I've been teaching workshops involving cables and doing demos recently, and when I talk to people about why they don't do cables, the common answer is that the patterns are complicated to read or that they can't decipher the pattern.
So I thought I'd do some occasional posts about cable knitting and understanding cable patterns.
The first and most important rule about cable patterns is:
Always read the pattern notes and the abbreviations.
This is because even if you think you understand the code/convention used for a cable in a pattern, you should double check because unfortunately not everyone sticks to the same approach when writing patterns.
Here I'm going to look at a common form of writing about cables to help break down how they work. This the type where the cable starts with a capital C, then a number and then another letter. For example, C8B, C4F, C6R.
This type of cable instruction can be broken down as follows
C - this tells you that the instruction is for a cable stitch and usually signifies that all the stitches in the cable are knitted (or purled).
Number - this tells you the total number of stitches in the cable. Usually if there is an even number of stitches in a cable, half the stitches will cross over the other half.
Second letter - this will be F, B, L or R. L and R tell you which direction the cable slopes in and/or whether you hold the stitches to the back. L means the cable slopes to the left, R to the right. F means that you hold the stitches to the front of the work, giving you a left sloping cable. B means hold the stitches to the back giving a right sloping cable.
This means that C4F means the same as C4L and C6B means the same as C6R. These terms translate as follows:
C4F slip next 2 stitches onto the cable needle and hold to front, k2, k2 from cable needle
C6B slip next 3 sts onto the cable needle and hold to back, k3, k3 from cable needle
I prefer to use F and B because they tell you exactly what to do with your cable needle whereas you need to think about left and right - I have been know to go through a pattern changing the Ls and Rs to Fs and Bs so I don't make a mistake.
If you are new to cables I would start with a pattern that only uses simple all knit cables like this so hang of how they work.
Left leaning cable
Row 1: P1, k4, p1
Row 2: K1, p4, k1
Row 3: P1, C4F, k1
Row 4: as row 2
These four rows form pattern
Row 1: P1, C4F, k2, p1
Row 2: K1, p6, k1
Row 3: P1, k2, C4B, p1
Row 4: As row 2.
These four rows from pattern