Patterns, Tips

Decoding cable patterns

One question that regularly comes to the Yarn Doctors is about different patterns using different abbreviations for cables.

There are several styles of notation for creating cables which can seem confusing but, despite this, the actual way of making cables remains the same.

All cable instructions ask you to put a certain number of stitches on a cable needle and hold to the front or back of your knitting, then to knit or purl some stitches, followed by working the stitches from the cable needle.

The important thing to do is to read the pattern’s key, or list of abbreviations, to see what the cable notation is asking you to do.

For example, C6B usually means “slip 3 stitches on to the cable needle and hold to back, k3, then k3 from the cable needle” which produces a cable that slopes from left to right and uses six stitches in total.

In this system the B tells you the stitches are held at the back (F would mean to the front).

You might also see this cable written as C6R, in this case R is for right because that is the direction the cable slopes. A cable where you hold the stitches to the front could be written as C6L where L stands for left.

In a third form of cable notation, the same instruction could have the abbreviation 3/3 LC where L- tells you the direction the cable slopes in and the numbers refer to the stitches on the cable needle and the other stitches worked to form the cable.

The important part is not which cable system a designer uses to write the pattern but that all the cable abbreviations are fully explained.

Before starting any cable pattern, carefully check that you understand what each cable instruction means – write it out if necessary or google the term for further information– and remember that each one will boil down to the number of stitches on your cable needle and whether you hold them to the front or back of the work.

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