If you’ve never done them, cables can seem intimidating. They have weird abbreviations and symbols, with complicated instructions for each one. But it doesn’t have to be hard! The abbreviations for cable stitches tell you exactly what you need to know to make them – you just need to be able to decode them. This tutorial explains the language of cable stitches…with licorice.
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(scroll down for video tutorial)
What is a Cable?
A cable is a twist that occurs when you work stitches out of order. If you skip a few stitches, work the next few stitches, and then go back and work the ones you skipped, that will cause the stitches to twist over one another, forming a cable. This is accomplished by slipping some stitches onto a cable needle and holding them out of the way, working the next stitch(es) as normal, then going back and working those stitches from the cable needle.
How Many Stitches?
A cable stitch abbreviation should look something like 2/2 LC. The number part of that abbreviation tells you how many stitches you are dealing with. The “/” should be read as “over”. So 2/2 means you are twisting 2 stitches over 2 other stitches. Similarly, 2/1 means you’re twisting 2 stitches over 1 stitch.
Right or Left?
The stitches can be twisted either to the right or the left. RC and LC in the cable abbreviation mean right cross and left cross, respectively. The direction always refers to which direction the top stitches on a cable are going. So in a 2/2 LC cable, the 2 stitches on top cross over to the left. in a 2/2 RC cable, the 2 stitches on top cross over to the right.
Which direction they cross is determined by whether you hold the cable needle to the front or the back of your work. If you hold your cable needle in front, then when you go back to work those stitches from the cable needle, they will be on top of the other stitches. This makes a left cross. If you hold your cable needle in the back, then they will be behind the other stitches. This makes a right cross.
Knit or Purl?
If there’s no P in the cable abbreviation, all stitches are most likely knit. Your pattern should confirm this, but if it doesn’t say, assume they are knit. Sometimes you will see an abbreviation like 2/2 LPC. The P in that abbreviation means that the stitches on the bottom are purled. So a 2/2 LPC means you are crossing 2 knit stitches over 2 purl stitches. This is accomplished by holding 2 stitches in front on your cable needle, purling the next two stitches, and then knitting the 2 stitches from your cable needle.
More Complex Cables?
Sometimes you’ll see something more complex, like a 2/1/2 RPC. This usually shows up where two cables meet and cross over each other. It’s a little more tricky, but the same rules apply. If you break it down, this says to cross 2 stitches over 1 stitch, which is crossed over 2 more stitches it’s like a cable sandwich with 3 layers.
To work this, start from the bottom – there are 2 stitches on the bottom layer, with 3 stitches on top of it. Put 3 stitches on your cable needle and hold it behind the work (because it’s a right cross). Then work the next 2 stitches. Now let’s look at the next layer – 2 stitches over 1. So put 1 stitch from the cable needle back onto your left needle and work that 1 for the middle layer. Finally, work the top layer – the 2 stitches that are still on your cable needle.
In this case the purl might be confusing. Usually it will mean to purl the middle stitch, but when dealing with a complex cable like this the pattern should specify exactly how to do it.