TIDKT: Knitted Cable Naming Conventions

I taught a lovely cables class on Saturday at The Sheep Shop in Cambridge. It was the first time I had run the class so I wrote a new pattern

the cables we made in my class

 and wrote out a new handout.

I always try and make sure I think around a subject so that my students get a well rounded class with lots of bonus information to take them beyond the basics (I have a great repeat customer rate so I think it is working) The bonus for me is that I almost always learn something new too. This time it was how to use the two different cable abbreviations to label your own cables and to help you understand those in patterns without having to refer to the special stitches description every time (although please check it once in case they haven’t used the standard!)

But first a brief primer in what a cable is:

Cables and travelling stitches are created by moving the order of stitches as they occur in a row for decorative effect. They are normally formed by working patterns of stocking stitch (Knit on RS, Purl on WS) on a background of reverse stocking stitch (Purl on RS, Knit on WS) or moss stitch (k1,p1). Cables are (normally) areas of stocking stitch being crossed over one another, travelling stitches are (normally) areas of stocking stitch moving across the background or a single knit stitch moving across a background.
To move the stitches we use a cable needle. The cable needle is inserted into the stitch as if you were going to purl then slipped over to the cable needle without working the stitch. The cable needle is then held at either the front or back of the work and the next stitches are worked, then the stitches on the cable needle are worked.

There are two formats for cable naming. I don’t know why. I think the first I am going to explain is more commonly used in the UK and the second is more common in the US but I can’t quite get to the bottom of it to find if that is true. (Please do enlighten me if you know!)

The first type of abbreviation looks like this

C4F or T3B

C denotes cable, T denotes travelling. The number denotes the total number of stitches in the procedure. The final letter tells you where to hold the stitches on the needle F is Front of work, B is back of work.

So in these examples:
C4F, slip 2 stitches to the cable needle and hold it at the front of the work, knit the next 2 stitches then knit the stitches on the cable needle.
T3B, slip 1 stitch to cable needle and hold it at the back of the work, knit the next 2 stitches then purl the stitch on the cable needle.

The second type of abbreviation looks like this

2/2LC or 2/1RPC

The numbers denote how many stitches are to be worked split by how many are travelling over how many. L or R designates the direction that the stitch is travelling in. For left hold at front, for right hold at back. RIGHT=REAR is a useful way to remember it. The addition of a P tells you these are travelling stitches on a purl background. So those who have been paying attention will realise that 2/2LC = C4F and 2/1RPC = T3B.

Which should you use in your designs?

That is entirely up to you. I prefer the first as I find front and back much easier to understand than left and right and I like the cable/travelling distinction more than the addition of the P for purl but I do like that the second type is more specific about how the cable is split.

To check out the other posts in this series about learning and design go here.


  1. says

    Ah, now. I know three different ways of writing travelling sts and (for me and my designs) they each have a different use.

    C4B refers to the st st cables you mention above

    T2L or T2R is where only 2 sts are involved and you dont need to use a cable needle. Both sts are knitted. T means twist in this context.

    Cr4R or Cr4L is cross 4 right or left, and I use this when the travelling sts are in st st on a reverse st st ground. Of course the number 4 might mean one st travelling over three, or two sts travelling over two, etc. You really do need to check each pattern for the precise way of working the designer intended. :)

  2. says

    Ah so the ones you use combine the two I mentioned above, interesting. I do find the right and left very difficult. And I absolutely couldn’t get me head around what the left hander in my class had to do to get the cables the same (they were all mirrored which made it simpler but also harder for me)
    Twist meaning to twist two together is new on me, I had always used cross. Twist to me meant knitting into the back loop.
    But then you can’t expect standardisation in so ancient a craft as ours!