Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Afterthought reversible cable-ette border

afterthought cable-ette border as seen from the knit side
Afterthought cable-ette border
--knit side
What if you could knit a straight-up blob of of stockinette when you're tired and in need of comfort, but then, when you are peppy and in need of a challenge, you could tinker around to convert your dull blob into exciting texture knitting?

Well, you can. Today's TECHknitting post shows how to put an afterthought cable-ette border onto a straight stretch of stockinette.  This swatch was knit plain, and the border put on afterwards.

As a special bonus, the default of this trick is reversible, creating cable-ette borders on both fabric faces, perfect for scarves or afghan panels, also for hats or socks with a turn-up-turn-down brim or cuff.  However, this trick can also be modified for cable-ettes on one fabric face only, better for non-reversible items such as sweaters.

reversible afterthought cable-etteborder
In truth, reversible afterthought cable-ettes are merely a variation on the trick TECHknitting blog has already shown: the trick of converting a stockinette fabric into a ribbed fabric.  However, cable-ette borders are WAAAAAY cuter than ribbing, also more impressive for presents and the like. And even if you have never worked a cable in your life, I promise you can work this trick.

Step 1: (Creates the stockinette fabric you'll tinker with with afterward.) CO however many stitches you desire and knit a fabric blank in stockinette.  Reversible cable-ette borders take up 7 stitches on each fabric edge, and span over 6 rows (+ a couple extra top and bottom so the cable-ettes are centered in the fabric), so plan your stockinette fabric accordingly.  For comparison purposes, the little swatch knit for this post was worked over 27 stitches in worsted-weight yarn at a stitch gauge of 5 st/in. Every stitch in every row was worked (there was not a slipped selvedge).  If you do have a slipped selvedge, it won't look bad, but it will not look like this swatch.

Straight-up stockinette is excellent TV knitting.  For the impatient, a knitting machine very quickly creates reams of stockinette. (In fact, knitting machine owners might find inserting afterthought texture patterns easier than hunching over the machine to create texture patterns as-you-go: just saying, all you machine knitters!)(And hellooo all you loom knitters, too!)

Step 2: (Creates column 1-B) Place all the stitches at the top of the fabric on a stitch holder. With the nubbly reverse-stockinette (purl) fabric face towards you, release the third stitch from the L selvedge off the stitch holder, then drop down this column all the way to within 1 stitch of the fabric-bottom.  Next, latch up the resulting ladder as a knit rib, by which I mean a column of knit stitches on a reverse stockinette (purl) background. A seed stitcher tool is excellent for this, a crochet hook is just fine.  Replace the top stitch of the column on the stitch holder. We call this first column made "column 1-B," because it is the first column made on the back face of the fabric.

Step 3: (Creates column 2-B, being the second column created on the back) With the nubbly reverse-stockinette (purl) fabric face towards you, drop down the fifth column from the left hand side. Latch up 5 stitches as a knit rib.  In the photo-essay below, this stitch is shown in blue.  Do not yet latch up the sixth ladder-rung (shown in green, below) Instead work this next rung as a "pinch stitch."

Here is a photo essay on how to do the pinch stitch (click each illustration to enlarge).  Note that there is no reason you'd need to mark the sixth stitch in the neighboring column with a pin, I just did it that way so you could easily see what was going on.

Step 1: set up

Step 2: ready to pull through the ladder

Step 3: final result

If the photos didn't do it for you, here is a little a mini-video of performing the pinch-stitch. Although the video isn't color-coded, it does show the actual motion of inserting through the two arms of the neighboring stitch and drawing the sixth ladder through to "pinch off" a cable-ette.

(If the video won't load for you, here is the URL:

Step 4: Latch up five additional ladders in the normal manner.  When you get to the sixth ladder-rung, work a pinch stitch as you did in step 3. Continue latching and pinch-stitching your way to the top of the column, then replace the stitch on the stitch holder. Column 2-B is now complete, and you have created the back cable-ette.

Step 5:  (Naming column 1-F) When you now flip the fabric over so the smooth knit fabric face is towards you, you will see that a new column has magically appeared: the column of stitches between columns 1-B and 2-B now appears on the front fabric face as a knit column between two purl columns.  (You don't actually do anything in this step, it's just listed as a step in order to give this already-created column a name.) This magically appearing column is named "1-F" because it is the first column on the front fabric face.

Step 6: (Creates column 2-F, the second column on the fabric front) With the smooth front fabric face towards you, release the sixth stitch from the RIGHT selvedge, then drop this column down to within 10 stitches of the fabric bottom.

(Note: unlike the two back columns, which were latched up as knit stitches on a purl background, this column is going to be latched up as a knit column on a knit background)

Insert the crochet hook into the loop heading up the column--this would be equal to the 10th stitch up from the bottom.  Maintain this loop on the crochet hook. Work our old friend the pinch-stitch by inserting sideways under the two arms of the corresponding stitch of column 1-F (that's the column which magically appeared).  As on the back, the direction to insert the crochet hook is from the selvedge side towards the fabric center.

Step 7: Latch up five additional ladder-rungs in the normal manner, then repeat the sideways insertion of the pinch-stitch on the sixth ladder-rung.  Repeat this sequence, latching and pinch-stitching until the top of the column is reached.  Return the stitch at the top of column 2-F to the stitch holder.  You'll now have a vertical chain of cable-ettes on the front fabric face and another chain of cable-ettes on the back fabric face.  The final step is to create a border to these reversible cable-ettes which is step 8.

Step 8: (Creates column 3-B, the third column on the fabric back) With the reverse-stockinette (purl)  fabric face towards you, release 7th stitch from the left selvedge and ladder it down to within 1 stitch of the fabric bottom.  Latch up this column all the way to the top as a knit rib--a knit column on a purl background.

To create a matching reversible cable-ette border on the other edge of your fabric, reverse the words right and left in the directions.  If this gets confusing, remember that you start by making a knit rib on the purl fabric face by dropping the third stitch in from the selvedge while holding the fabric with the purl side facing you.  Once this first column is in, it gets much easier to figure out how to reverse the instructions.

Geek notes:
  • Uses: You can use the basic technique to create a fabric with additional strips of cable-ettes running between the borders--messing around will reveal a lot about spacing, stitch count* and the like!  All-over fabric (looks like smocking) is possible also.**
  • Row repeats: There is nothing sacred about the row repeat given here.  Just make sure that the pinch stitch forming the bottom of the cable-ette on one fabric face is worked on the row which forms the middle of the cable-ette ring on the other fabric face, so the pinch-stitches don't distort the fabric on the same row on both fabric faces. 
  • Start short, end short: you'll get cable-ettes better centered on the bottom edge if you actually work your first cable-ette short: make the first back pinch stitch on the 5th st up from the bottom (which is the fourth ladder--remember, you don't drop all the way to the bottom on the back columns, you drop to within 1 stitch of the bottom!) and then work your first front pinch stitch 8 sts up from the bottom.  I didn't write the pattern that way because I wanted the photo-essay to work for every repeat, but there is nothing stopping you from modifying the first row repeat in this way. Naturally, you'd stop in a similar position at the top. 
  • Reversible/one sided: There is no reason you'd have to make cable-ettes on both fabric faces: if you don't need reversible fabric (like for a sweater) just make cable-ettes on one fabric face by not working the pinch-stitch on the second column of the side which will not be on display (the inside of the sweater, for example).
  • Or, take the reversible/non-reversible idea one step further: on the brim of a hat or the top cuff of a sock, make the cable-ettes reversible a bit further than you think the deepest fold-over will ever go.  Past that, revert to non-reversible cable-ettes. 
  • Garter stitch: It is possible to work afterthought cable-ettes on garter stitch, but the result isn't all that great. Cable-ettes are essentially ribbing, which, although narrower than stockinette works up at the same length. Therefore--like all stockinette-length fabrics, cable-ettes will wind up longer than garter stitch. This leads to fabric-distortion.
  • Dress up the middle: Looking for a way to dress up the blank middle of the stockinette?  How about pinstripes? (Another afterthought technique!)
Have fun with this!--TK

*Super-geek note on stitch count:
--As an edging-border, the first knit rib is created on the third stitch from the selvedge. This allows for two fabric-edge stitches to act as the outermost edge of the pattern.  Yet, this is a special case because the curl of stockinette combined with the mechanics of a knit edge stitch means these two edge stitches look and act like one. Worked away from the fabric-edge, there is no such curl, and therefore, no need to allow two border stitches.  Depending on your fabric design, however, you may have to add a rib to take the place of the two-stitch curl. Or, you might need to take out a column (Column 3B) if you're not planning to border the cable-ettes. Stated otherwise, away from the edge, the repeat for a strip of cable-ettes changes because your actual repeat is going to depend on whether you space out the cable-ette strips with plain stitches (and if so, how many) or border then with plain columns (and if so, how many).

** Super-duper geek note on all-over fabric:
You can make an all-over fabric as follows: Rather than being latched up plain, column 3-B would pinch off the middle of each cable-ette of column 2B.  You would then would add a column 3-F and have that pinch off in the middle of the cable-ette in column 2F.  You'd then add 4-B, pinching off 3B, then 4-F pinching off 3-F, etc.  

This sort of all-over fabric is a species of smocking, and a sort of cousin to a different afterthought technique for smocking shown a on TECHknitting a few years ago. Smocking draws in (makes fabric narrower) and either of these tricks would be a nifty fix for a garment too loose in the shoulder, around the waist, etc.  Afterthought smocking of any kind is an easy way to add shaping (and rescue too-loose garments!) after the fact.


Clair St. Michel said...

How do you think of these things? This is really neat. And as always, the illustrations are great. Thanks for all you do!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to try this out!!

I Wool Knit said...

I absolutely love your afterthought cable-ette border. What a brilliant idea! I am going to use it in a throw which I have knitted in stockinette stitch and which needs a more interesting border. Thank you so much for your wonderful explanation!