Monthly Archives: October 2017

How to Understand Cable Symbols

Cables can be quite intimidating when you first start knitting them and there seem to be a lot of different variations to learn. If you are using a pattern with a chart, this can make things a lot easier as the cable symbols often look the same as the end result. If you’re not familiar with knitting from a chart, try reading my How To Read Knitting Charts: The Basics post first.

Naming System

There are two main ways of naming cables, depending on whether the focus is on the action taken to make the stitch or the desired end result.

C4B or 2/2 RC

Slip next 2 stitches to cable needle and place at back of work, k2, then k2 from cable needle.

This symbol is usually called either C4B or 2/2 RC. C4B means that the cable uses four stitches in total and the cable needle is held at the back – the opposite stitch is the C4F where the cable needle is held at the front2/2 RC means that the cable is formed from two stitches crossing over two stitches and the cable crosses from left to right – the opposite stitch would be the 2/2 LC.

In the C4B notation it is easy to see how to make the stitch, but if a cable is unbalanced, e.g. with three stitches crossing over one then it would still make four stitches in total but have a different look. That is why in my patterns I prefer the 2/2 RC notation. I also find it easier to visualise the end result from just the name.

Deconstructing a Cable Symbol

While you can consult the key every time you come to a cable, it’s easier and quicker to be able to work out what to do based on the symbol itself.

Number of Stitches

2 stitch and 4 stitch cables

Cables using two and four stitches ©Rachel Gibbs

The first step is to determine how many stitches are involved in the cable. While the cable is made from one symbol, it will cover multiple boxes of a chart, as it uses more than one stitch. Use the boxes of the row below or above to count how many stitches are involved. In this example, the cables on the top row use two stitches and the cables on the bottom row use four stitches. I have superimposed the grid lines onto the symbols on the left to make this clearer.

1/2 RC and 2/1 LC

Uneven Cables ©Rachel Gibbs

If the cables are uneven, the symbol shows which side uses more stitches by wider or narrower symbols and the diagonal lines meet the gridlines to show how many stitches are used for each side. Here on the left is a 1/2 RC, with the one stitch in front of the two stitches and on the right a 2/1 LC with the two stitches in front of the one stitch. In this notation, the first number is always the number of stitches at the front.

Back or Front

2/2 RC+ 2/2 LC

Right and Left Cables ©Rachel Gibbs

A cable is made of two or more parts. When you look at a cable symbol, you need to identify which part is on top. Here that part is shaded in green, with the part below in blue. Remember in a chart the stitches are building on the row below, like in knitting. Therefore the next stitches on the left-hand needle are the ones in the bottom right of the symbol because in knitting we work from right to left.

If the lines coming from the bottom right go behind the lines from the bottom left, like in the 2/2 RC, then you need to hold the cable needle at the back. Similarly, if the lines from the bottom right cross over the lines from the bottom left, like in the 2/2 LC, then you hold the cable needle at the front.

Knit or Purl

Cables do not have to just use knit stitches, especially in patterns using travelling cables they often involve purls or twisted stitches. This is shown by taking the basic symbol and adding decoration to show which stitches to use.

I create all my charts using Stitchmastery. This software has two main options for how symbols look.

Stitchmastery Dot Cables

Stitchmastery Dot Cable Symbols using Purls and Twisted Stitches ©Rachel Gibbs

Stitchmastery Dash Cables

Stitchmastery Dash Cable Symbols using Purls and Twisted Stitches ©Rachel Gibbs

In the Stitchmastery Dot font purls are represented by dots, whereas in the Dash font purl sections in cables are solid black. Once you know how the pattern you are using represents purls and twisted stitches, you can apply that to all the cables in that pattern.

The additional symbols are shown at the top of the cable symbol, as that represents the stitches being worked. The bottom of the cable symbol represents the stitches from the row below. This means that the first stitches worked are the symbol from the top right. For the 1/1 RPC this means the first stitch is knit and the second (from the cable needle) is purled.

Exceptions

There are always exceptions to any rule and sometimes designers are forced to create non-standard cables. However, this guide should help you understand most cable symbols and allow you to knit without continually consulting the key or looking up definitions.

An Interview with Dana Gervais


I’m interviewing sock designers as part of my Level Up Your Socks KAL. This week I’m talking to Dana Gervais about her sock designs and e-courses.

Introduction

RG: Tell me a little about yourself and your designs. 

DG: I’m a knitwear designer who specializes in socks!  I like to say that I see a pair of socks in every skein of yarn I see and my mission is to set them free.  I also enjoy creating sock knitters through free email courses and online challenges.  I live in Ontario, Canada with my husband, two kids and lots of pets!

E-Courses

#SockWhisperer is the third of Dana's sock courses

#SockWhisperer is the third of Dana’s sock courses ©Dana Gervais

RG: You now have three beginner sock knitting courses, with different heels and directions. Which did you enjoy writing the most? 

DG: I love all methods of sock construction, but cuff down socks are my happy place, so I would have to say that the #SockVirgin challenge was my favourite to create.  It’s also the first challenge that I ever created, so that also makes it special.

RG: Has anything surprised you from people taking the courses?

DG: I was surprised how many knitters have taken the challenge.  When I created the first challenge, #SockVirgin, my goal was to have between 10 and 50 knitters sign up to do it with me.  I was completely amazed when the sign up list reached 1000 before the start date.

RG: Why do you think some people think socks are harder than other types of knitting? 

DG: I’m not sure where this notion of socks being an advanced knitting technique comes from.  It could be because traditionally socks have been worked on DPNs which looks both complicated and impressive to non-DPN users.  In reality, socks are not difficult – in fact my grandmother learned to knit socks at school when she was very young; school children would make them for the armed forces.

Designing

Sock Designs from Dana Gervais

Sock Designs from Dana Gervais ©Dana Gervais

RG: How do you make decisions for your designs, on what pattern and which heel etc. to use? 

DG: I try to change it up with each design so that knitters and I don’t get bored making the same cuffs, heels, and toes all the time.  Most designs start with the stitch pattern and the yarn and the rest of the sock evolves from there, I try to incorporate techniques that will show the yarn and the stitch pattern to their best advantages.

RG: Why do you like designing and making socks more than anything else? 

DG: I do knit things other than socks, but socks are my happy place.  They are portable, they use 1 skein of yarn (most of the time) they don’t require a huge financial investment, they don’t take very long to finish and where I live it’s sock season for at least 7 months of the year, so they are useful.

Sock Knitting

RG: What’s the biggest problem you’ve ever had when knitting a sock and how did you fix it? 

DG: One of the benefits of being a designer is that I can often incorporate ‘problems’ and ‘mistakes’ into the design and call it a ‘design element’, but that being said, often I have an idea for a sock in my head that doesn’t translate well after I’ve cast on.  Sometimes the yarn and stitch pattern don’t play nicely together, or the stitch pattern creates a fabric that is far denser or looser than I’d like and when that happens, I rip it out and start again.  I’ve learned to view frogging as part of the process of knitting and not as an indication of failure or wasted time.

RG: What’s your best sock knitting tip? 

DG: There are no knitting police.  There is no right or wrong in knitting.  Knitters need to use whichever method of knitting in the round that they prefer, whichever needles and yarn that they prefer and use whichever technique works for them – all that matters is that you love the process and the end result.

RG: What’s your go-to resource for sock knitting? 

DG: My people!  I work with a lot of indie dyers and I always find inspiration in the yarn they create, I have a highly engaged Facebook group and Instagram community of knitters who are always ready to offer an opinion or let me know what they need from me (everything from a specific technique to ideas for knitting socks for diabetic feet).  I’m very grateful to be part of the fibre community.

Quick Fire Questions

  • Toe up/cuff down? Cuff down
  • DPNs/magic loop/tiny circular? It’s a tie: DPNs and Magic Loop
  • Cables/lace/colourwork? Yes! All of them
  • Two at a time/In tandem/One at a time? One at a time (I usually work out any design issues on the second sock)
  • Metal/wood/carbon fibre needles? It’s a tie: I use them all equally and I love them all equally

Find Dana Gervais Online

You can find out more about Dana at her website, or sign up for one of her e-courses, including the new one starting on 23rd October. Join the groups on Facebook or Ravelry and follow her on Instagram @DanaGervais.

How to Read Your Knitting: The Basics

Reading your knitting means being able to look at a piece of knitting and recognising what stitch was used. Learning how to read your knitting will make it a lot easier to keep track of where you are in a pattern and help prevent mistakes. If you can see where you are in a pattern by looking, you’ll save yourself from lots of counting and it might make it easier to memorise a pattern.

Recognising Knit and Purl

The basic knitting stitches are knit and purl, so learning to tell them apart is the first hurdle. All knitting is made of rows of loops. If the loops on the row below are behind or in front of the current yarn is the difference between a knit and a purl.

Read Your Knitting: Knit Stitches

Knit Stitches ©Rachel Gibbs

Here we have three columns of knit stitches. You can see that the knit stitches form a v-shape, with the sides of the current loop in front of the loop from the row below. You can see the top of the blue loop is behind the black stitches on the needle, that have just been knitted.

Read Your Knitting: Purl Stitches

Purl Stitches ©Rachel Gibbs

Here all the stitches are purls. Now the sides of the loops are at the back and the top and bottom loop are at the front. This causes purl bumps to be seen, as horizontal bars.

Working flat or in the round

Every time you work a stitch, you are influencing whether the top of the loop from the previous row is at the back for a knit, or the front for a purl. This means that if you turn a knit stitch over it looks like a purl stitch because what used to be the back is now the front.

Read Your Knitting: Garter Stitch

Garter Stitch ©Rachel Gibbs

When worked flat garter stitch is knit every row, but the rows of loops alternate between being at the front and the back. Here the blue stitches were knit, but they look like purl stitches, with the top of the green loop in front. That’s because we’re looking at the back of them.

If garter stitch is worked in the round, you alternate between knit and purl stitches. This is because you are always looking at the knitting from the same side.

Random Ribbing Challenge

Reading your knitting takes practice. In ribbing, the columns of stitches should all look the same, either v-shaped knits or bumpy purls. In order to practice telling the difference between knit and purl stitches, try starting with a random sequence and see if you can repeat it every row.

Choose a smooth, plain coloured yarn and cast on at least 15 stitches. Then use one of the methods below to work the first row.

Toss a coin

For each stitch, toss a coin and make a knit for heads and purl for tails.

Use a die

Alternate between knit and purl, making the number of stitches on the die each time until you run out of stitches.

Random Ribbing Challenge Setup Row

Random Ribbing Challenge Setup Row ©Rachel Gibbs

Now the pattern has been set (don’t keep notes), repeat the row trying to match each stitch to the one below. Remember you’re trying to match how they look, not how they were worked. So if the last stitch was purl, when you turn it over it looks like a knit, so you knit the first stitch.

Random Ribbing Challenge

Random Ribbing Challenge ©Rachel Gibbs

You should end up with something that looks like this, with identifiable columns of knit and purl. The edge stitches always end up looking a bit distorted, so don’t worry if you struggle to read those.

Cellular Automata Challenge

Once you’ve mastered the ribbing, try this instead. Cellular automata is a mathematical concept where a rule is used to determine the next row of a grid depending on the state of the previous row. Ribbing is an example of a simple rule where the next row is equal to the previous one.

Elementary cellular automata use the cell below and the two cells either side of that to decide on the value of the current cell. There are 256 possible rules to choose from, some of which are more interesting than others.

Start by generating a random sequence of knits and purls as before, set knit as 1 and purl as 0. Then pick a rule and use that to decide whether to knit or purl each stitch depending on the three below it. Assume all stitches outside your grid are knit.