By Kim Driggs
Photos: Kim Driggs
Way back in the dark ages (I worked graveyard shifts then, it was dark!), when I taught myself to knit, I did it for exactly one reason: I was under the impression that it was impossible to crochet cables. I love cables. Unreasonably so, even. So when I discovered that it is in fact possible to crochet a cable, I was in hog heaven. I love the instant gratification of crochet (it is so much faster for me!), and it is much gentler on my poor wrists than knitting is. In the intervening years, I had always assumed that the crochet cable love must be spreading, if not into common knowledge, at least into common knowledge in the craft world.
Then I began designing. Cables flowed from my hook. I haven’t published anything that I consider particularly complicated yet, but I keep coming up against one big problem – most crocheters don’t know you can crochet a cable, much less how. But you know what the big secret is? It’s not that hard! So come with me while I give you a solid first lesson in the secret of the crochet cable. It’ll be lots of fun, and there will be yarn!
For practice, I suggest a DK to worsted weight yarn in either a bright color, or a very pale one, as your stitches will be easier to see than if you used a dark color. Use any hook you’re comfortable with for your specific yarn. When in doubt, I recommend going with a slightly larger hook than you usually would while you’re learning. I’m using Berocco Touché with a 6mm (J) hook.
There are two main ways to do crochet cables – using front post/back post stitches (equivalent to having cables in knit stitches surrounded by purl stitches in knitting) and using regular stitches (equivalent to knit-only cable patterns in knitting, such as honeycomb cables). This tutorial will teach you how to do both.
Start out with your preferred foundation method, and add a couple of rows of single crochet, just to have a place to start from. I started with 24 stitches, but you can really do as many or as few as you like, as long as it’s a multiple of six. I recommend at least 12.
We are going to be doing front post/back post cables first, so the next row will be a wrong side row, to set us up for cabling. (Click here for an explanation of the abbreviations in this article.) Work thusly:
Row 1 (and all WS rows): Fpdc, bpdc4, fpdc; repeat across. Ch 3, turn.
It will look like this when you’re done:
The next row is your cable row. We will be doing cables where you go in FRONT first – if you’re right handed, that’s a left twisting cable; if you’re left handed, a right twisting cable. Note from here on out, the right handed picture will be on the right, and the left handed picture will be on the left.
Row 2: Bpdc, skip 2 stitches, fptr in next two stitches, going in FRONT of (or BEHIND) fptr just completed, fptr in each of the 2 skipped stitches, bpdc; repeat across, ch3, turn.
Since this is the tricky part, I’m going to show you one step at a time. First you do your bpdc, like so:
Leave the next two stitches empty, and fptr in the next two:
Why treble instead of double? Because the stitches in the cable are going at an angle relative to the rest of the row, they lose some height. Using a taller stitch makes up the difference so your fabric won’t pucker. With two to three stitch cables, you can get away with using stitches of the same height. However any wider than that, you’ll probably want to use the next taller stitch for your cables. The next step is to reach in FRONT of the fptr you just did:
And fptr in the two stitches you skipped:
That is all there is to cabling, really! On the next row you repeat your set up row again. The cabled stitches will be sort of bunched up, but just work them in order.
To get cable that twists the other way (right if you’re right handed, left if you’re left handed), the process is exactly the same, except you reach BEHIND the stitches you just did:
This part is difficult to capture in a picture. I find it helpful to fold the stitches I’m reaching around down in front of the work to get behind them at the skipped stitches. Then fptr in the two stitches you skipped:
Here it is after the wrong side row:
In the above examples, your cables (done in front post stitches) are separated by a contrasting stitch (back post stitches). Another way to cable is to have no contrasting stitches. In crochet, it makes the most sense to work in the tops of the stitches for this look, rather than the posts.
Row 2: hdc, skip 2 stitches, dc in next two stitches, going in FRONT of (or BEHIND) dc just completed, dc in each of the 2 skipped stitches, hdc; repeat across, ch3, turn.
If you are reaching in BACK to cable, this is exactly the same as doing the post stitches, you just put your hook in a different location. If you are reaching in FRONT to cable, however, it is a little different. Set up your cable as usual – skip two stitches, then do the next two stitches. When you reach around front, instead of inserting your hook front to back like normal, go from back to front, like this:
And complete those two stitches:
this prevents you from getting a funny extra loop across the front of your cable, as well as being just plain easier.
All cables – up to and including the most intricate braided cables – are just combinations of right and left twists of varying widths. When you think of it that way, it’s not nearly as complicated as it looks! And seriously, there are few things more complicated looking than cables. So go forth and spread the word – these twisty stitches aren’t just for people who play with sticks!
About the Author
Kim learned to crochet as a child, but it never really took until she got stuck working the night shift at a hotel front desk. Yarn filled those long quiet hours quite nicely! She currently lives in Colorado with her husband and three little girls, where the harsh winters inspire her to create all manner of warm woolen goodness. When not completely overwhelmed by her urge to do it all, she gardens, spins, and reads comic books. You can check out more of her crocheted cables here.
Tutorial & images © Kim Driggs. All rights reserved.