Cables look smart—from the front. That presents a problem with scarves, which are seen on both sides (unless you want to fuss with carefully arranging it, and who wants to have to do that all the time?). You can convert many cables to be reversible, which not only solves the the problem, it makes the scarf even thicker and warmer.
Converting Cable Patterns
To convert a pattern, you simply change the cable itself from stockinette to knit-one-purl-one ribbing. The ribbing will tend to pull together and have a very similar appearance to stockinette, and it does that on both sides. The background—typically for cables that’ll be reverse stockinette—needs to become a reversible stitch that’ll still allow the cables to stand out, garter stitch works quite well for that.
There are some limitations, the number of stitches in each part of the cable have to be even. For example, a 6-stitch cable isn’t going to work because it’s only three stitches in each branch, so it wouldn’t be symmetrical in 1×1 ribbing. You’d need to go up to eight stitches or down to four.
I’d recommend going up a needle size or two when working reversible cables. It’s a bit easier when the tension is a little looser.
Another important point, if you want to do some kind of edging at the beginning (such as a few rows of garter stitch), you’ll want to do about half as many stitches over the cable section and then increase when you start working the cable. A cable pulls in already, and a reversible cable even more so, if you tried to do the same number of stitches in garter stitch at the beginning the end is going to flare. If you choose to not do an edging and just start with the cables, I’d recommend planning to put a fringe on the ends—again, cables will tend to pull and keep the edge from being straight, and reversible cables even more so. I find a fringe makes it look nicer and cleaner.
The scarf in the photo has a garter stitch background, two 8-stitch cables, and one 16-stitch cable. Note that the cables appear to be 4- and 8-stitch cables—because half of the stitches are purl, so they disappear in between the knit stitches on this side, and form the visible cable on the other side.
I hope to have a reversible cable braid pattern up by Friday (November 20).