Knitting Blog

Twisted Stitches: Cable Knitting for Beginners

Ask any beginner knitting student enrolled in Craftsy’s Explorations in Cables class with Patty Lyons and they’ll tell you that knitted cables can twist in ways they never imagined — and all those twists are super easy to knit! Maybe cabling is what’s standing between you and that pretty sweater pattern you’ve wanted to knit for years. Or maybe you’re a beginner who’s not at all familiar with cable knitting.

No matter what your situation, check out these tips and tricks for beginners trying cables. You’ll be twisting stitches in no time!

Cable Knit Afghan - Kit Available on Craftsy

Photo via Craftsy instructor Patty Lyons

Cables: Not just for sweaters

When you’re choosing a cable pattern, consider more than just knitting sweaters. Case in point: This Erin Afghan Kit (seen above) available to students of Craftsy’s Explorations in Cables class. Cables make this afghan gorgeous and cozy. Imagine cuddling up to all those cables and you won’t give a second thought to adding this to your cable-knitting pattern list!

Resist the tug-o-war

Tugging stitches is common when cabling, but don’t tug so much that it affects the gauge of your project. After you place stitches onto the cable needle, keep them close to your knitting. Try your best to knit those stitches with the same tension that you knit the rest of the row so that your cables will lie flat and blend right into the stitches.

winter knit cable hat and scarf

Photo via Craftsy member lisaellisdesign 

One cable at a time

If you’re a beginner cable knitter, start with patterns that only have one cable, like this Winter Cable Hat & Scarf pattern (seen above). See how the hat only has one cable twist down the front center? This will take some of the pressure off since you’ll only have to worry about a few cable stitches per row. The rest is a familiar stockinette stitch that will give you a little breather between cabling.

Get the Winter Cables Hat & Scarf pattern.

Stay calm

When I first knitted a project with cables, I noticed that the cables were a tighter gauge than the rest of the project. Here’s why: Because I was unfamiliar with cables, I’d get nervous every time a cable popped up in the pattern. That nervousness went straight to my hands, making all my cables tight.

Try to relax when it’s time to cable. Getting worked up will mess with your gauge. Take your time and shake out your hands if you need to loosen up while knitting.

A cable needle for all seasons

Cable needles are similar to knitting needles in that there’s a cable needle for every type of project and stitch. There are many different types of cable needles, and after experimenting you may find that the cable needle you use depends on the type of cable you’re making. If one cable needle doesn’t seem comfortable, switch it out and try another.

Need even more cable help?

Knitting cables are the perfect way to up your knitting game. That’s why Craftsy is chock full of cable information!

Start out perusing our 5 cable knitting patterns for beginners. Once you’re feeling inspired, you can also read even more tips for knitting cables. And don’t forget to check out the Explorations in Cables class with Patty Lyons for step-by-step help through gorgeous scarves, sweaters and the afghan we featured above.

Are you already a cable pro? Have any tips to share with us?


Gillian Sutherland

Not so much a tip, more a comment about the kind of cable needle I prefer to use – since I have joint problems, I find it easier to use the kind of cable needle which has a V in the middle, allowing me to slide the stitches into that ditch whilst knitting the stitches to be crossed. Having them on hold in this way lets me leave go of that small needle so that it’s hanging, but not losing the stitches whilst knitting the preliminary ones. If the joints aren’t too bad, then I can either hold the needle, or let it drop as the fancy takes me.
This tip applies to all knitting, but especially patterned or cabled knitting – never leave a row half done, but finish it completely before putting it down or away. Don’t get too stressed out when doing cables, after all, they can always be undone! Making a mistake is sometimes more of an eduction, since to correct it you have to backtrack to the point where the the mistake was made, and in doing so, lets you see what you did wrong, plus, you don’t make the same mistake again!

Rose Marie. Rose

I am having a miserable time. I am a tight knitter to begin with. My
Cables are tight and have big holes on both sides with stitches all stretched out. Don’t know what to do??? Help!!
Rose Marie Rose. Honolulu, Hawaii

Catherine Murphy

Dear Rose Marie, here’s what I would do. First of all invest in cable needles. Sometimes they come in sets of three different lengths. Use the size that will best hold the number of stitches in your cable. Second, try to keep your tension really even, you do have to practice. Third, when you do the cable, try not to stretch the stitches, I keep my needle points close together when taking the stitches off the needles. They may look a little squished, but will straighten out when you continue knitting. Really try to keep it all together, not pull the stitches away from each other. It does take practice, and please try to relax. If you are intimidated by knitting cables , that might make a problem for you. Don’t be afraid, it’s just stitches on a needle. Make some practice swatches, and begin with small cables they are easier to work. You will find it easy to accomplish nice cable with this, and then progress to larger cables. Good Luck, I hope I was able to help you a bit.


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