Design your own cabled scarf. Yes, you can!

I’m more than halfway through knitting a very simple cabled scarf for one of the progeny.

Simple Cable Scarf in progress
Simple Cable Scarf in progress

It’s so simple, you could design your own variation, even if you’ve only ever followed patterns before.

“How?”, you may ask?  Well, follow along these simple steps!

Step 1:   Choose your yarn.  Wool, or some sort of wool blend is nice, because it keeps it’s shape very well, but any yarn will do. Any weight you like, 4ply, 8ply, 10ply, whatever.

Step 2:   Inspect the label from you yarn to find out the recommended needle size and the standard guage/tension.  I’ve chosen Cleckheaton Country Aran, a fairly new aran weight/10ply yarn.  The label informs me that the recommended needle size is 5.00mm (UK 6, US 8), and that the guage/tension is 19 stitches and 25 rows to 10cm.  The stitch guage is more interesting to us than the row guage, for the moment anyway.

Ball Band
Ball Band

Step 3:   Choose a cable pattern.  If you have a good knitting book like “Vogue Knitting – The Ultimate Knitting Book” you will find a Stitch Dictionary included which has a cable section.  You can use a cable pattern from a pattern book or magazine in your collection. Lion Brand yarn have a good online stitch dictionary, including cables.  Borrow a stitch dictionary from your local library.  Ours has Knitting Handbook by Viv Foster, The Knitting Book by Frederica Patmore and The Encyclopedia of Knitting by Lesley Standfield.  Your library will probably have a couple.

The pattern you choose should describe the number of stitches as multiple of x stitches plus y stitches.  The simple cable I’m using is a multiple of 9 stitches plus 3 stitches.  The cable is 6 stitches with 3 stitches between each cable, which adds up to 9 stitches.  The plus 3 stitches is so that you have the same 3 stitches (or however many “plus” stitches yours specifies) at the start and end of each row to balance things up.

My chosen cable stitch pattern
My chosen cable stitch pattern

Step 4:   Knit a tension/gauge square.  It won’t take long, I promise!!!  To knit your square, use needles one size up from the ball band recommendation.  It’s nice to have a bit of give and flexibility in your scarf; it doesn’t need a firm fabric like a pullover would.  So in my case the needles size will be 5.5mm (US 5, UK 9).

If you wanted a 10cm wide square you could use the ball band stitches x 1. Aiming to have a square of about 15cm (6 in) we’ll need about 1.5 times the number of stitches specified on the ball band.  1.5 x 19 in my case is 28.5 stitches.  Well, I’m not going to have half a stitch.  I need this number to cater for my multiple of 9 sts plus 3 sts as well.

If I take the 3 sts from my 28.5 sts I get 25.5 stitches.  Does 9 go into this? No.  We’ll round up to something divisible by 9.  27 stitches will do the trick, plus my extra 3 stitches gives me 30 stitches.  Even though I’ve gone up a needle size and rounded up for my stitch number, the cables will pull everything in, so I’ll add one more multiple of 9 to give me 39 sts, that’s four cables wide plus 3 extra stitches.

So cast on your 39 (or whatever number you’ve come up with), and start knitting using your chosen cable stitch pattern.  I played around with mine.  After a few rows, I started doing p1, k1, p1 between each cable because I thought I might like the look of it.  I didn’t. So, after about 6 rows of this, I went back to the pattern as written.  My cable pattern actually specifies to do a cable every 4th row, but that’s a more compact look than I wanted, so I did them every 6th row.  Continue until you’ve got roughly a square. Cast/bind off.

Tension Square/Gauge Swatch
Tension Square/Gauge Swatch

Yay, you’ve got a tension/gauge square!  Go you!  Now, hopefully you’ve got some sensitive digital kitchen scales.  Weigh you’re square to find out how much yarn you used.  Write it down.

Step 5:   Soak your square in water, remove it from the water, squeeze out any excess water, roll it in a towel and press out more water.  Now lay your square on a fresh, dry towel, stretching it out a bit.  It’ll spring back a bit, but don’t pin it; you’re scarf’s going to squish up when you wear it anyway.  Allow it to dry overnight.

Step 6:   Inspect your square, ruler in hand.  How wide is it? How tall is it?  Is this a good width for a scarf?  If you added or subtracted a cable would that make it the width that you want?  From this information calculate how many stitches you’ll need to cast on for your actual scarf.

Step 7:   How much yarn are you going to need?  If your square is 15cm x 15cm it is 225 square cm.  (Thank you calculator!).  If you want your scarf to be 140cm x 20cm that will be 2800 square cm.  If I divide 2800 by 225, I find out that my scarf is the equivalent of 12.44 tension/guage squares.  My square weighed 17g.  If I multiply 17g x 12.44 squares, I get 211.5 grams required for my scarf.  Each ball is 50g, so I need 5 balls, and there’ll be plenty left over.

Step 8:  Obtain your yarn, cast on your calculated number of stitches and start knitting!  Cast off when you’ve reached your desired length.

Let me know how you go, and I’d love to see some results!  Good luck and happy designing. 🙂

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