Beginner’s Guide To Knitting Cables

This is a little guide to help knitters who are new to working with cables.

This article will cover some of the basic terms that you will find in knitting patterns that use cables.

Once you have learnt these, you can move forward with more complicated and varied cabling stitches.

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Cable Knitting – Where to Start

To work cables, you will need a cable needle.  Here is an example: 

You can buy cable needle in a variety of sizes. It is best to use the same width as the knitting needles that you are using for your pattern, or a size or two smaller. The needler shown above is the traditional type and the bend keeps your stitches safe. We also also love these cable stitch needles from Knitpro. These work by keeping your stitches safe in little grooves.

You can alternatively use a DPN (double pointed needle) for working cables.  These look like this: 

Again, we would advise using the same width as your main knitting needles or a size or so smaller. When you work cables, you will slip some stitches onto it and then hold this either at the front or the rear of the main piece of knitting, depending on what the pattern instructs,

Please read on to find out how to understand the terms for cable knitting that you will find in patterns.

Understanding Knitting Patterns Which Use Cables

Some knitting patterns will use charts to show you how to knit cables. You will need to look at the key provided with charts to undertand these. This article is going to explain the terms which are most usual in written knitting patterns.

Knitting patterns will depict cabling with C (number) and then F or B.

For example, C4F.  This means cable 4 forward.

The number 4 denotes the total amount of stitches used to work a cable.  HALF of this number will go onto the cable needle.  The patterns is written as  C4F because 4 stitches are involved in the twisting needed to make a cable.

The F or B, forward or back, denotes where the cable needle will be held while you knit the other half of stitches.

So, C4F = The next 2 stitches that you will work will be slipped off the main needle and onto your cable needle (or DPN).  The cable needle with these 2 stitches on will sit AT THE FRONT of the work (F) and you will knit the other two stitches FIRST and then you will will knit the two stitches on the cable needle.

I have written here ‘knit’ because for most other cabling knitting patterns, you will use the knit (k) stitch to work your cables.  As you advance, you will be knitting and purling the cable pieces in different combinations – this will be made clear in your pattern.

After knitting the 4 stitches of the C4F you will then work the rest of the pattern as normal, until you get to the next cable.

Thats it!  It is really easy.

A row of lovely cables worked with super chunky yarn.

If the pattern says C6B, you slip the next THREE stitches onto the cable needle (HALF of 6) and then the cable needle sits AT THE BACK of the work.  You then knit the next 3 stitches and then the 3 on the cable needle.

Cables are usually worked every 4 to 6 rows in a pattern, and the other rotes will be regular knitting.  You will see the twists form as you work on.   

In summary: 

  • C4F – slip 2 stitches onto a cable needle and place this to the front of the work. K the next 2 stitches which are on the knitting needle and then K the 2 stitches which are on the cable needle.  
  • C4B – slip 2 stitches onto a cable needle and place this to the back of the work. K the next 3 stitches which are on the knitting needle and then K the 3 stitches which are on the cable needle. 
  • C6F – slip 3 stitches onto a cable needle and place this to the front of the work. K the next 3 stitches which are on the knitting needle and then K the 3 stitches which are on the cable needle.  
  • C6B – slip 3 stitches onto a cable needle and place this to the back of the work. K the next 3 stitches which are on the knitting needle and then K the 3 stitches which are on the cable needle. 

CF will give a left slanting cable and CB a right.

First Cable Knitting Projects

We think that a headband would make a perfect first cable project. Etsy has some great easy cable headband knitting patterns which are perfect for beginners.

Hats are another obvious choice for first time cable knitters. Once again we would recommend having a look on Etsy for patterns.

You can of course find numerous free knitting patterns for cable headbands on the internet. This is one of our favourite free cable headband knitting patterns.

Check out our article on the best free cable headband knitting patterns for lots more inspiration!

Good luck with your cable knitting we hope you enjoyed our article and that it has helped you find a place to start with this beautiful knitting technique.

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