too. This pattern involved quite a bit of indulging myself. If you hadn’t noticed, I like to push the boundaries a bit, break a rule here and there. One day I was visiting my best friend (who is a knitter of course) and I started paging through her copy of The Haapsalu Shawl and, just like any knitter, was in awe of the beauty of these intricate stitches.

But can I leave well enough alone? Hah! Never. Where I stray from being on the “normal” side of things is that my first thought was “how can I make this two color?” The review I linked to refers to the book as “The Estonian Barbara Walker” which explains a great deal, considering my obsession with Walker’s Mosaic knitting concepts. Long story short (don’t laugh) I spent a great deal of time figuring out how to make this happen.

Knitted color-work lace shawl pattern by Barbara Benson

Photo by Linus Ouellet courtesy Twist Collective

And this was the result. I will be forever grateful to Twist Collective for being willing to publish such a adventurous pattern. The entire issue is absolutely beautiful and if you haven’t taken a look at it yet, you should. I will be here when you get back.

It is a big piece, my biggest to date. I am not going to lie, it is a lot of knitting. But it was nothing that even resembled a chore because of the unbelievable yarn I had to work with. The incomparable Miss Babs supplied the perfect blend of Merino and Silk in her fingering weight Shiruku in the colors Helen of Troy and Cygnus. In my proposal to Twist I was fairly adamant that they yarn needed to contain silk. This was necessary for a couple of reasons.

The slip stitch color-work technique used in the pattern creates a situation where there is a lot of compaction of the stitches. If you have handled any “traditional” mosaic work it can be quite … dense. Much of my development time has been centered around figuring out ways to thwart this tendency. One solution I have arrived at is knitting at a larger gauge than normal. A second component is the lace itself; adding in holes creates a more bendy fabric. The silk is the final component.

Silk has fine drape and allows the fabric to move and flow just as a shawl should. It also has very little memory so it improves the shawl’s ability to retain its shape once it has been blocked. Now, you might ask “Why not just go 100% silk?” which is a good question. Silk tends to be a very well defined yarn and the stitches stand out individually. Which is not precisely what I wanted. My yarn needed some floofiness, some bloom. It needed to fill in a bit so that the color-work had more of a presence.  So the Merino/Silk blend is perfect! And shucks if I didn’t have to knit with it. The sacrifices I make for y’all. ;)

A knitted stole combining mosaic style color-work and Estonian lace from Barbara Benson

Photo by Linus Ouellet courtesy Twist Collective

Well, I have babbled on haven’t I? Considering that I started out with questions please let me know in the comments if there are any questions you have about this new shawl. If it is complicated enough, or if there is more than one, I can do a whole additional post. If you have an easy one I will answer in the comments.

I want to wrap things up by sending a special Thank You out to the awesome Raveler CathyG. The knitting of this shawl took place during my jaunt around the MidWest and she was kind enough to allow me to take over an entire room in her house to block this big guy. Crawling around on the floor with someone is an excellent bonding experience and I was pleased to have it with you!

Sneak Preview – BitterBlue

There has been scheming going on. Scheming and plotting with a bit of nefarious activities on the side. All of it started around February of this year and I have been plugging away at it with my co-conspirators ever since.

A sneak peek at a new beaded shawl from Barbara Benson, The Unique Sheep, and EarthFaire

A little peek at the shawls.

Have you heard of EarthFaire? It is a lovely online store that has a very tight focus on beaded knitting. The proprietor of EarthFaire is Ellen and I was lucky enough to get to know her when she contacted me regarding Caladan and I was pleased as punch that she wanted to carry the shawl as a kit. Kits are what she specializes in, being a private shopper for you and your knitting. She matches the perfect yarn and the perfect beads with a pattern so that you don’t have to guess what is going to work.

A sneak peek at a new beaded shawl from Barbara Benson, The Unique Sheep, and EarthFaire

I could take “arty” pictures all day.

After working with her for several years I felt that she might not think I was completely crazy when I approached her with a slightly crazy idea and I was right. She was game and she brought the amazing Kelly from The Unique Sheep in on the plan and we were off like a shot! Using two images that I had earmarked as inspirational for their color palates, Kelly crafted two new and beautiful Gradiance Color-ways to be used in an new shawl pattern.

A sneak peek at a new beaded shawl from Barbara Benson, The Unique Sheep, and EarthFaire

A slightly different angle gives slightly different hints.

Ellen worked with me to pick the perfect beads and then it was up to me to get the patterning and knitting done. With the help of a wonderful sample knitter to handle one of the shawls I am now at the point where I need to shoot the final photos and put the finishing touches on the pattern. But the reason I am posting this today is that if this idea excites you – you don’t have to wait. EarthFaire has put the kit up for pre-order on her site here! She has tons of info on there that I won’t be all redundant about, but it is worth looking at for details about club exclusives, pre-order discount, and a knit-a-long.

A sneak peek at a new beaded shawl from Barbara Benson, The Unique Sheep, and EarthFaire

The most revealing shot.

As she mentions, the pattern will be available on Ravelry – but if you want the custom colors you can only get them from EarthFaire. I will be releasing the pattern in September to coincide with the yarn and kits being ready. This gives me a wee bit of time to get all of my ducks in a row. In the meantime, you can be sure that there will be some blog posts about how to put beads on your knitting.

Anatomy of Cable Abbreviations, part two

I seriously had to resist naming this post “part Deaux” or  “Abbreviations Reloaded” or “The Cable Strikes Back” … I am just full of the silly.

Onward and upward!

Learn how to decipher a written cable abbreviation in a knitting pattern, part Two. -TumpedDuck

Cable/cross two right

Diving right back into crossing cables – we are now looking at Right and Left cables.

To start off with, these are 100%, absolutely identical to the Front and Back cables in execution, we are just looking at different nomenclature. Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe as one says. Now for the break down

  1. C – once again letting you know you are fixin’ to cable or “cross” your stitches. This is the same as understanding that ‘k’ is telling you to knit and ‘p’ is telling you to purl.
  2. A Number – nothing new here. This is letting you know how many stitches are involved in your upcoming cable. In this case you will be crossing 2 stitches, but how? (As usual, if the number is even it is assumed that you will split the stitches evenly.)
  3. Direction – here is where things are changed up. With Front and Back you are being told what to do with the stitches. Left and Right lets you know what the end appearance of the cable will be after you have completed the stitch swap. Yeah. I know. It is time for a picture
Understanding how a Right Cable moves - TumpedDuck

A Right Cable



What you see to the right is a Right crossing cable. The black arrow represents the stitches moving to the front and the brown arrow is the stitches moving to the back. Right is referring to the direction of movement of the stitches that are held to the front of the work. The arrows show the directionality of the stitches. When considering the constituent stitches of the cable (here there are a total of two stitches) you are moving the left-most stitch to the front and over the right-most stitch.

Try to remember: in a Right cable the front stitches move from left to Right.

Learn how to decipher a written cable abbreviation in a knitting pattern, part Two. -TumpedDuck

Cable One over Two Left

Understanding how a Right Cross Cable (CL) moves. - TumpedDuck

A left Cable

As in the Back/Front cables, you can also have an uneven number of stitches and the abbreviation works pretty much the same way.

  1. C – I think you might have this by now. C = this is a cable. You, dear knitter will be cabling before you know it!
  2. A Number – remember, this is not a fraction. The / symbol should be read as “over”, so this tells you that it is a one over two cable. If you were passing two stitches over one then the number would be written 2/1.
  3. Direction – this is a Left cable so you know that your end result is a cable where the front stitch(es) appear to twist to the Left. In the case of this stitch you already know from the number that your single stitch is passing over the other two stitches. Because this is a Left cable that means that the first stitch is held to the front, you knit the next two stitches and then the held stitch. The single stitch is passing from the right to the Left. If you follow the diagram to the right you can see the black arrow representing the direction the front stitches move.

For a Left cable try to remember that the front stitches mover from the right to the Left.

Now, I find the Left/Right naming convention to be considerably more confusing than the Front/Back, but to each their own. Whatever clicks the best in your brain you just go for it! If you need to draw parallels between the two styles of naming you can try to remember that Right = Back and Left = Front. My mnemonic for that is R&B. For some reason my musical nature always associates R&B together (Rhythm and Blues anyone?) so I can remember that R(ight) goes with B(ack).

Incidentally, this is the same way I remember how to work a Right leaning increase. When you want your M1 to lean right you pick the strand up from the back. R&B just go together (in my crazy brain). Do you have any knitting mnemonics?

Anatomy of Cable Abbreviations

My newest project has been working on cables. For some reason lace came instinctively to me. YO = hole. Big circle on a chart = hole. Even the basic increase and decrease abbreviations and symbols made complete sense. (Well, I admit to having a bit of difficulty remembering which of ssk vs k2tog leaned which way) But cables are a challenge.

Not precisely a challenge to actually knit , I can follow instructions just fine. But to truly internalize what all of the symbols mean – well, that has taken some time. And I don’t know that I can say with 100% certainty that I have got it. Hopefully I am close. While writing a pattern I have had to come to a concrete decision on one particular issue. Abbreviations. I have to pick a style and stick with it, and there lies the conundrum.

Are the two kinds of cable crosses Front/Back or Right/Left. They both mean the same thing but represent two different ways of thinking about things. To prevent any suspense, I settled on Front/Back because that is what makes the most sense to me. But there really isn’t a correct way of doing it. As long as I remain consistent I hope that everything will work out all right.

To the subject at hand. For now I don’t want to address reading cables on a chart. It isn’t that difficult to find guides to reading charted cables, but when I started really looking online to find somewhere that breaks down understanding the abbreviations used in written instructions for cabling – well, I came up a bit short. I am going to put this out there, and it is my understanding of how it all works. If I have erred at some point, please do not hesitate to let me know personally or in the comments. As I said, I have come to grips with cables through a difficult path and I might have miss-stepped along the way.

The best way to understand how to cross a cable is to read the instructions provided in the pattern. A good pattern writer will describe how you are to execute the cable based on the abbreviation they use. That being said, I would like to arm you with the ability to suss out what the cable means if you are in a situation where details are unavailable. Onward (allonz-y)!

Learn how to decipher a written cable abbreviation in a knitting pattern. - TumpedDuck

Cable Two Back

This is what a basic cable abbreviation looks like. The specific cable illustrated would be written out Cable Two Back. The abbreviation can be broken down into three elements – which I have labeled as such.
  1. C – this big ole c starting things off announces, “Hey, we are fixin’ to cable!”. Some say that the C stands for cable others that the C stands for cross. Regardless, when you see the C prepare yourself to cable.
  2. A Number – the number tells you how many stitches are involved. (edited for accuracy, for original see*) In this example there are two stitches involved which will be crossing one over one. You could also see C4B – which would indicate crossing 2 over 2, C6B … and so forth.
  3. Direction – this tells you whether you are crossing Front or Back. This letter can be one of four options B, F, R or L. For now we are sticking to F & B, specifically looking at a Back cross. When dealing with the Front/Back naming system you are being instructed what to do with the first stitches you come to. With Back this tells you that the first 2 stitches of your 4 stitch cable will be held to the Back of the work, the next two stitches will be knit (and therefore cross to the front of the work) and then you will knit the stitches from the cable needle.

If there is no number, meaning that you have run across the abbreviation CB or CF, then you can safely assume that it is a 1/1 cable. With CB you would hold the first stitch to the back knit the next stitch and then knit the held stitch. With CF you would hold the first stitch to the front knit the next stitch and then knit the held stitch. Pretty much C2B and CB mean the same thing. Capiche?

Learn how to decipher a written cable abbreviation in a knitting pattern. -TumpedDuck

Cable One over Two Front

But what do we have here? There appears to be a fraction in the middle of my cable! Looks can be deceiving, there is no fraction (waves hand). It is a different kind of cable.

  1. Why hello there Mr. C – you are once again telling me that we shall be cabling forthwith.
  2. A Number – but what a strange looking number indeed. When you see this notation it is telling you that you have an uneven cross. It is not a fraction but instead the number of stitches that you are working with (as above). This particular one is a One over Two cross. The number in the first position tells you how many stitches will be at the Front of the work and the second number tells you how many stitches will travel behind, regardless of whether or not it is a Front or Back cross because …
  3. Direction – and here we have a Front cross. As I said above this tells you what to do with the first stitches you encounter. You will have to do a little figuring with this. You have a 1/2 cross which means that you know that you will need to be holding 1 stitch to the front of the work and crossing two stitches behind – but in what order? The Front tells you “Hey, the first stitch you come to goes to the Front!” so you would take the first stitch, hold it to the front of your work, knit the next two stitches and then knit the held stitch. The reflected version of this stitch is C1/2B. Reading it you would hear “Hey the first stitch(es) you come to go to the Back!” and since it is a 1/2 Cross (where you know the single stitch always goes to the Front) you would hold the first two stitches to the Back knit the next stitch, and then knit the two held stitches.

These uneven crosses are usually an uneven number 2/3, 1/2 but they can be an even number of stitches that are worked unevenly. You could conceivably run across a C3/1B, a 4 stitch cable where you have three stitches passing in front of a single stitch. At times you may also see a notation such as C2/2F which would mean the exact same thing as C4F – only more spelled out.

That is pretty much it in a nutshell. As long as you remember the 3 distinct sections of a cable abbreviation you should be able to be able to read a set of written instructions for a cabled piece.  I had planned on explaining the Right/Left notation and how it differs from Back/Front in this post but this has gotten a bit long and it might be enough to ponder for now. There will be a Part Two of this post coming in the next few days that will hopefully clear things up.

If you have any questions, please feel free to pipe up and I will do my best to figure it out! If I can answer the question in the comments I will, but if not it might show up in Part Two!

Part Two is live and you can read it here.


*Originally I had the following “If the number is even then it is actually telling you that the number of stitches that you will be working with is actually double the number shown. In this example the number is 2, so you will be making a 4 stitch cable – 2 crossed over two. (More on this in a wee bit.)”  Because I have see cables written like that. After CatBrown (thank you!) made her excellent observation in the comments I did a bit more digging and found that this is the less common way of doing things. As I said – the best thing to do is read the instructions in your pattern.

If that isn’t working out, consider the context of your pattern. If you have a picture take a look at it. If it looks like a big honkin’ cable and your instructions are C4F then most likely it is 4 over 4 as opposed to a 2 over 2. The lack of standardization can be frustrating at times!