Cheating and the Dark Side of Knitting

My fingers are currently flying to finish the Cabled Poncho by Norah Gaughan from Vogue Knitting, a project I impulsively but with very good reason chose to make for a coworker and which I foolishly but for very good reasons chose to make in black.  For those who aren’t already a step ahead of me on this, both the fact that I am working in a nubbly black yarn and the fact that it is a Norah Gaughan pattern means I need a strategy – a plan – a way of cheating – if I hope to complete this otherwise easy project with my sanity intact.

Since Norah Gaughan tends to bend knitting design in every possible direction [Awesome!], her patterns can usually be counted on to have a challenge, unusual twist or obstacle of some kind to overcome.  In this case it is the need to keep track of an eight-row cable pattern that has its first cable cross on the fifth row while simultaneously performing a pair of central increases on three out of every four rows beginning on row three.  Apparently I am not the only one who found the instructions in the magazine to be sub-optimal, judging from the fact that Vogue chose to include an attempt at clarification in the Errata for that issue.  Figuring that there had to be some rhyme or reason to what was going on, I chose to take matters into my own hands and sketch out visually what happens on each row.  I discovered this fairly simple eight-row repeated sequence:

[Odd-numbered rows are RS and even rows are WS, + is my symbol for a row with increases, and X is my symbol for a row with cable-crosses.]

7 +
6 +
5 + X
3 +
2 + (except first time)
1 + (except first time)

Whew! Doesn’t it make a whole lot more sense when you see how it lines up?

The next challenge to overcome is working with a yarn that doesn’t let me read my stitches easily.  If I want to make any kind of reliable progress I need a strategy for keeping track of which of these eight rows I am on. This is what I came up with:

Blackstone 006   Blackstone 009

I took a length of brightly contrasting yarn, about 8-10″, and loosely wrapped it around one of the stitches in the first cable-crossing row.  I flip this yarn to the opposite side each time I begin a Right Side row.  As a result, each green stitch or blank space between them represents two rows.  I can pull the yarn up further as I need to.  As I work every fourth row, the green yarn will be hanging on the Wrong Side.  I tagged it to help me remember that whenever the tag is on the Wrong Side and I am working a Wrong Side row, I should NOT work any increases.  It also turned out that the tag is on the Right Side when it is time to work a Right Side cable-crossing row, so I noted this on the tag as well.  (The tag is also on the Right Side midway between cable-cross rows, but it is easy enough to look at the cables and tell by eye whether it is time to cross or if I am only half way there.)

I thought I might actually work a project with no changes this time, but I decided to stop increasing several rows sooner than the pattern calls for in order to prevent the poncho from becoming too long for my petite colleague.  I will continue to knit as many rows as the pattern calls for before dividing for the neck, but without the increases at the top it will pull in to create a bit of shaping for the shoulder.  I hope this will turn out to be a nice feature.  I made this decision because otherwise the “sleeve” edges would fall too short and I only wanted to make it shorter at the bottom hem. (If I had planned on making it shorter ahead of time, I would have just cast on fewer stitches to begin with.) I might also make the neck opening ever so slightly smaller and I am considering modifying the collar so that it does not stand up quite so much.  But all in all, I am working this beautiful pattern as intended and full steam ahead so that my friend can stop shivering as soon as possible.  Since I took the time to figure out a good way to cheat, I can knit away without slowing down to think!

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. alaskakatknits
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 18:16:56

    I am in love with this project and hope you will keep Us up to date with your mods!! Thank you Ever so SO much!!


  2. Summer
    May 20, 2013 @ 00:09:16

    I’m loving with your blog! So I’m attempting this pattern and even with the errata I’m having trouble and was wondering if you can help me out?

    The part that’s confusing me is this:

    “Row 2 Work even foll row 2 of each established chart with center 3 sts worked as p3 on this and every WS row.

    Cont to work 8-row reps of Chart A and Chart B AT THE SAME TIME work increase rows as foll:

    *Next (inc) row (RS) Work chart A to marker, M1 in chart pat, sl marker (sm), k3, sm, M1 in chart pat, work chart B to end – 2 sts inc’d.

    Next row (WS) Work even.”

    First of all what does it mean to work even?
    Row 3: is the M1 knit wise or purl wise?
    Row 4: is that M1 from row 3 knitted or purled because the middle 3 stitches on this row are purled but the ones on either side of these are in knit stitch
    Row 5: same q as for row 4



  3. Jeri Lea
    May 20, 2013 @ 09:15:45

    I am so glad you are reaching a bit outside your comfort zone to expand your skills!

    So, to your questions…. Knit even means to knit the row in the established pattern (i.e. according to the charts in this case) with no increases or decreases.

    Now, let’s take the other three questions together. You keep the 3 center stitches consistent the whole way. Everything else that happens on either side follows the charts. So whether your new stitch is knit or purled depends on whether its place in the chart means it should be knit or purled. The goal is to do whatever you have to do to keep the pattern of cables and ribs and the valleys between them uninterrupted.

    Happy knitting!


    • summer
      May 20, 2013 @ 09:56:44

      Wow thanks for such a speedy response! 🙂 so all increases are knits if its a knit row in the centre three stitches right? The way I’m reading it is:

      Row 5 (RS): k,k,p. then the pattern (3k,2p,6k,2p) repeated 5 times in total. Then 3k,2p to finish pattern A. Then knit one stitch, make one knit wise, slip marker and onto center 3 stitches which are knits. Then slip marker, make one stitch knit wise, knit one and then start Pattern B.

      Row 6 (WS): all the knits are purled and the purls from the previous row are knits. The M1 is purl wise and so are the center 3 stitches.

      Did I get this right?


  4. Jeri Lea
    May 20, 2013 @ 11:40:36

    Um… Not exactly. The 3 stitches in the middle have nothing to do with the increasing and decreasing. Ignore them. They are an island to themselves, a solid stockinette stripe down the arm that never gets wider or narrower. On the right of that stripe we have the stitches of Chart A. To the left, the stitches of Chart B. How much of Chart A or B you work gets one stitch wider each time you increase. Whether that stitch is knit or purled depends on that new stitch’s placement in the chart.

    Once you have done it a few times it will become easy to visualize. You will either be adding a new stitch to one of the stockinette rib or cable sections, or one of the reverse stockinette valleys between them.

    The rows you spelled out were correct, but your reasoning was not. Those new stitches are knit or purled as you say because that’s what the chart would have you do. It’s a coincidence the first time that they happen to match the center stitches. That won’t always be true.


  5. Maureen C Richard
    Aug 16, 2014 @ 14:19:24

    Thank you for such wonderful instructions. I have been knitting now for three years. I saw this pattern and read intermediate, I thought let me see if I could do this. The reason I started this project, was because I loved it and it was also outside my comfort zone. So I casted on. I followed their directions to the tee, but I was having problems. Email the vogue corrections dept, but sill could not figure it out, with instructions that were sent to me. Managed to rip a skein of yarn out three times and I was just about to give up when I searched one more time and found your blog. I am now well on my way.

    Thank you for such wondergul directions and tips.



    • Jeri Lea
      Aug 17, 2014 @ 09:40:06

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you found me and that I was helpful. I miss blogging and keep promising myself to get back to it. It’s nice to know even my imperfect first attempt can still be useful.


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