Repairing Cable Crosses

I don’t think there is anything as frustrating as finishing a cable-loaded sweater only to find a mis-crossing right in the front. Or anywhere, for that matter. I can tell you that it happened to me on more than one occasion and, rather than ripping it all out and starting again, this is the method I developed to fix those occasional errors.

To begin with, lightly steam or block the garment piece before you start raveling stitches. This will help stabilize the stitches so they are less likely to run. If you are working with a really slippery yarn, you might even want to insert the toothpicks/wooden needles before you slip the yarn to begin the process. Remember, stitches usually only run down so the stitches above the cut yarn – altho they can individually unknit – are not going to run as such.

Grafting is a wonderful skill to have in your knitter’s bag of tricks. I use it for some finishing and also for altering garments. Although it sounds scary, you can remove an entire row of stitches to add extra rows by picking up the lower edge or to shorten pieces by ripping back extra rows. Always try to steam/block before cutting anything and always work slowly – it is the fastest way to get things done!

I did not show specifics for grafting stitches in this video because there are endless illustrations available on the internet and in good hand knitting books. The Silver Guide to Knitting Techniques diagrams the method quite clearly and if you do not have a copy of that little book, it is worth searching around til you find one. It is a gem.

We have actually had a couple of days in a row without rain lately and the garden beckons me; Arlo wants to play endless games of catch (not fetch – he actually “throws” the ball back down the sloped driveway for me to throw it again and again and again); and I am neck deep in editing the Open Spaces video class. I gotta say – I love what I am seeing and think it will be a fabulous class when I finish. I think it will be an early fall release, but I will certainly keep you all up to date. In the meantime – happy summer!!

Horizontal Cables

This horizontal cable is constructed a little differently than most cables, but once blocked and finished, the effect is fabulous! Certainly not the stuff of an entire sweater, I think it makes a great accent above the rib – as I used it on the photo pictured at left. The full pattern is in More Hand-Manipulated Stitches, but you could apply this effect to any pattern you like.

If you study the chart, you will see that all of the strips are knitted by bridging, which leaves a bridge bar/float between each of the strips. Pay careful attention to the video where I show how to prevent these floats from being trapped on the knit side (where they would look just plain awful!). You’ll also see that once the strips are knitted, the strips are crossed three times before any more rows are knitted, which is why it required so many rows on each strip.

Once blocked/washed, a good wool will bloom and fill out the stitches, hiding any of the small gaps that remain.

Bridged Cables

I still have two more videos on cables (horizontal cables and how to repair a wrong crossing after the fact) that I hope to get edited and posted soon, but right now I am neck deep in editing a full length video called Open Spaces to support my newest book. There are dozens and dozens of techniques, incredible close-ups and you even get to see my gorgeous face on camera! We shot this class with three cameras, yielding about 1100 GIGA bites of film to edit and combine so I am probably looking at months of editing before it is ready to release. I do not expect to work on my tan this summer.

I will be releasing the Open Spaces class through my web site and one of the video platforms I have been investigating. It is also probable that it will be available on DVD and possibly USB as well. I expect the finished class to be several hours, divided into specific lessons and sections and until the editing is done, I have no idea what the final cost will be. Rest assured, I will still try to produce as many of these free videos for the blog as time allows, but I’ve got to devote some of my energies to income producing projects! Still in the planning – and editing – stages here so, like they say, stay tuned for further details! I’m just grateful the six days of shooting are behind me.

Bridging has always been my favorite way to make the machine bend to my will and I’ve included bridged techniques in all four of my books, dedicating the third, More Hand-Manipulated Stitches, to that topic alone. That said, this video covers three bridged techniques: manually enlarging specific stitches mid-row, using the carriage to increase the stitch size of specific stitches and adding extra rows to individual groups of needles. These are all techniques that can be used for texture and to help manipulate stitches more easily. The tools that I use in the video can be purchased on my web site, www.guagliumi.com. I hope you and this video useful and fun and that it opens a few new doors for you.

Summer is almost here – though you would never know it from the weather right now in Connecticut! If I am not sitting here at the computer editing film, I am likely to be out in the garden, which means my nails won’t be fit for film again until early fall!

Combination Cables

I spent several cold winter days shooting this entire series of cable videos so, please, forgive me if I occasionally begin by saying things like “once again” or “we previously….”. Until I sat down and started editing the videos I wasn’t always sure which ones would include what information. The videos all seemed to edit out longer than I anticipated so some related topics were not ultimately covered in the same video. 

You are not limited to simple columns of cables on a knitting machine. By paying attention to which stitches are returned to the needles first, you can create all kinds of fancy, intricate-looking cables by working simple cables in pairs or groups.

It is always important to remember that the stitches that are returned to their needles first will show on the knit side of the fabric, but it is especially important when creating cables. One wrong crossing always seems to visually just pop right off the fabric and there is no hiding that kind of a mistake.

Sometimes I think of cable crossings in terms of right/left, meaning that I should cross the stitches from the right first and then from the left. You can also think of it as crossing towards the left and then towards the right. It doesn’t matter as long as you understand and can control the direction of the crossings and can be consistent throughout your fabric.

With paired cables, I tend to think about crossing in/out (or out/in) as the stitches relate to the center of the whole cable. Again, it doesn’t matter what you name the motions you use as long as they mean something to you and you can be consistent throughout.

Working From Charts

The solid, unbroken lines from lower left to upper right indicate that this is a right/back crossed cable.

Unless you work from a specifically machine knit pattern, cable charts are usually drawn for hand-knitters who almost always cross cables when working on the right side of the fabric. In a typical cable crossing, like the one shown at left, there is usually a solid, unbroken line designating the stitches that are knitted last so that they sit on the face of the fabric and define the direction of the crossing. 

In this example (handknitted) the cable is worked by slipping the first 3 (for example) stitches onto a cable needle and holding them at the back; then knit the next 3 stitches from the left-hand needle before knitting the 3 stitches from the cable needle. On a machine, you would remove both groups of stitches from their needles and return the right stitches to the left group of needles first and then the left stitches to the right needles to get the same effect.

When you move beyond columns of single cables and start pairing them up for braided effects, it becomes even more important to work with stretchy yarns as each cable tends to pull against the adjacent cables and things can get pretty tight. You definitely want some tension on the stitches to help define the shape of the cables, but you never want to risk breaking the yarn or damaging your machine. I almost always bring needles out to holding position after crossing cables. In fact, I usually just replace the first set of stitches on their needles in working position and then, as I return the second set of stitches to the needles, I pull them out to holding position in the same motion. If the needles are “kissing” and risk hooking onto each other, I nudge them back to upper-work position instead.

It isn’t always possible to have nice stretchy yarns to work with and if you have your heart set on a cabled cotton or acrylic sweater, you may need to rely on drop stitch or bridging to increase the size of some of the stitches. I often use short rows (bridging) to add a couple of extra rows to the stitches that will show on the knit side of the fabric. The extra rows make it easier to cross lots of wide cables or multiple cables close together and, more importantly, the extra rows help the cables stand up from the surface. I’ll show you some bridged cables in the next blog post, but figured I should mention it here.

I often count repeats, rather than rows, when working cables and many other hand-manipulated techniques. Very often I will make a list of row numbers and then use various symbols and short hand to designate what to do in which row. For example, if cables are supposed to cross to the right, I might show an arrow pointing to the right next to the row numbers; for popcorns, I often use a large dot (bullet) to designate those rows.  Some row numbers  may end up with several symbols next to them to indicate that there are cables to cross and corn to pop all in the same row. It is especially convenient when there are some cables that cross every 4 rows and others that cross every 6 rows. Whatever you do, don’t just rely on your memory or a head count to keep track of it all.

Gull and XO cables

The cable at left is a Gull Cable where the pairs of cables always cross out and then in. The cable on the right is a Hugs and Kisses Cable where the pairs of cables cross out/in twice and then in/out.

These cables, which are shown in the video are both based on pairs of cables and can be worked with two 2×2 or two 3×3 cables. Gull (also called Wishbone cables) always cross the same way – each of the cables crosses out, away from the center every time. So, I tend to think out/in for each of the cable pairs as I work them. Hugs and Kisses (X’s and O’s) cross out/in twice and then in/out twice so that the cables appear to open and close.

Braided and Woven Cables

The cable at left is a basic braided cable; the one at right is a woven cable. Both share the concept of splitting pairs and alternating the direction of the crossings from vertical repeat to vertical repeat. There is one less crossing in every alternate repeat.

Braided cables are worked by splitting pairs and alternating the direction of the crosses. In the first row of cable crossings, both cables cross right/left. In the next repeat there is only one cable that is formed by taking half of each of the previous cables and crossing left/right.

Woven cables are an extension of braided cables, usually worked over more groups of needles. They also utilize split pairs. In the example at left, there are four cables in the first repeat that cross right/left. The next repeat has one less cable because each of these cables is worked with half the stitches from each of the cables below, crossing left/right. The groups split so that the left pair of stitches from one cable below and the right pair from another form the new cable. The split pairs and alternating direction of the crossings are what contribute to the woven appearance of these cables.

Single Bed Drop Stitch

I did a couple of posts on drop stitch and enlarging stitches back in June of 2017, but I wanted to share this method with you as well because I think is is, simply put, a better approach that requires less fussing with the actual stitches. You can never have too many options to choose from!

Although I demonstrate this method on a 3×3 cable, you can use it anytime your cables are reluctant to cross. It is never worth straining the stitches – believe me, I know!

I like using the split ring stitch holders (I could hardly get the words out on video without slurring it all!) because the stitches are securely held. Sometimes, I also use a wooden hand-knit cable needle, like the ones that are available from Brittany Needles. They have little ridges that hold the stitches snuggly and prevent them from sliding off.

In a future video/lesson I will show you how to cross large cables more easily by adding extra rows or by increasing the stitch size of just the stitches that lie at the back of the cables.

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.