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Review: Cables Volume 1: The Basics


First, the facts:

Title: Cables Volume 1: The Basics

Author: Janet Szabo

Published by: Big Sky Knitting Designs, 2007

Pages: 228

Type: How-to, Stitch Dictionary


1. Fundamentals
2. Two-Stitch Crosses
3. Three-Stitch Crosses
4. Four-Stitch Crosses
5. Five-Stitch Crosses
6. Six-Stitch Crosses
7. Seven-Stitch Crosses
8. Eight-Stitch Crosses and Beyond
9. Unique Techniques
10. Design Your Own Cable Patterns

Pattern Size Range: N/A

The In-Depth Look:


The first thing to do is to remind you that I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to knitting–I love knowing the hows and whys for the way things work, and a really technical examination of something that I love as much as cables always has a good chance of getting me excited.

In fact, I’ve been lusting after this book since it came out last year, and I just took advantage of the KnitPicks sale to finally get myself a copy. And, oh, it’s just what I expected it would be.

So, the first thing is that this a great stitch dictionary full of cables. Lots of lovely cables.

More than that, though, it’s an exploration of what cables are and how they work. Why a cross is different than a twist. The different results when you knit all the cabled stitches, or when you purl some of them. What happens when you reverse all of them, or do a complete, 180-degree twist? The author explores all these questions, in detail, and with great illustrations.

Then, at the end, she tells you how to make up your own cables. How to take existing ones and modify them. How to combine elements into new cables. Stuff a knitting geek can’t help but love.

Oh, and she also explains what “Cable Splay” is, and how to fix it, as well as how to cable without a cable needle (which is more and more popular these days–certainly it’s my preferred method, when possible). She also has instructions on how to fix errors when you spot them later in the knitting process. Sometimes much later.

Basically, after reading her Aran book, this is pretty much what I expected this book to be, and frankly don’t know why I waited so long. She is clearly an expert on cables, writes about them clearly, and it’s exhaustive in detail … what more could you ask for?

The layout is easy to follow, though I sometimes find it hard to spot the cable pattern numbers, so that when she refers to, say, pattern 4.5, it sometimes takes me longer to find that than I am proud to admit. The charts are fantastic, and each cable has written, row-by-row instructions, too. I prefer charts, myself, but it never hurts to have the written instructions, too, at least for the first pass of a cable repeat. (Especially if it’s using a cross that you haven’t seen before and don’t immediately recognize on the chart.)

I like the “Ideas for Further Exploration” scattered throughout the book, too, pointing out details, making suggestions like filling in diamonds with seed stitch for variety. I love it when a designer gives you a springboard to go out on your own.

Quibbles? Well, the pictures are black and white, but I don’t think that really matters, since the knitted cables show up wonderfully in their pictures.

Really, my biggest complaint about this book? It came shrink-wrapped, and I admit I was really curious about that. Generally, the only books that come wrapped in plastic are either comic books or really expensive art books. The reason was immediately apparent, though. This book is floppy. As in unwieldingly, hard-to-hold, sagging and limp.

This might be deliberate so that the book will stay open easily on a page for a knitter to work her way through a cable, but I can’t help but wish the publisher had at least used hard covers to give the book a little heft. You know how, when you handwash a wool sweater and you have to lift it out of the sink, supporting every inch of it with your hands to prevent it from stretching? Except the weight of it keeps sagging in every possible direction and you have to work hard to keep them from limply oozing to the floor? Yeah, it’s like that.

My guess is that the publisher could have retained the wide, landscape-orientation, and the easily-stays-open binding and still given the book some solid covers so you could hold it in one hand. Even magazines aren’t this limp.

But, yeah, seriously, it’s the only real complaint. That, and wishing the stitch pattern numbers were a little easier to spot.

Frankly, right now? I’m dying to know what Volume Two is going to be … and hoping that there’s going to be one, and wondering how soon I can get my hands on a copy.

Want to see bigger pictures? Click here.

My Gush: If you’re a knitting geek like me, you will LOVE this book. And, if you just like good cable stitch patterns? You’ll still love this!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Janet Szabo October 7, 2008, 6:12 am

    Thank you for the review! I am glad that you liked the book. Just a word of explanation about the layout: I self-publish my books. I would love to have released this in hard-cover format, but it was simply cost-prohibitive. I’m not a fan of the floppy landscape layout, either. It was, however, the best way to present the cables.

    I am about 75% done with the second book in the series, and looking at an early 2009 release. I do talk about progress on my blog, http://www.bigskyknitting.com/Blog/Blog.html if you’re curious and want to follow along.

    Enjoy those cables!

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