One of the things I like most about the TKGA Master Knitting program is researching and learning new things. I’ve spent the last three weeks researching what causes cable flare and must admit that, in all my knitting adventures with the twists and turns of cables I had never heard of ‘cable flare.’ Nor had I really wondered why, when transitioning from the ribbing in an Aran sweater to the cable portion one increased stitch count. I had a vague awareness from knitting socks that patterns which contained cables had more stitches cast on than other socks patterns but had never questioned why.
The non-knitters may want to pass on reading this post and those of you who don’t knit cables may follow suit. On the other hand, those of you who are process (or curious) knitters may want to hang around a bit while I share what I found quite interesting. Who knows? YOU may be a future designer of intricate Aran sweaters!
When knitting cables all that twisting and turning results in the fabric ‘pulling’ in somewhat. I the swatch below I was instructed to knit a seed stitch border above and below (and on the sides) of a cable pattern of my choice. As you can see, despite my best efforts in blocking, there is a slight puckering (or flaring) above and below each cable. Ikes! My next task, after writing a pattern for this puckering swatch, was to find why it puckered like that and figure out how to compensate for that puckering so it wouldn’t flare out.
So why, dear knitter, do you think there was puckering? If your answer has to do with GAUGE then you are exactly right. The seed stitch border and the cable portion have very different gauges! I know, I know……that word – GAUGE …..makes us all groan.
So off I went to find the gauge in the seed stitch border. Then I picked another cable (below) and knit a swatch of the cable to take it’s gauge. I did some calculations and discovered that there is a good 4 stitch difference between the two. Wowsers! That is definitely enough to cause a pucker under that cable.
I learned that the way to compensate is to increase those number of stitches right after the last border row but they just can’t be increased anywhere, they need to be increased right over the cable.
So that is what I did and since I had two cables, I increased 8 stitches – 4 for each cable. I worked the cable portion with those additional stitches and when I finished the cable portion I decreased back down to my original cast on to work the other seed stitch border. And guess what? Voila! No cable flare!
Tuck this knitting tidbit into your knitting knowledge hat and the next time you knit a pair of cabled socks you will know why you have to cast on more stitches (because cables pull in) or you are knitting a cabled sweater and see increases at the bottom of the cables and decreases up at the top of the shoulder you will know why!
Full disclosure to inquiring minds – I have not yet submitted these swatches to the Master Knitting Committee so when I do they may tell me I’m bonkers and I need to do more research and resubmit them….actually, they would tell me in a very gentle way. If my research has been wrong then I will come back here and let you know that you have been steered wrong by someone who is still aspiring to become a Master Knitter and is taking the scenic route 😉