What is a Cable Knit Stitch?

Chris Hoff

A cable knit stitch is a knitting technique used to create the look of a twisted rope or cable. It typically is used to add flare to a garment and to add bulk to the finished piece, thereby increasing its warmth and density. The cable knit stitch has primarily been associated with Aran sweaters, which are considered by many to be the height of cable knitting design. In modern times, the cable knit stitch can be found in many types of garments and accessories, from sweaters to scarves to handbags.

A knitted sweater with a cable up the front.
A knitted sweater with a cable up the front.

The cable thickness generally depends on the number of stitches used during knitting, which is referred to as cabling. Many knitters learn the cable knit stitch by beginning with eight stitches. To create an eight-stitch cable, the knitter needs a special curved cable needle to hold four of the stitches. Holding the needle behind the garment will make a right-slanting twist, while holding the needle in front of the garment will make a left-slanting twist. Whichever way knitter uses, he or she typically needs to hold the needle in the same position each time a twist is made in the cable.

Knitting needles and yarn.
Knitting needles and yarn.

To create a basic cable knit stitch, the knitter works to the point in the garment where he or she wants the design to appear, then slips four stitches onto the curved needle and holds it along with the regular needle in his or her working hand. Then, he or she knits the next four stitches onto the needle normally. The four stitches held on the curved needle are then slipped back onto the needle from which they were taken and are then knitted normally. This changes the stitch order and thus creates a twist in the knitting. To create a sufficient cable design, a knitter normally knits at least three to seven normal rows between each twist.

There are several types of cable knit stitch, such as braids, twists, and lattice designs. These are all created using the same method but with slight differences in the pattern. Using more than one type in the same garment can add more flare and many Aran-inspired sweaters are made in this fashion.

While the cable knit stitch is quite simple, it can quickly create interest and intricate design to any work. Knitters should keep in mind that cables in a garment will pull stitches a bit tighter, so more yarn or wool will be needed to get the correct size and fit. Due to this fact, it generally is recommended that a knitter use a pattern when first learning the technique.

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