Diagram of cable, prior to cable crossing row

Cables in knitting are formed by crossing stitches, and creating a twist in the fabric.  Every cable pattern is basically just a variation on this theme.  This tutorial illustrates how to cable by knitting a very basic 6-stitch cable. As you see below, you will be knitting the leftmost 3 stitches first, then the rightmost 3 stitches, and this re-ordering of the stitches will form the cable crossing.

1. Knit (or purl) along until you reach the cable, then stop.

1. Knit (or purl) along until you reach the 6 stitches that form the cable, then stop.

2. Slip the first 3 stitches of the cable, one at a time, from the left-hand needle onto a cable needle. This cable is a front-cross cable, which twists to the left, and so you will just let the cable needle drop to the front of the work. If you were working a back-cross or right-twisting cable, you would drop your cable needle to the back of the work.

3. Knit the next 3 stitches from the left-hand needle.

3. Knit the next 3 stitches from the left-hand needle.

4. Lastly, knit the 3 stitches that were on hold on the cable needle.

4. Lastly, knit the 3 stitches that were on hold on the cable needle.

Then you’re done, and since you knit the 6 stitches out of order, you created the twisted in the knitted fabric which forms a cable!  Continue knitting as established, and your cable will show more clearly after a few rows.  Typically, you will only do this cable cross maneouver every few rows (for a 6-stitch cable, you will do a cable cross every 6th rows, for a 4-stitch cable, you will do a cable cross every 4th row, etc.)

This 6-stitch cable is the cable pattern used in my Chunky Cable Hat – a free pattern.