Craft & Design

Here’s an introduction to a fun knitting technique that’s often considered “too advanced” for hobby knitters: cables.

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Named after the Aran Islands in Ireland, cables are most often found in Aran designs. Made mainly by fishermen’s wives for their husbands, the patterns reflect tropes of the lifestyle both in appearance and name, often taking inspiration from fishermen’s ropes and local flora and fauna.

Cable designs are created by reordering knit stitches in a row, overlapping two or more adjacent columns of stitches. Carrying stitches gradually over the course of several rows can create more complex patterns. This overlap of stitches can add warmth and bulk to a garment without using a different yarn. I think of it as a step beyond ribbing.

To achieve this shuffling of stitches, we use a cable needle. Stitches are temporarily stored on the cable needle while stitches further down the row are knitted, and then the stitches are knit from the cable needle back into the row.

Now you’re ready to go out there and tackle a project that uses cables! It’s really satisfying to see the pattern emerge as you’re working. If you make a cabled project, take a picture and upload it to the CRAFT Flickr pool! We’d love to see them.

The book pictured in the video is The Complete Book of Traditional Knitting by Rae Compton. The cabled toddler slippers I’m making are from a pattern by Rosemary Waits.Thanks to the Flickr users who so graciously licensed their photos under the Creative Commons. This video used photos from acoleman912, florriebassingbourn, DebbieC, Slave2TehTink, Sarah Oh, Marni-, sictransitgloria, litlnemo, and Jane Stockton.


Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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