Fixing a (Knitted) Cable

When last we left the Outfit Along, I was lamenting the fact that I made the cable on either side of the front opening travel too soon, which meant that it wasn’t in position to line up with the pattern on the bottom band. I could have modified the pattern on the bottom band—in fact I did try it, but I didn’t care for how it looked—but in my heart of hearts I knew it would bother me. So I set out to fix it.

Since my cable was not crossed in the wrong direction, instructions for duplicating stitching over it or (egads!) cutting into the knitting to reverse the crossing were not going to solve my problem. Instead, I learned that you treat it like any other mistake: isolate the offending stitches, drop them off the needles, and then gently tug free the strand of running yarn on each row until you get down to problem row. Correct the mistake(s), then use your knitting needles to re-knit (or a crochet hook to latch up) the stitches until you’re back on the working row.

I had very much hoped to photograph my steps, but the lighting just wasn’t cooperating. Instead, may I recommend Yarn Harlot’s and Twist Collective’s handy photo tutorials? I referenced both and would definitely recommend them if you find yourself in the same boat as me.

To their excellent advice, I would add the following four suggestions:

  1. Thread a DPN through the target row of the isolated stitches. Don’t worry if you don’t catch all of them, or you pick up the wrong arm of a stitch. Once you’ve unraveled most of the rows and are close to the row with the mistake, you can use one of your knitting needles to slip stitches off and on the DPN until all of them are accounted for and oriented correctly. Keeping them on a holder stops additional rows from unraveling, which is more common for tight knitters like me, and which is the #1 cause of knitting-induced panic around here. No need to make the fix more complicated or stressful than it needs to be, right?
  2. Count each loose strand of running yarn as you unravel it to make sure you know what row you’re on. Cables can be difficult to read, especially if they haven’t been blocked yet and are all scrunched up under their own tension. I had a pretty good idea about where I went wrong in the cable chart, but I made sure to count each row I unraveled to be sure I landed on the correct row for my fix. It also allowed me to confirm that the fix was happening on the side of the knitting that I intended (in this case, the public side) and that when I went to reknit I knew exactly where to pick up the pattern in the chart. The last thing I wanted was to go through all of this trouble only to be off by one row the whole way through and have to do it all over again.
  3. Use a smaller needle to hold the stitches to be worked; use the needle size needed to get gauge to work them. Even though the section of sweater I was dealing with was 9 stitches wide and worked on US 10 needles, it was tight and difficult to maneuver. I was concerned that in every row, the first few reknit stitches would be correctly sized and tensioned, but the last few would end up too tight and too small as I struggled to catch the dwindling span of the running yarn for the row. To mitigate this issue, I put the stitches to be worked on a US 8 DPN, and I did the actual knitting with a US 10 DPN. This did mean that each time I successfully reknit a row, I had to transfer the new stitches from the US 10 to a US 8 to work the next row, but the extra time was worth it because the reknit stitches are a pretty close match to the surrounding stitches that were left untouched. If you use interchangeable circulars, you could put a different sized tip on each end of a longish cord and eliminate the transfer step.
  4. Use a cable needle or DPN to rearrange the stitches for the cable cross, and then knit the entire row. If you try to knit part of the row, move stitches to a cable needle for the cable cross, knit half the cable, transfer the stitches back and knit them (or knit directly from the cable needle), and knit the remainder of the row, you’re in for a struggle. The cross is liable to be tight to the point of straining, the stitches will be scrunched up and difficult to work, and there’s a good chance you’ll end up stabbing yourself. Again, it takes a little extra time to rearrange things, but the payoff in appearance (and painlessness) is worth it.

The process was time-consuming, but the result was deeply satisfying: the cables are now correct, and it’s nearly impossible to tell that they were ever wrong; any remaining vagaries in tension/stitch size can be resolved during blocking. Best of all, by being patient and following the four steps above, I was able to avoid any weeping, gnashing of teeth, or questionable language. (I also wasn’t tempted to turn to booze and/or ice cream, which most certainly would not have improved the outcome.)

Have you ever had to fix a mistake in a cable? How did it go? Do you have any tips to add?

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