A Cabling Conundrum

In order to illustrate the effect of different stitch patterns on row and stitch gauge, the TKGA Level I instructions require a comparison between the top halves of swatch #1 (garter stitch) and #2 (stockinette) with the entire swatch of #3 (seed stitch) and #14 (horseshoe cable).  The comparison of these four swatches means that they all have to be in the same yarn and knit on the same needles.

It might be nerdy, but I found it rather fun calculate the row and stitch gauges and find experimentally what I knew intuitively:  that it takes more rows of garter stitch to achieve the same length fabric as stockinette, or that in terms of stitches per inch a pattern of cable> seed stitch> stockinette> garter stitch.  It really reinforces the importance of making gauge swatches “in pattern”.

After agonizing about the ribbing tension and type of increases to use in the bottom halves of swatches #1 & 2, I was quite happy about how relatively simple swatches #3 and #14 were.  Just follow the instructions on the sheet, remember good tension, and done!

Looking for more relatively quick gratification, I thought I’d finish out the cable section.  #13 was easy enough, just a simple little twisting cable, instructions provided.  On to #15, ‘Choose your own Cable Adventure’.  No problem.  I have a couple of nice stitch books from the library, I thought I’d just pick a cable, center it and make sure its balanced and move along.  I found myself a handsome interlaced braid, something exciting, but not so many stitches across that I can’t frame it nicely with a purl background and stockinette on the outside.  So why doesn’t my cable look very exciting?

#15 Cable Swatch, partially knit

#15 Cable Swatch, partially knit

It’s not just the photo, the interlacing looks very muddy, only when it catches the light ‘just so’ will the four interwoven ‘strands’ look somewhat clear (eg. the far edge that’s curling upward in this photo).

I think I have chosen a bad cable, or maybe a bad cable for my skill level.  I think it is too complex a cable over too small a stitch count (only 10 stitches) to show up well.  The cross-overs seem to be under too much tension to have the “fatness” that creates good shadowing.  I think a similar design of four interlaced ‘strands’ would look fine if each ‘strand’ had more stitches.  Or else, there is something I don’t know about cables and tension that would allow my small ‘strands’ to be fatter without having the edge stitches look inconsistently looser than those on the inner curves.

I suppose I will have to select another cable pattern.  I have noticed that a lot of the TKGA Level 1 projects on Ravelry used what I would call  “x and o” cables or “ooo” cables.  Those seemed to look nice and distinct.  Maybe I’ll look for something like that.  I’m more attracted to cables that look kind of wavy due to really long repeats, but I only have 4 inches to work with, so I don’t think that kind will balance well.  Maybe I can save my wavy cable experiments for the Level II vest that I plan to design myself.

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