Let’s Add Some Cables to That!

Scottish Wool Mill

A few years ago, my husband and I had a chance to visit Scotland.  If you love textiles, you will understand that a visit to a Scottish mill can be a treat.  Although our tours were mostly focused on distilleries, we had a chance to visit two amazing woolen mills; and, of course, I had to bring home a few samples of Scottish wool products.  This included three skeins of wool from the Knockando Woolmill in Speyside.  Established in 1794 to convert local wool into knitting yarn and fabric, the mill now is also a living museum with displays, a lovely garden, gift shop, and coffee shop. It also houses Victorian carding and spinning machinery, which are still in use.


As we are planning another trip to Scotland next year, I felt it was time to knit the yarn I purchased at the Knockando Woolmill so that I would have room for more.  I selected a simple vest pattern for my Knockando yarn — 210-28 College Days from DROPS.  This pattern is so simple (bottom-up and in-the-round) that I decided to add a cable to make it a little more interesting and fun to knit.  The cable is placed about a quarter of the way in from the right side of the front and the back, so that it will meet at the shoulder.  If you cannot get to the Knockando Woolmill, I would recommend that you try knitting this pattern with Kenzington by Hikoo or Hannah by Plymouth for a summer sweater.

Adding ribbing and cables tightens the fabric.  That is one reason that ribbing is often used on the edges of sweaters (bottoms, necks, and cuffs) and hats.  Ribbing stretches out easily to let the wearer slip on the garment and holds it close to the body.  Cables, which are often decorative elements can do the same.  I suspect that many of you have knitted a sweater, mitts, or hats that have a cable-type ribbing.  Cables, however, are not as stretchy as ribbing and can actually pull the stitches together.  Designers know this and account for this in their designs.  Realizing this, I knew that I would need to adjust the number of stitches in my sweater to account for the addition of the cables.

As you can tell from the picture of the pattern, the vest has quite a bit of positive ease (8 to 10 inches). Although I might have gotten away with not adding stitches, I wanted to keep the shape that the designer intended. After a bit of research, I discovered that I needed to plan on increasing by half the number of stitches that were in my cable pattern.  That meant that, since I wanted to add a 3 x 3 left-leaning cable with 2 purl stitches on either side (a total of eight stitches), I needed to add four stitches to the sweater. The increased stitches should be added at the place where I wanted to start the cables after I had finished the ribbing.  You can see the logic and method for calculating the number of stitches needed for adding cables to any of your knitting projects in Adding Cables to a Knitting Project, by Roxanne Richardson, in the video below.

Added cable

My pattern has 74 stitches in the front and 74 stitches in the back. The directions call for placing stitch markers at the beginning of the row and at the side.  Once I placed those markers, I calculated 1/4th of the distance from the front side and placed a marker at the 18th stitch. I also determined the same for the back side, knitted 125 stitches, and placed another marker for the cables on the back side of the vest. In the next round, beginning at the marker at the 18th stitch, I increased 4 stitches every two stitches and placed my marker after a total of 8 stitches.  I did the same for the back at stitch 125.

Cable Pattern

I have to say that I am very satisfied with the outcome.  Unlike the chart, I added two purl stitches on either side because I thought that the cable would stand out better from the stockinette stitch of the body of the sweater.

You might want to try adding some cables to one of your next plain stockinette projects.  You can it try on a small project, such as a hat or scarf, as practice for a larger project.  I am not much of a designer, but this has been interesting and fun. Knowing that I have a couple of cables to knit makes the stitching more fun and the rounds go faster.