Introduction to Cables

Easy to do and with all kinds of variations possible, cables are probably the most popular hand-manipulations with machine knitters. I think that individual knitters probably have their own favorite methods for dealing with the actual crossings, but I hope that this 3-part overview will help beginners get over their fears and offer new perspective for the experienced cable-crossers among you!

There is an entire chapter on cables in my first book, Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters and I also addressed some very specific cabling techniques in each of my other three books. If, for some unknown reason, you do not yet own any of my books, you can purchase as many as you like for 15% off the pricing on my web site (which is already about 20% below Amazon!) using this code at check-out: BD2319. The discount is good only until March 15 so don’t hesitate!

Simply stated, cabled are created by removing two groups of stitches on transfer tools, returning the right-hand group of stitches to the left group of needles and the left group of stitches to the right needles.  Sounds easy enough, right? It IS easy if you start at the beginning and work your way through more involved and difficult variations as you gain experience.

In this first (of 3) videos about cables, I’ve dealt with just the simplest cables. The next two installments will explain more involved cables and also how to go back and fix an incorrect crossing once the work is finished and off the machine and you think you’re going to throw it all out the window when you find the mistake!

The easiest – and most common – machine knit cables involve removing two stitches on two transfer tools. It is a fairly easy cable to cross because the groups of stitches (2 stitches each) are small enough that they do not create undue stress once crossed. Although you do want some tension on the stitches so that the cable is clearly defined by the crossings, you do not want to risk breaking the yarn or some needles in the process.

You should notice in the video that when I return the second set of stitches to the needles, I use my transfer tool to deposit the stitches and pull the needles out to holding position (HP) all in one smooth motion. When needles are in HP, the carriage has no choice but to knit the needles, even if the stitches are a bit tight. While it may not always be necessary (or possible) to do this when crossing 2 x 2 cables, it is extremely helpful with 3 x 3 and larger cables.

Sometimes, when the needles are pulled out to HP after crossing the stitches, you will find that the center needles in HP are touching because of the tension on the stitches. In that case, I usually nudge the needles back to upper-work position (UWP) because the shorter extended needle length causes the needles to separate slightly. A much safer position. Believe me, I know through bad experience that it is possible to have the too-close center needles hook onto each other as the carriage tries to knit them. What a nightmare!

One of the basic rules for hand-manipulating stitches on a knitting machine is this: The stitches that are returned to the needles first will show on the face (knit side) of the fabric. When reading hand knit charts, keep in mind that they are meant to be read and worked from the knit side of fabric. There is usually a symbol showing two crossed lines, with the darker line representing the stitches that lie on top of the cable and define the twist. On a machine the dark line represents the second set of stitches returned to the needles.

With a single column of cables, it probably doesn’t matter which way you cross the cables unless you are trying to exactly duplicate a pattern or effect. exa. It does, however, matter that you are consistent throughout the fabric. With braided, woven and complex cables, understanding and controlling the direction of the crosses is essential.

You can, of course, cross wider cables than 2 x 2 as long as you have multi-prong transfer tools or are willing to hold a couple of tools in each hand. There are some multi-prong tools available on my web site for 4.5, 6.5 and 9 mm machines.

The more stitches you cross, the wider your cables will be, but not all cable crossings are meant to create a roped effect. For example, the 1 x 3 cable I demonstrate in the video does not create a twisted cable effect. Rather, the single stitch on the front of the fabric creates a pattern of enlarged (stretched) single stitches. These single stitches are also the perfect place to add some beads are paillettes.

In addition to the number of stitches affecting the look of a cable, so does the number of rows between crossings. Once you cross a cable, it requires a number of rows for the stitches to relax in their new placement. I call this stitch recovery. There are some loosely written “rules of thumb” that dictate knitting 4 rows between 2 x 2 cables, 6 rows between 3 x 3 crossings, etc. The knitting machine police will not arrest you if you decide to knit fewer or more rows so experiment a bit!

With fewer rows between crossings, the stitches do not get a chance to recover and the resulting column of cables looks narrow and tight; if you knit more rows, not only do the stitches recover, the cables appear to spread wider. Try knitting a 2×2 cable with the first 3 crossings spaced out every 4 rows. Then try knitting 8 rows before you repeat that. You will see what I mean.

The 3 x 3 cable that I demo along one edge of the fabric will usually – usually – prevent the edge from rolling under and can be useful along the side edges of a scarf or shawl or along the front edges of a cardigan. If the edge still insists on rolling, try working one row of crochet or backwards crochet along the edge of the cables.

If they bother to reform any stitches at all, most people latch up a single rib stitch along each side of a cable. That is, they drop and reform the column of stitches as knit stitches, which presents as purl stitches on the front of the fabric. Rib being rib (even a single reversed stitch) it tends to pull fabric in. Cables already reduce the width of the fabric and by working the latch up in rib, it narrows the fabric further. When I am concerned about retaining as much width as possible, I usually latch up in tuck by passing the latch tool under two ladder bars but only catching the top bar in the hook of the tool. This tuck stitch looks like a tuck stitch formed by the ribber bed.

I know that some people leave a needle out of work alongside their cables, but I just don’t like the way it looks. It does help the cables cross a bit more easily but ultimately, I find that the extra slack from the ladder bars causes the edge stitches of the cable column to look kind of loose and sloppy. There are much better ways to ease cable crossings and I will address some of them in future blogs. The video doesn’t give a very good view of the latched-up stitches, which is sometimes what you get with a crew of 1 doing all the knitting/talking, filming so for a better look, check out the blog postings I did on latching up stitches on 3/1/16 and 5/1/16 for more information.

I cannot stress enough that you should include a proportionate number of cables in your gauge swatch if you want to be sure the finished sweater will fit the person it was intended for. Yes, it will take more time to work up the swatch, but a cabled sweater is fairly labor and time intensive and the swatch – as always – is a small investment in success. There really aren’t any short cuts when it comes to hand-manipulated stitches!

Decorative Tulip Edging

This tulip edging is one of my favorite trims and it offers beginners a whole wealth of new techniques.

You’ll need to cast on a multiple of 7 stitches, plus 2 for the final edge. I usually use a simple crochet/latch tool cast on to begin, followed by 3 rows.

This chart shows the extra 2 stitches used to balance the design; those stitches only appear with the very last repeat.

Next you’ll need to reduce each group of 7 stitches down to 5 stitches by transferring the 1st and 5th stitch in each group onto their adjacent needles. There will be 2 plain stitches between each reduced group. This leaves you with empty needles spaced across the width of the knitting. Although you could scrap off and re-hang, you’ll find that it is a lot faster to remove all of the stitches on a garter bar and then replace them on the needles, shifting the GB to the left after each group of stitches is returned to the needles. If you count the empty needles after making the transfers, you will know how may needles to eliminate; push half of the extra needles back to NWP at each edge to remain centered on the bed.

After knitting 3 more rows, you need to reduce the groups of 3 stitches down to a single stitch. Make the transfers then remove the work on the GB and eliminate the extra needles at each side before replacing the stitches on the needles, shifting the garter bar as needed to fill in.

The two plain stitches that divide each repeat should be latched up in order the help the tulips stand out from the background. I usually do this after all the decreases and GB work are done and before I work the row of chaining on the front of the fabric.

I use a single row of chaining in front of the fabric to sort of cap off the trimming, but you might choose not to do this – especially is you are going to continue the rib effect through the entire fabric either by manually reforming stitches or using a ribber.

This trim reduces down quickly; each group of 7 stitches reduces down to just 3 stitches. So, for example, if you cast on 149 stitches (21 repeats of 7 plus 2 to balance the edge), that will reduce down to a mere 65 stitches. This is the widest piece of trim you will be able to knit on a mid-gauge (150 needle bed) machine. 198 stitches on a standard gauge machine (20o needle bed) will reduce down to 86 stitches and on a bulky machine the maximum width trim will reduce from 107 to 47 stitches.

Because the final number of trim stitches will be used as the beginning edge of your garment, unless you are knitting baby clothes, you will need to piece this trim for larger sizes. One edge stitch on each piece will be taken into the seam and will be invisible if you use mattress stitch to join the pieces.

Seashell Nops and More!

This blog is the last follow-up to the posts about popcorns, incorporating short rows into the bridging to build raised textures. You’ll notice that I didn’t even bother to wrap most of the rows as I short rowed the examples in this video, but let me caution you that this may be influenced positively or negatively by the yarn you choose to knit fabrics like these. I tend to work with a lot of 100% wool, which “blooms” or fills out the stitches when the finished fabric is washed. You may find that a non-blooming yarn like 100% acrylic does not fill out the stitches as cleanly and would require more wrapping to produce a finished looking fabric. As always, sample, sample, sample!

The “seashell nops” are shown on page 41 of More Hand-Manipulated Stitches and the raised ruffle, which is a variation of the nops, is featured on page 42. There are two main differences between these fabrics: First of all, the nops were worked with 4 rows between repeats, while the ruffle includes only 2 plain rows between repeats. Also, the nops were completed by picking up a stitch from the first row and hanging it on the needle above to prevent the openings from gaping; There are no lifted stitches in the ruffled fabric. Both fabrics alternate repeats from the left and right.

The triangular nops (page 47 of MHMS) and the stegosaurus cables (page 48 MHMS) are first cousins. Both are short rowed as if to create tiny sock heels but the nops are completed by lifting the first row and hanging the stitches on the needles above, while the stegosaurus cable is completed by crossing a 3 x 3 cable. The way the cables sit on the surface of the fabric varies depending on which way the cables are crossed. If the cables always cross to the right (or left), all of the raised bumps will slant the same way. If you alternate the direction of the crossing each time, the texture will alternate right and left. You could probably add further variations by working some plain rows across all the needles before crossing the cable or by working more complex cable crossings.

There are endless possibilities for creating short rowed textures within bridged fabrics and there are a number of them in MHMS and in Open Spaces, but there are still lots of discoveries waiting to be made by knitters who wonder “what would happen if I ……..”

3 and 5 Stitch Popcorns

In my last posting I covered some basic 2-stitch popcorns. However, sometimes, 2-stitches are just not enough to create bigger, more dramatic effects so this time we will take a  look at methods for knitting 3 and 5-stitch popcorns by machine. This video is even longer than the last – nearly 15 minutes – which is about 10 minutes longer than I had intended.Try to stay awake!

The first 3-stitch popcorns are worked exactly like the 2-stitch version we did last time, but I don’t think that this method produces very round popcorns. To my eye, they tend to look a little more like tucks or pleats, which might be fine for your purposes. I mean, nobody else looks at every stitch as closely as you do when you’re knitting it.

The 5-stitch popcorns are much, much bigger than the 2-stitch version.

The next version of 3-stitch popcorns utilizes a method I call “borrowing needles” by removing the stitches onto a stitch holder and then, well, borrowing the needles for a bit. Ultimately, the original stitches are returned to their needles and nobody is any the wiser. Being able to do this borrowing increases the potential for all kinds of methods so I hope you will try it.

The borrowed needles technique is essential for working 5-stitch popcorns, which eventually leads to the method for knitting raised flower petals. All of these methods are shown in More-Hand Manipulated Stitches. The 3-stitch method is on page 39; the 5-stitch popcorns begin on page 77 and the flower petals on page 80.

Flower petals are knitted like the 5-stitch popcorns but there is no lifting involved.
A cluster of flower petals almost looks like a bunch of grapes!

Time marches on and here we are on the cusp on another perfectly good New Year. I hope nobody does anything to screw up that perfection for you and that it is a healthy, happy year full of precious time with family and friends and, of course, your knitting machines.

Popcorns 101

Popcorns: 2-stitch at the bottom and 5-stitch at top.

I’ve had a long “love affair” with popcorns because, for me, that is where the whole concept of bridging began. Once I learned how to make a popcorn with a separate strand of yarn, I was on a quest to eliminate all the ends and strings across the back of the fabric. For the first installment of this popcorn series, I’ve produced a 7+ minute video that shows the basics of knitting popcorns because not everybody is an experienced knitter and the rest of us can always use a review.

We’ll  look at 2-stitch and 3-stitch popcorns and the bridged method for forming each. In the next episodes we’ll explore 3 and 5-stitch versions that require “borrowing needles” to produce perfectly round popcorns/bobbles and then some interesting variations that grew out of these methods.

For 2-stitch popcorns, which are the fastest and simplest to produce, I find that 5 rows produces the roundest shape. More than 5 rows tends to produce little tabs or loops – not popcorns. Keep in mind that when bridging, the first row of each popcorn is worked as part of the bridging from one popcorn to the next. In fact, the 5th and last row of one popcorn knits across the bridge to the next popcorn and knits the first row of that one. There will be no ends to deal with later on and no extra finishing.

All of the popcorn methods require you to provide tension on the stitches that are in working position because, as the rows build up, the stitches are apt to lift off the needles and drop. You can provide enough tension by pinching the base of the stitches with your fingers, poking a transfer tool through the fabric or hanging a narrow weight. I find that when I rely on finger tensioning, I am most prone to dropping the stitches off the needles as I work so I usually rely on a transfer tool or one of the modified weights I showed in the blog post, “Up-Cycled Claw Weights”, November 13,2017.

Popcorns worked with 40 rows create knitted-on ties.

In the example at left, two adjacent popcorns were knitted for 40 rows, creating large loops that make perfect knitted-on ties for a jacket or trim for a garment. There is a jacket pattern in More Hand-Manipulated Stitches that features these ties.

Machine knit popcorns sit on the surface of the fabric and when you tug the finished fabric lengthwise to align the stitches, it doesn’t affect the popcorns at all. You’ll need to use a tool or your fingers to tug each one into shape and, once done, they will retain their shape going forward.

Loopity Lou Hat Detail

I stumbled upon the 2-tool method that I show in the video for lifting the popcorns after years of poking around trying to find the first row of stitches. Popcorns fall into the category of Lifted Stitches and appear on pages 134-140 of Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters and also on pages 37-39 of More HMS. The pattern for the Loopity Lou Hat pictured in the detail photo at left is available as a free download on my web site and also appeared in More HMS.
















Fleecy Sheep and a CT Class!

Well, OK. So Christmas isn’t exactly around the corner, but it is coming and it is never too soon to start planning. I just added the pattern and directions for making these fleecy sheep ornaments to the Free Stuff on my web site. I’ve made these for years – they are cute as tree ornaments or as package tie-ons for wool-minded friends. You only need a piece of black card stock and some fleece and about 10 minutes of your time. Couldn’t be simpler!

I sometimes do the sheep in natural tones like the one above, but I also think they look great in a variety of colors!





On a totally different topic, I will be teaching a hands-on class here in Northford, Connecticut (about 7 miles from New Haven) on Saturday and Sunday, October 20 & 21st from 9:30-4:30. Students will bring their own single bed machines to work on hand-manipulated stitches. We’ll focus on a lot of the open space methods in my new book, but we’ll also work on cables and popcorns and as many techniques as time allows. Lunch is included with the $150 tuition and dinner will be at my house on Saturday night.

I’ll send a materials list and a list of nearby hotels  out to students as they register. Registration is through the recreation department for the town of North Branford. You can register by phone by calling 203-484-6017 or contact Shawn Keogh with questions at

Hand-manipulated stitches is what I love best so I am excited about sharing some of my favorites with you in this two day class. Hope you can join me!



Vittadini by Machine

I decided to return to the issue of converting hand knit patterns to the machine. It becomes more and more necessary with the lack of good sources for reliable machine knit patterns these days. I stress reliable because I am a firm believer in good editing and much of the material on the internet has never been edited. Even with editing, mistakes slip by and I know that when I find 2 + 2 = 5 the first time, I am likely to keep making the same mistake throughout! There is nothing as valuable as good technical editing to make sure a pattern is correct throughout.

That said, the patterns in magazines like Vogue Knitting and Knitter’s are often doable by machine – and dependably edited to eliminate as many mistakes as humanely possible.

Trisha Malcolm, editor of Vogue Knitting, gave permission for me to reproduce the pattern for this gorgeous Vittadini cardigan so I could detail the step by step directions for converting it to the machine. I realized, once I was done, that it is actually quite similar to the garment I talked about in a blog posting on 8/30/16 – another shawl collared sweater. Sorry about the duplication and next time I will focus on necklines and armholes a bit more. This post is actually far more detailed and, I hope, useful.

I have included both the original pattern and the converted version in a Vittadini Conversion PDF that you can download to work from. The important information for my size (medium – a girl can dream!) is highlighted in yellow. The red type explains the changes that need to be made for the machine.

Just a couple of notes:

(1) Numbers were not rounded off until I needed to know how many rows or stitches and then they were usually rounded up to even numbers.

(2) Each section on the schematic begins with RC 000. So, once the lower body of the garment is done, reset the RC000 before starting the armhole shaping, etc.

(3) These are some of the abbreviations I have used:

STS     stitch/stitches

NDLS  needle/needles

HP       holding position

C/O     cast on

B/O    bind off

S/O    scrap off (shown with a small triangle symbol on schematic).


Lastly, I tried my very best to keep going back over the text and re-checking the re-checked math so if you find something that doesn’t compute right about when you thought you understood what was happening – it is probably my mistake not yours!

We’re roasting here in Connecticut this week – hopefully the cooler fall weather is coming soon and we’ll all feel a bit more like knitting!






Marco Polo Hats Revisited!

In 1993, Studio by White published Simply Sensational, a collection of patterns for the LK-150. All of the educators contributed their ideas when it came time to write the pattern for the Marco Polo Hats. That summer, at Camp Tuckanitslip, we held a contest for the best hats and were delighted that so many of our customers took us up on the offer and entered the contest. I have just posted the pattern on the Free Stuff page of my web site. You can access that page by clicking on the link you were sent when you registered for my newsletter.

This hat is a great learning project for  beginning knitters because it utilizes so many techniques, but experienced knitters will have fun embellishing and altering the pattern to suit their personal style. It is never too early to start knitting for holiday gifting and hopefully this pattern will give some of you the confidence to try something new. I’d love to see photos of whatever you come up with!

The pattern offers two alternatives to the short rowed earflaps and you could, of course, eliminate the flaps altogether or add bodacious ruffles like the version worn by Tara, the little girl in the photo. (I should mention that Tara showed up as our model in almost every issue of Studio Design Magazine and later graced the covers of my hand knitting pattern books  Twelve Sweaters One Way: Cuff-to-Cuff and later Saddle Shoulders. As time marches on, she is now the mother of two beautiful little children herself!)

The brim can be smaller than our versions and you can embellish it or not. The ties can be replaced with wider, scarf-like pieces and the yarns you choose can be as wild and crazy or as subdued as you choose. Have fun and express your true inner self!





Stripes and Slits Sweater Pattern

I’ve just added another free pattern to the web site. Stripes and Slits is an over-sized pullover in two sizes, perfect for wearing over leggings. The horizontal slits are explained in detail on page 221 of Open Spaces: Machine Knit Eyelets, Ladders and Slits so the pattern does not give detailed directions for the horizontal slits.

I originally planned to knit this sweater when I attended a knitting retreat with some friends from the San Francisco Machine Knitters Guild. I worked out an interesting variation of a Fibonacci stripe and thought it would be perfect to use up some odd skeins I had of Cascade “Sierra”. Unfortunately this wool/cotton blend is no longer being made, but I had three different yellows and some navy and white I wanted to use up and thought I had enough. I willed it to be true….

Long story short – I did get the front of the sweater knitted at the retreat and then realized that I had figured on my total yardage and not considered the individual colors. I didn’t have enough for the back and sleeves. So, I packed up the Sierra and moved on to the purple yarn I had brought with me for a second project – I gave you that pattern last month.

Once I got home, I started looking on Ravelry for one more skein of each of the yellows.Then I felt guilty asking people to bust up their stashes for a single skein so I ended up with 3 more of each yellow. I finished the sweater last week and can tell you (1) there is a slight difference in the row gauge between the LK I used in California and mine at home. Most of the length difference came out in the wash. Most of it. I should have re-gauged for the California machine, but didn’t. (2) I have plenty of all three yellows left over and am resisting the temptation to knit another stripe project for now. If any of you run short, let me know!

Some of you may have run into problems in my web site a month ago. The shopping cart kept dumping sales, showing nothing in the cart when you got to checkout. I apologize for the difficulties! We had just added the SSL  protection to the web site. SSL is the guaranteed security feature that all sites will soon either have or show a notice that they are not secure. There was a glitch deep in the code and it took days to fix it. Couldn’t have happened at a worse time with a new book and a new tool. Never fails, huh?

And, while I’m correcting glitches, the book review for Open Spaces that appeared in the new (early fall) issue of Vogue Knitting was written by someone who, for whatever reason, thinks I did all of the fabrics on a Passap and mentioned it in the review. None of the swatches was done on a Passap though some of them certainly could gave been. The book is far more generic and not focused on any single machine. Hope that didn’t confuse any of you who have not yet ordered your very own copies of this gorgeous book!

We finally caught a break in the heat wave and have had an absolutely glorious weekend. I know the humidity will return – it always does here in Connecticut – but for now, I have spent 3 delicious days digging in the garden – mostly weeding – and it will probably be weeks before I can get my nails video clean again! Hope you are enjoying the summer weather and that all your days are sunny and dry!



Peek-A-Boo Purple Pullover

While I was working on Open Spaces: Machine Knit Eyelets, Ladders and Slits, I actually found a little time here and there to get some real knitting done. I fell in love with this effect when I was writing the chapter about slits and knitted all the pieces for this sweater (and half of another one!) at a knitting retreat I attended with members of the San Francisco Machine Knitting Guild in the early spring. I packed up my yarn, borrowed an LK-150 and spent two wonderful days knitting dawn to dusk , visiting with other knitters and discussing clothes, wine and everything under the sun while we worked. The weekend was perfect and complete with hummingbirds and delicious meals at the Sonoma Orchid Inn. I could get used to that life!

I’ve added a pattern for this sweater to the Free Stuff on my website. Be sure to use the link you were sent when you registered for the newsletter to bring you right to the downloads page – it is the only way to get there!

The pattern includes all the stitch and schematic charts and basic knitting directions. You can knit this fabric by using bridging and bridge bars, holding position to knit each side separately or intarsia to work both sides at the same time. Without re-writing the whole chapter on slits, I’ve tried to give enough direction to help you knit your own sweater. I recommend that you try a sample first to get used to the method and immodestly suggest that you check out the chapter on Slits if you need more guidance and specific information. You’ll discover lots more great ideas in all three chapters!