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How to Work the Stitch Pattern for the Isthmus Pullover

I’m making Alison Jane’s Isthmus Pullover for the Portfolio Volume 4 knit-along—sort of. I have started the pullover, but I’ve been sidetracked by other work-related projects, so I haven’t gotten nearly as far as I would like. But I’m loving knitting it so far and can’t wait to finally finish it some day! 

One of the things I love about this sweater is the stitch pattern—it looks kind of fancy, perhaps, but it’s really very simple. The flowing diamonds pattern is created with itty bitty cable stitches that lean to the right and the left—Right Cross and Left Cross, respectively. If you’ve never worked a cable stitch or don’t quite understand what’s happening with cables, these are great stitches to practice. Cables are really just stitches that are worked “out of order”—you’re taking stitches from further down the needle and crossing them with other stitches to form a textural pattern. These crosses are really the most basic of cable stitches, and I’m going to show you three ways to work them!

To start, I used a small swatch that is exactly the same number of stitches as the charted pattern. So I purled my first stitch, and now I’m ready to work my first Right Cross. All I’m going to do is take the second stitch on the left needle—the knit stitch—and crossing it over the purl stitch that is the first stitch on the left needle. There are different ways to make this cross.

First, you can use a cable needle. Cable needles can be anything, really—I usually can’t find one so I use a double-pointed needle, but some people have used bobby pins to just hold the stitches out of the way. If you want to use this method to help you visualize what’s happening, here’s how to work the right cross with a cable needle.

Slip that first stitch onto the cable needle.

Move the cable needle and the stitch to the back of the work.

Knit the next stitch—you can see that the knit stitch is now the second stitch on my right needle, and there’s still the purl stitch on the cable needle.

Purl the stitch from the cable needle.

One right cross completed.

Now I’m going to show you one way to work the right cross without using a cable needle!

Slip the right needle purlwise into the second stitch on the left needle. You can see the purl stitch is still on the left needle, just behind the right needle.

Pinch the stitches just below the right needle, then slide the first two stitches off. Insert the left needle tip into the stitch that’s hanging behind the right needle and slip it back onto the left needle. So now the purl stitch is on the left needle, stacked behind the knit stitch that’s on the right needle.

Slip the knit stitch back on to the left needle so you can see the right-leaning cross.

Knit the knit stitch, then purl the purl stitch, and you’ve completed another right cross. This second method is the one that I use most frequently, since I often cannot find a cable needle, and it’s a bit tedious to cable one stitch. There’s still one more method that you can use to work the right cross that doesn’t involve having a stitch sort of dangling in mid-air before you catch it back up with the left needle.

Skip over the first stitch on the left needle and insert the right needle to knit the second stitch. 

Knit that stitch, but leave all the stitches on the left hand needle. So you’ve got the stitch you just made on the right needle, and the purl stitch and the original knit stitch on the left needle.

Bring the yarn to the front, between the needles.

Purl the first stitch, then slide all the stitches off the left needle.

So that’s three ways to work the Right Cross for Isthmus! Here are two ways to work the Left Cross (and I’ll explain why there’s only two in a bit).

With the cable needle:

Slip the first stitch to the cable needle and hold it in front of the work.

Work the next stitch, in this case a purl, and then work the stitch from the cable needle, in this case a knit stitch.

One Left Cross worked.

Now, for the method that doesn’t require a cable needle.

Take your right needle behind the work and insert it into the second stitch.

Pinch the stitches just below the needles, slide both stitches off the left needle, then insert the left needle tip into the stitch that’s dangling in the air (in this case, the knit stitch). So you have the purl stitch on the right needle and the knit stitch on the left needle.

Slip the purl stitch back to the left needle, and you can see that the cross is already worked. Then you just purl the first stitch and knit the second stitch.

Now, why are there only two methods for working the Left Cross? Well that last method for the Right Cross calls for working the stitches as they sit on the needle. You could work a Left Cross on the needle, if both of the stitches were knit stitches. But since we’re working with a purl stitch and a knit stitch, it doesn’t quite translate.

Just to show you, if you were going to work this on the needle, you’d begin the same as you did for the second method—insert your right needle into the second stitch on the left needle—but then, to work that stitch, which is a purl stitch, you’d have to bring the yarn in front, over the knit stitch, and you’d end up with a bar crossing your knit stitch. So it doesn’t really work the way it needs to. If both stitches were knit stitches, or even if they were both purl stitches, you could work the crossing on the needles.

And that’s it! Cabling is not so scary once you get the hang of it, and results in awesome projects such as the Isthmus Pullover.

3 thoughts on “How to Work the Stitch Pattern for the Isthmus Pullover

  1. I prefer to reorder the stitches before working them and without leaving one hanging in the process.

    Right cross: Slip 2 stitches together knitwise (like you are making a k2tog). Insert the left needle into the slipped stitches from left to right and remove the right needle. They are now in the required order but with their leading legs in the back; knit through the back loop and then purl through the back loop.

    Left cross: Slip 2 stitches one at a time knitwise (like you are making an ssk). Insert the left needle into the slipped stitches from right to left and remove the right needle. The stitches are now in the required order with the correct stitch mount; purl and knit.

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