If you like cables (who doesn't? :-)) and you use them in scarves, cowls and blankets, chances are you are secretly hoping that the wind won't flip the ends of your scarf, that the cowl always stays with only the right side of the work visible, and the guests praising your gorgeous cabled blanket won't turn it over.
Why? Because despite all the beauty, the cables have one significant flaw - they don't look good on the wrong side of the work. When we make sweaters, hats and mitts, it's not a big deal. The wrong side of the work is not usually visible.
But when we add cables to reversible projects like scarves, cowls and blankets, this flaw turns into a big issue.
The good news is - it doesn't HAVE to be that way. There is a simple trick that will help you turn any kind of a regular cable into a reversible one.
Before getting to that "magic trick" let's try to understand WHY most cables don't look nice on one side. The answer is simple - because they are based on stockinette stitch, that is not reversible itself.
Here comes a logical conclusion - to make a cable pattern reversible, you need to base it on a reversible stitch like ribbing. Ta-dam! No magic involved.
HERE'S HOW IT WORKS
Let's take a simple cable with 4 stitches crossed over 4 stitches = 8 stitches altogether. For simplicity, let's call it a 4x4 cable.
To make this cable reversible, work these 8 stitches in a rib pattern - [knit 1, purl 1], work brackets 4 times = 8 stitches. To make sure you clearly see the group of stitches that form the cable, place a stitch marker at each side of it. This way you will remember to work the stitches between the stitch markers in ribbing pattern, and won't mix them up with the stitches worked in seed stitch at each side of the cable.
When the time comes to cross the stitches, work to the first stitch of the cable, then slip 4 stitches to a cable needle, the same way as you would do when you make a regular cable.
Hold the cable needle to the back of the work if you want to make a right-slanting cable, and to the front of the work if you want to make a left slanting one.
Now work the other 4 stitches of the cable in the same rib pattern - knit the knit stitches and purl the purls. In our 4x4 cable example, it will be [knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, purl 1]
Then return the stitches from the cable needle to the left needle (or work them directly from the cable needle) and work them in the rib pattern. In our example, it will be [knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, purl 1]
As you see, there is nothing complicated about reversible cables, and you can apply the same technique to any cables. On the swatch shown in the photo below, I knit four reversible cables - 2x2, 3x3, 4x4 and 5x5.
Thank you for reading this far. I hope you find this tutorial useful :-)
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Because the cables are based on ribbing, they look slightly different than the cables based on stockinette stitch - the 2x2 cable, for example, looks like it has 2 stitches crossed, not 4. It happens because only half of the stitches in ribbing are knit stitches, and we usually see them much better than the purl stitches hidden next to them.
For that same reason cables that have an odd number of stitches crossed (3x3 and 5x5) look a bit asymmetrical as if one stitch is crossed over two stitches in the 3x3 cable and two stitches crossed over three stitches in the 5x5 cable.
Keep these differences in mind when you plan to make cables in your project reversible.
Another thing to keep in mind is the background of the cable. Most of the stockinette stitch based cables are shown on reverse stockinette background when you have purl stitches at each side of the cable. This way the cable stands out better and gets the amazing 3D look we all love so much.
Reversible cables don't need any enhancements. They are already quite textured simply because ribbing is bulkier than stockinette. But they do need a reversible background, so reversed stockinette won't do.
You can use garter stitch as I did in this swatch:
Or you can use seed stitch like the one shown in the photo below.
In both cases, your cable will look exactly the same on both sides of the work, and you will be proud to show the other side of your gorgeous cabled blanket to your guests :-)
Now with all this information at hand let's see how we can turn a regular cable pattern into a reversible one. The best way to do it is by using a chart. In fact, it will be quite hard to do it without a chart.
If you've never worked with charts before, please read this article, then come back and read the section below.
HOW TO MAKE A REGULAR CABLE REVERSIBLE
The process is more or less simple - we only need to change two things in the chart:
1) change the cable from stockinette to ribbing, and
2) change the stitches around the cable from reverse stockinette to garter or seed stitch.
Here is a photo and a chart of a regular cable pattern:
And here's the same chart with the cable converted to a reversible one. As you can see, the eight stitches of the cable pattern are now worked in ribbing and two stitches at each side of the cable in seed stitch. I chose seed stitch for the cable background because part of the pattern is also in seed stitch. For other cable patterns, garter stitch could be a better option.
The photo shows how the adjusted cable looks like. It is slightly different than the original swatch, but the good thing is - this cable pattern looks exactly the same on both sides!