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)!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
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.
- Why hello there Mr. C – you are once again telling me that we shall be cabling forthwith.
- 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 …
- 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!
*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!