How to Knit Cables for Beginners

Beautifully knit cables have drawn crafters to learn how to knit for years. Today let’s learn how to knit cables. At its very basic structure, cables are formed from knitting stitches out of order over several rows. In this tutorial, we will show you how to knit a standard cable stitch, also called a rope cable. We write this in our pattern with a C for cable, the number of stitches that will be a part of the cable (in this tutorial, we are knitting 4), and F or B for where we will hold the stitches; all together it will look like C4F or C4B, which you would find in the Special Stitches section of Mary Maxim Patterns. If you are working a pattern, make sure to read all stitch instructions thoroughly because they can change slightly depending on the pattern. 

Learn How to Knit Cables Video Tutorial

Easy Knit Rope Cable

The Rope Cable is a very basic cable; you can knit a standard cable or rope cable over any even number of stitches. You will mostly see this over 4 or 6 stitches, but it’s not uncommon to see it over more. In this tutorial, we are working a C4F and a C4B, so we will rearrange our stitches two stitches at a time. There are so many possibilities when cabling, but they all come down to rearranging the order of the stitches on the needle and how many rows you work before you rearrange them. In this tutorial, we are rearranging the order of our stitches every 4th row, which in cable knitting is called our Cable Row.

Notice that the 4 stitches our cable is worked over is knit in Stockinette Stitch and are anchored on both sides by a purl stitch. This gives our cable wonderful stitch definition. In between the cable stitches, we worked the moss stitch as in this knit beanie tutorial, but the purl stitch is also common. Notice that we used stitch combinations that don’t have a lot of stretch to them. Stretchy stitches in between cables can cause cable flair, so it’s best to be comfortable using the purl stitch or moss stitch before experimenting. 

C4F or C4B Cable Forward or Cable Back

You may be asking yourself what is Cable Forward and Cable Back. This is referring to where you hold the cable needle when you are rearranging stitches. If you hold the cable needle to the front, then the twist of your cable needle is going to slant from left to right. If you hold your cable to the back then the twist of your cable stitches will do the opposite and slant from right to left.

Cable Needle

You’re ready to go, now what do you need to give this a try? Start with some scrap yarn, a set of needles, they can be straight, DPNs or circular, and a cable needle. You can purchase a special cable needle that usually has a curve or sometimes has notches in it to keep the stitches in place. If you are just starting out, I recommend using a single DPN that is a size smaller than the set you cast on with. I have also seen knitters use stitch markers, paper clips, or just slipped their stitches on and off their needles when they were in a pinch, without a cable needle and everything came out just fine.

How to Knit Cables for Beginners

In this tutorial we are using Mary Maxim’s Starlette Yarn to knit a swatch that includes both a C4F and a C4B.  

Cast on 28 stitches 

Rows 1 – 4: knit


How to Knit Cables garter Stitch Rows 1-4
How to Knit Cables Rows 5-7

Row 5: K4, p4, kfb, k2, kfb, p4, kfb, k2, kfb, p4, k4 (32 sts

Row 6: K9, p4, k6, p4, k9

Row 7:  K4, p5, k4, p6, k4, p5, k4

Notice that we increased our number of stitches with 4 kfbs, we did this to decrease the flair below each cable in our garter stitch edge by incorporating one additional purl stitch on each side of the cable.  You can replace the stretchy garter stitch with the less stretchy moss stitch to prevent the flair, but we like to stay consistent across tutorials.  If we were to leave off the edge, our stockinette stitches would curl and it would be hard to see what we are knitting.  There are variations is every pattern and with every knitter.  Increasing stitches below cables is the best way to remove flairs but it does not always work, and sometimes you need to make adjustments. 

Cable Row 8:  K4, p5, C4F, p6, C4B, p5, k4

This is our cable row; Knit 4 stitches then purl 5 stitches.  Slip the next 2 stitches from your left needle onto a cable needle and hold it to the front of your work, then knit the next two stitches from  your left needle, next knit the 2 stitches from the cable needle.  Purl the next 6 stitches, slip the next 2 stitches from your left needle onto your cable needle and hold it to the back of your work, then knit the next two stitches from your left needle, next knit the 2 stitches from the cable needle.  Purl the 5 stitches, knit the remaining 4 stitches, and your cable row is complete.

larger knit cable swatch
Knit Cable Front Back

Continue in this matter by repeating Rows 6 and 7, then repeat Rows 6 & 8.  When you are comfortable knitting this cable repeat, knit 4 rows of garter stitch to finish your swatch then cast off. 

Stay Tuned

We are getting closer to releasing our Free Cable Knit Hat designed with Mary Maxim Starlette Chunky Yarn and are including a detailed video tutorial, so if you are learning to read patterns, make sure to subscribe to this blog and our youtube channel. This pattern includes the following knitting techniques: a beginner cable knitting, the moss stitch decrease, and a cable decrease that we are very excited to show you. To complete this project, you will need one ball of Starlette Chunky in each of the 3 colors of your choice. In our next tutorial we will show you how to decrease the moss stitch.  We chose to go with the classic Sock Monkey colors and made ours with Light Grey, Cottonwood, and Red Wine. Check out the shopping list below, order now so you can follow along with us on our Social Media as we release this free pattern and answer your questions. In the meantime, take a look at this FREE hat tutorial we did last year with Mary Maxim Titan Yarn. 

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Happy Crafting!

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