As part of a continuing series, I'll be highlighting different special stitches and motifs. Click here to read my previous spotlight on the Horizontal Chain Stitch.
One of the most popular styles of stitches in Irish and Celtic knitting is the cable stitch. There are actually many different types of cable stitches, but what they all have in common is their resemblance to ropes or cables. In Irish Aran knitting, cables are meant to be symbolic of a Fisherman's rope. In Celtic knitting, cables are often incorporated into knots and woven designs, which also have their own symbolic meanings.
Creating cables in loop yarn finger knitting follows a very similar concept and technique to standard knitting. They can also be fairly simple and two-dimensional, or raised and chunky. I've put together a list of examples here, but it is by no means exhaustive. I encourage you to play around with stitch combinations and come up with your own!
The easiest cable stitches are flat. They create the impression of a twisting cable, without the height or puffiness. This video by The Crochet Crowd walks you creating this motif, from a combination of knit and criss-cross stitches (If you need a tutorial on criss-cross stitches - read this blog post).
You can modify the look of flat cables by increasing the width, or adding more rows of knit stitches in between the twists.
Examples of patterns with flat cables: Extra-Chunky Braid Cable Blanket, Extra-Chunky Staghorn Cable Blanket, Extra-Big Braided Celtic Cable Saxon Braid Blanket, Woven Lattice Cable Blanket, Celtic Interlaced Knot Blanket
Rope cables are super easy and only require repeating one stitch over and over again: the criss-cross stitch. In the image below you can see flat cables on the far right, and two rope cables on the left. The left rope cable is made by stacking cross-over left stitches, and the right is made by stacking cross-over right stitches. You can see that combining rope cables creates its own cable motif - a fishtail plait or fishtail cable.
Patterns with rope cables: Chunky Celtic Cable Saxon Braid Blanket, Super Chunky Staghorn Cable Blanket, Celtic Cable Saxon Braid Baby Blanket, Celtic Cable Saxon Braid Shawl Wrap, Celtic Interlaced Knot Blanket, Extra-Chunky Braid Cable Blanket, Checkerboard Cable Blanket, Celtic Cable Knotted Braid Blanket, Repeating Rope Cable Knit Blanket, Irish Aran Diamond and Honeycomb Blanket
Chain cables look exactly like the name - links of a chain. They are made by repeating a honeycomb motif. Like the flat cables above, this is made by combining knit and criss-cross stitches. If you look at the example below, you can see the honeycomb is made as follows (by repeating four rows of four stitches):
From the bottom up:
- row 1 (right-to-left): cross-over left, cross-over right
- row 2 (left-to-right): knit 4 stitches
- row 3 (right-to-left): cross-over right, cross-over left
In between each honeycomb, you will knit 4 stitches to join the links of your chain. And then repeat these four rows to make more chains.
Patterns with chain cables: Checkerboard Cable Blanket, Irish Aran Cabled Trellis Blanket
Making chunky cables is a bit trickier. You will use the same technique as criss-cross stitches, but instead of crossing one loop over another, you will cross multiple loops (e.g. two over two, or three over three, etc.).
This video (at around the 16:45 mark) by garnet isajewel walks you through the process of creating a 4-loop cable (2 loops over 2 loops).
Once you get the hang of chunky cables, you can also use this technique to make chunky versions of other cable styles, like braid cables and staghorn cables.
Patterns with chunky cables: Chunky Celtic Cable Saxon Braid Blanket, Celtic Cable Saxon Braid Shawl Wrap, Celtic Shamrock Clover Blanket, Celtic Cable Saxon Braid Baby Blanket, Slip and Slide Cable Blanket, Extra-Chunky Braid Cable Blanket, Extra-Chunky Staghorn Cable Blanket, Celtic Cable Knotted Braid Blanket
One of the most popular cables in Irish Aran knitting is the Staghorn Cable. The image below shows a combination of two types of cables. On the right is a flat cable (same technique as the video above, except that I have widened it and made a flat rope cable). On the left is a staghorn cable. To make the staghorn, you will repeat two rows of six stitches.
From the bottom up:
- row 1 (right-to-left): knit 1 stitch, cross-over left, cross-over right, knit 1 stitch
- row 2 (left-to-right): cross-over right, knit 2 stitches, cross-over left
And that's it! Repeating those two rows yields a cable that sort of grows out of its centre and looks like a stag's horns.
Patterns with staghorn cables: Super Chunky Staghorn Cable Blanket, Irish Aran Tree of Life Cable Knit Blanket, Extra-Chunky Staghorn Cable Blanket
Braid cables are created by weaving three or more strands together. Below you'll see three cables. On the far right is a flat cable (by adding rows of knit stitches in between the cross-over stitch, I've changed the look from a simple flat cable). In the middle, there are actually two braid cables, side by side (see how combining multiple cables changes the look of the motif?). To create a single braid cable, you will repeat two rows of three stitches.
From the bottom up:
- row 1 (right-to-left): cross-over right, knit 1 stitch
- row 2 (left-to-right): cross-over left, knit 1 stitch
Patterns with braid cables: Celtic Shamrock Clover Blanket, Extra-Big Braided Celtic Cable Saxon Braid Blanket
Celtic knots and braids are often the centrepiece of Celtic knitting. They follow the same rules as braid cables, in that the individual cable strands are woven together such that each strand travels over and under each strand it crosses. It is very important to follow this rule, because without weaving your strands correctly, you'll be left with a knot that looks unbalanced. Celtic knots and braids can have a few rows of repeats, or dozens. You are really only limited by your creativity! Below are some examples of classic Celtic braid and knot designs.
The Saxon braid is a classic 6-strand Celtic knot:
The Celtic love knot is a pretty and balanced design that simultaneously looks like four hearts and a four-leaf clover.
Patterns with cable knots: Chunky Celtic Cable Saxon Braid Blanket, Twisted Chain Celtic Cable Blanket, Celtic Cable Saxon Braid Shawl Wrap, Celtic Shamrock Clover Blanket, Celtic Cable Saxon Braid Baby Blanket, Celtic Interlaced Knot Blanket, Celtic Cable Knotted Braid Blanket, Irish Aran Cabled Trellis Blanket, Extra-Big Braided Celtic Cable Saxon Braid Blanket, Irish Aran Diamond and Honeycomb Blanket
- twisted chain cable in my Twisted Chain Celtic Cable Blanket
- heart cables and tree cables in my Irish Aran Tree of Life Cable Knit Blanket
- caterpillar cable in my Caterpillar Cable Throw Blanket
- shamrock cables in my Celtic Shamrock Clover Blanket
- wheat ear cables in my Wheat Ear Cable Blanket
- open twist cable in my Repeating Rope Cable Knit Blanket