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Sometimes there are tricks in knitting that seem impossible.

For many knitters, cables fall into that category—tangly, twisty, and confounding.

Remember putting your face in the water for the first time at swimming lessons? How it was, all of a sudden, not a big deal? That’s what happens when you try cables for the first time—it’s one of those skills that you avoid until you make your first cable, after which you feel like you have joined the secret coven of the cablers.

Jen Arnall-Culliford’s video tutorial, up top, explains it all for us: how to read a cable chart and how to work cables with and also without a cable needle—yes, friends, without a cable needle.

Field Guide No. 9: Revolution
Mix and match cables and garment silhouettes with master designer Norah Gaughan.
By Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne

It is one of the terrific moments in knitting: changing the order of your stitches so you can make them go wherever you want them to go.

Sarah Hatton’s pattern for this tutorial is a total winner. Yellow Wagtail Scarf provides a low-dose amount of cablework, but it provides constant repetition of a few cable moves so that you learn the rhythm of the twists. It even includes one of my favorite cables, a cable along the edge of the scarf. Neat! Dimensional! Cablewow!



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  • You know how teenagers think they can do anything? A purple cabled sweater was my very first project when I first learned to knit. I wish I had saved it – I bet those cables looked like a New England country road.

    Love this scarf! And love the tutorials!

  • So cool, with the cable up the edge. I put cables into a pair of socks once, inspired by one of your blog entries about random cables without a pattern, but the tweediness of the wool didn’t show them up at all. Soooooo, I just put cables into one sock, and knit the other plain. No one has ever noticed.

  • Wow, I’m going to have to watch that a few more times, that is a lot to comprehend! I did think it funny that she compared it to learning how to drive a manual transmission, something I never could learn how to do. Am I doomed to never learning how to read a cable chart and to never not use a cable needle. I hope not!

    • I did suddenly realise that using a manual transmission is much less common in the US than it is here in the UK, where most cars are manual! Not everyone will get along with every technique, and it might be that doing cables from written instructions just works better for you. My aim was just to break it down so that if you wanted to have a try at using the chart, you could do so in a stepwise way. 🙂 Good luck! And let us know how you get on…

      • Jen, I immediately thought of that myself. I have had to rent automatic transmission cars in the UK, and it is now easy to do so. Imagine trying to drive a manual transmission on the “wrong” side!

    • That was a very apt analogy. I too have never been able to master a manual transmission, but I can do cables, and so can you. The video is very good. Just pull out some scrap yarn and start practicing.

  • I’ve taken beginning swimming at least six times, and I still don’t like to put my face in the water. Cables, though? I love them, especially without a cable needle. Like Sherri, the commenter above, my first knitting project was a sweater with cables running up the front. Wish I still had mine, too!

  • Any chance this will stand alone pattern?? I’d love to knit it!!!

    • Hi Tracy! This scarf will likely remain a part of A Year of Techniques. WE LOVE A YEAR OF TECHNIQUES! We feel smarter because of A Year of Techniques! We encourage you to take the plunge! ; )

  • Loved her tutorial.

  • Absolutely brilliant. Will you continue to do these projects every month?

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