Yes to cables!
Updated: Feb 8, 2021
You know that cabling is merely rearranging your stitches before knitting them, but you're still intimidated. Maybe you've cabled a hat or knit a shawl with a cable element, and you'd like to tackle a sweater? Or perhaps you've knit a sweater with cables, but you'd like to refine your cables. Either way, you're ready to elevate your game.
A cabled sweater seems like an insurmountable commitment
You want a cable sweater but worried you'll cast on, get mired, and put it down for two years? I've done that!
To get some momentum and keep it, try choosing a design with an all-over repeating cable pattern, or that's straightforward columns of repeating cables. Your goal is to find a pattern you can memorize while swatching so you're not tethered to your chart (hello knitting in the curbside pickup line). Simple twists, honeycombs, or horseshoes are perfect. Finding a sweater that has cable elements on limited components will also help you keep your momentum.
Dealing with a cable needle is fussy and annoying
The solution for this is to ditch the needle whenever you can. Makenzie from Hanks and Needles has a great video tutorial here (and companion blog post here) (PS, she's having a cable KAL the month of Feb, peep the details in the Go Further below).
Every time you put your work down, you lose your place
It seems like I should know by eye when it's time to cable, but I'm always second-guessing myself! When I first started working cables I spent a LOT of time ripping back.
My first trick for this is to track my rows religiously. If I'm cabling on the 7th and every following 10th row, for example, all I have to do is keep an eye out for 17, 27, etc. If I've made a 'map' of my pattern to keep track of row-by-row shaping, I'll circle the cable rows, and then I check off each row as I work it.
But sometimes I lose track! That's when you'll need to read your knitting. Y'all know I adore Patty Lyons, and she has a great tutorial here on how to read the rows from your last cable cross. If you're confused looking at the front, flip your work over - I find the back is often easier to read.
If you're still learning to read your knitting, you can try one of the following:
Before you work the next cable, take a picture (try taking one of the front and one of the back). If you get lost later, you can refer back to it to visualize what your work will look like when you reach your next cable row.
Use a ruler to measure your work to get a baseline.
Place a stitch marker in the reverse stockinette or a stockinette part of your pattern when you work the cable row, where you can easily read it later.