cowl countdown to christmas, week 3: criss cross cable cowl


so, now that you’ve got two weeks of fairly simple construction under your belt, are you ready to amp it up a little for week 3??  i knew i wanted to do some sort of cabled cowl, and after a few false starts, this is what i went with.  if you’ve never cabled before, don’t be intimidated.  i took a million one-handed pictures (that’s hard even when you’re not holding knitting needles) and am going to walk you through it every step of the way.

“cables” probably makes you think of the popular twisted rope looking patterns, but really, cabling is just manipulating your stitches to weave your fabric in different ways.  so, you can cable tightly to make a rope or braid, or do it much more loosely to get an unstructured effect, which i think is neat looking on something like a cowl.

this piece is knit flat and then joined at the end.  you have two options for finishing this cowl–if you want it totally seamless, use a provisional cast on (there are several versions, this happens to be my fave).  you cast on with waste yarn and knit into it with your actually yarn starting on the first row.  then you unravel the waste yarn when you’re ready to bind off, revealing live stitches that you thread onto another knitting needle and bind off with kitchener stitch.  this is another sewn (woven, actually) bind off method that grafts your live cast on row with your live bind off row to make a totally seamless closure.  it’s really pretty cool.

HOWEVER, if the previous paragraph sounded frightening and alien and you feel overwhelmed by the idea of cabling plus a new cast on, plus a new bind off, have no fear.  i made my sister a similar looking cowl days before christmas last year and knew i just couldn’t handle the two new techniques with everything else i had going on.  you can still use a long tail cast on, bind off normally, and seam the two finished edges together fairly discreetly using mattress stitch.   this is another excellent and easy technique to master that will make your knitted projects look so professional.  if i can avert even one of you from my torrid past of bulky, weak, whipstitched seams, i will have paid my debt to knitting society.

i purposely put this cowl in the middle of the countdown so if you’re interested in experimenting with some new techniques, you can do so on a quick project with few stitches to keep track of.  it still requires only knitting and purling for the body, so i will call this “adventurous beginner” level.  trust me, if i can figure out (sort of) html code to make buttons for my tutorial page (all night endeavor, that was), you can DEFINITELY cable.  so let’s do it!


  • 1 skein super bulky yarn (yeah!  you know that means it goes fast!)
  • size 15 needles, either straight or circular (you know i love circular since they’re harder to misplace)
  • cable needle or double point needle
  • tapestry needle to weave in loose ends/mattress stitch/kitchener stitch
  • crochet hook for provisional cast on, if using

some cabling tips, if this is your first time:

  • cabling is just knitting and purling as usual.  the “cabling” part, the manipulation of stitches, is only one row every several rows.
  • cabling can feel and look a little weird and tight, even the first row or two after a cable row.  remain calm, and keep following the pattern!  the true appearance of the fabric emerges over time.
  • you can use a cable needle, a wavy looking thing, or just a regular double point needle to cable.  i use dpns personally, though they do slide out sometimes.  i find it’s helpful but not necessary to have a dpn of similar size to those you’re using for your project.

the cable pattern (sand cables) is worked in groups of 12.  the first 6 stitches are involved in the cable, the second 6 are knit/purled normally.  the cable pattern is worked over 10 rows, with cabling on rows 5 (right side) and 10 (wrong side).

  • rows 1 and 3 (right side) knit
  • rows 2 and 4 (wrong side) purl
  • row 5, right side cable row: C6B k6– slip 3 stitches onto cable/dpn and hold to back of work.  k3 from regular needle, then k3 from cable/dpn and put aside. k6 from regular needle.  there is your placket of 12 stitches, got it?  repeat C6B k6 to end of row (you will do it twice for a total of 24 stitches).  see below for an illustration.
  • rows 6 and 8 (wrong side) purl
  • rows 7 and 9 (right side) knit
  • row 10, wrong side cable row:  C6F p6- slip 3 stitches onto cable/dpn and hold to front of work.  p3 from regular needle, then p3 from cable/dpn and put aside.  p6 from regular needle.  another placket of 12.  repeat C6F p6 to end of row (again, you will do this a total of two times).  see below for an illustration.

ready?  here we go!

cast on 24 stitches using your method of choice.  begin working in cable pattern, and continue until piece measures about 22″ in length (for me, that was 7 repeats of the cable pattern, plus two more rows so that i wouldn’t worry about loosing my cable row while grafting.  i find two rows after a cable row yields more even, typical stitches that are easier to work with).  bind off using method of choice.  weave in loose ends.  rock your cables, you earned it!

C6B k6 visual (row 5, right side):


  1. we’re getting ready to cable.  the red arrow points to your cable needle, so follow that through the photos.  see that teal yarn at the bottom?  that’s my waste yarn for my provisional cast on row.
  2. slip 3 stitches onto your cable needle/dpn.
  3. move that cable needle/dpn to the back of your work and ignore it.  now you should be holding your normal knitting needles as you usually would.  knit 3 stitches normally.  the picture shows me finishing the third stitch.
  4. now, let go of the normal needle in your left hand for a minute.  pull that cable/dpn back in front.  don’t go nuts and twist or twirl it around.  just pull it to the front of the work so you can knit off it it as though it’s a normal needle, right to left.  the blue arrow shows you your first stitch from the cable needle/dpn.  when you’ve knit all three stitches, set it aside and knit 6 more off your regular needles.  repeat 1-4.

C6F p6 visual (row 10, wrong side)


  1. slip 3 stitches onto your cable/dpn.  again, the red arrow will show you the position of your cable/dpn.
  2. move it to the front of your work and ignore it for a minute.
  3. pick up your right hand needle again, and purl 3 stitches normally (shown by blue arrow) while the cable/dpn stays in front of your work.
  4. put down your left hand needle, pick up your cable/dpn in your left hand, and purl those 3 stitches as you normally would, right to left.  this photo shows me purling the first stitch.  when you’ve purled all three stitches, set it aside and purl 6 more off your regular needles.  repeat 1-4.

13 thoughts on “cowl countdown to christmas, week 3: criss cross cable cowl

  1. Thanks for the great pattern, this will make a wonderful, quick gift for women or men! I’m not a beginner knitter but your instructions and photos are terrific for anyone who is.

  2. Pingback: Coming soon… Schneegestöber | My Fair Yarn

  3. This is absolutely beautiful. It is hard to believe you only have to cast on 24 stitches. I love to do cables. Can you use 2 different colors of yarn together? Anxious to try this pattern. Thanks for sharing.


    • hi linda! yes, it seems like a small cast on because usually for a cowl, you’d cast on for the entire circumference. in this case, you will knit it flat vertically and then join it in the round before you turn it horizontally. you could certainly hold two colors together, so long as they create the same gauge as stated in the pattern!

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