Sunday, July 16, 2006

Ribbed Cable Muffler

Ribbed Cable Muffler (with lots of yarntalk)

This is a cushy, very elastic ribbed cable muffler. The cable is a smaller version of the one Starmore uses in St. Kilda (In the Hebrides, no link because I really don't think the book is worth $200 used!), and Lily Chin showcased it a few years ago as a reversible rib cable. There is a pattern for a scarf using ribbed cables here, but the pattern lacks some finesse (is that sufficiently PC?).

This muffler is best knit in a wool yarn that will hold its shape after washing, but it also does well with the sinuous quality of superwash wool and has enough depth that it doesn't deflate totally after washing, though the cables do tend to elongate.
The pattern below is for a sportweight yarn with a grist of approximately 1240 yards per pound (ypp). There are notes also for using an aran weight yarn that is 770 ypp. If you follow the link above, she has a beautiful photo of the cable worked in laceweight. To maximize the cuddle factor, knit it with an elastic yarn and a relatively dense gauge. For a shawl with the texture of a raked zen garden, try KSH at an open gauge and double or triple the number of cables.

There are a few tricks to knitting this muffler well. Increase the number of stitches in the second row and decrease in the penultimate row to minimize edge flare. Use a sturdy, slender cable needle and don't drop stitches while cabling. To prevent gaps, use more than your usual tension when crossing the cables.

Yarn: 5 balls
Baby Cashmerino (125 m/50g)
Needles: Size 4.5 mm for casting on and binding off. Size 3.75 mm for knitting. Yarn needle for weaving in ends.

m1 = Increase by knitting in back of stitch.
c8b6 = cable 8 behind 6. Place 8 st on cable needle in back, work next 6 st (k2, p2, k2), work 8 st from cable needle (p2, k2, p2, k2). The stitches on the cable needle change in this row from k to p or p to k in order to preserve the ribbing pattern. This creates a soft, slightly slanted bar on the reverse of the knitting. It also means those first two purls from the cable needle can be stiff. Try to keep your hands relaxed. Cables are staggered. They are crossed every 12 rows, with row C crossing the outer and center cables and row D crossing the two flank cables.

Knit the cast-on row. With a 4.5 mm needle cast on, long-tail, 75 st.
Knit an increase row. WS. Switch to a 3.75 mm needle and slip 1 purlwise, p1, (k1, m1, p2, k2, p2) x 10, k1, m1, p2. [86 st]
Knit row A. RS. Slip 1 knitwise, k1, (p2, k2) x 20, p2, k2.
Knit row B. WS. Slip 1 pw, p1, (k2, p2) x 20, k2, p2.
Knit row C. RS. Slip 1 kw, k1, p2, (c8b6, p2, (k2, p2) x 4) x 2, c8b6, p2, k2.
*Knit rows B, A, B, A, B.
Knit row D. RS. Slip 1 kw, k1, p2, ((k2, p2) x 4, c8b6, p2) x 2, (k2, p2) x 4, k2.
Knit rows B, A, B, A, B, C. Repeat from * until desired length.
Knit row B, then row A.
Knit a decrease row. WS. Slip 1 pw, p1, (k2tog, p2, k2, p2) x 10, k2tog, p2. [75 st]
With a 4.5 mm needle, bind off, knitting the knit stitches and purling the purls.
Weave in ends.

I actually used 5 balls plus a few yards to do a total 34 sets of row C crosses. Finished size, relaxed, before washing: 6.5" x 52". Finished size, relaxed, after washing: 6" x 60". Washed, the Cashmerino opened significantly, the cables grew longer, and it began to pill. [The yarn was on sale and it really does feel good.]

If you know your yarn is going to droop like Cashmerino, you can cross the cables every 8 rows instead of 12, but it will be tough on your thumbs and hands. Working this style of cable puts a lot of torque on the hand bones and should be done in stages interspersed with more soothing knitting, and never with a deadline.

The crossovers form large gaps, not visible because they are hidden in and make possible the layering of the fabric. I could write an entire post about the formation of those holes and how they effect the fabric. Another variation (in theory, anyway) of this scarf is to do a single truly monzo cable braced by the narrow rolled edge and a single inviolate rib, the pull one end of the scarf through a gap a few crossings from the other end. I'll knit one soon in a fine yarn and post a photo and pattern.

A few years ago I knit the same formula as the sport-weight pattern above, except with three cables instead of five, in Mission Falls 1824 Wool. I used a 5mm needle for the entire muffler. Cast on 47 and increase to 54. The bars on the reverse hardly show at all when the yarn has a deep plying texture like that of the 1824 wool. Finished size was 5" by 60", weight 265 grams.

Please tell me in the comments if you find a mistake; this is a draft, untested pattern. Thanks! There is a link in the sidebar to a terse print version that is the same as the previous post.

Blogger still isn't letting me upload photos. If you would like the packet that illustrates this post, leave your email in the comments section. If Blogger ever opens the gates, I'll post the photos with captions in a separate post.