Make & Hue

Faux Amis

When learning French, I was introduced to the concept of Faux Amis – false friends (pronounced ‘foes-am-me’). These are words that look the same in English and French, but have different meanings. Sensible, for example: in French, it means sensitive.

These Faux Amis also exist in knitting: fabrics that look the same, but are worked differently. This article explores some of them.

Cables: Real and Mock

A cable is created when the order of stitches is changed before they are worked. A standard 4-stitch cable is created when you take four stitches and knit them in a different order: instead of 1, 2, 3, 4, you work 3, 4 and then 1 and 2.

A 4-stitch rib with a single cable turn

You can do the rearranging of the stitches with or without a cable needle. For a “real” cable, the stitches have to be taken off the needle to be rearranged. But that’s not the only way to make this type of cross-over. 

You can change the order of two stitches with clever use of decreases. These are usually done for two stitch cables; any more stitches and it gets tricky. 

In order from right to left: 2-stitch right twist worked in the traditional cabling manner, rearranging the stitches with a cable needle, 2-stitch right twist worked with the decrease method; 2-stitch left twist worked in the traditional manner, 2-stitch left twist worked with the decrease method

Work a right-leaning twist as follows: K2tog, then without taking the stitch off the left needle, knit again into the first (left-most) stitch.

The left version goes like this: slip 2 sts knitwise, individually, as if for an SSK decrease; return them to the left needle; knit the second through the back loop but leave it on the left needle, and then knit them both together through the back loop. 

You can create 3-stitch mock cables with slipped stitches:

From right to left, left version and right version

Left version: Slip a stitch knitwise, work (k1, yo, k1), then pass the slipped stitch over the three just worked and off the needle. 

Right version: work (k1, yo, k1), then slip the next stitch knitwise; return these four stitches to the left needle and lift the slipped stitch over the others and off the needle, then return the remaining three to the right needle. 

There are some variations on these, of course… if you work the yo on the following row, this creates nice, decorative buttonholes.

Fisherman’s Rib vs. Brioche

Brioche knitting creates fabulous, squishy ribbing patterns, but it’s pretty complicated to work. 

Standard brioche pattern

The Fisherman’s Rib stitch creates a fabric that’s almost exactly the same, but it’s worked in a very different way.  It can still be a bit tricky, though! This half-Fisherman’s rib is much easier to work, and creates a fabric that looks almost the same on the RS, but quite different on the wrong side.

Half Fisherman Rib (RS)


Half Fisherman Rib (WS)

Half-Fisherman’s Rib: Worked on an odd number of stitches.

WS rows: Knit.

RS rows: P1, (knit into the center of the stitch below the one on the needle, p1) to end.

(The ‘knit into the center of the stitch below’ move is often abbreviated as k1b.)

Two Colours: Stranded or Slipped

Stranded colourwork (a.k.a. Fair Isle knitting) is one of those techniques that knitters either love or hate. 

If you love the effect but not the process, you might find slipped stitch colourwork more fun. In this method, you only work with one colour at a time. In the sample below, I’ve worked with pink and purple. For two rows I work only the pink stripes, slipping the purple stitches purlwise when I get to them. And then I worked two rows with the purple, slipping the pink stitches purlwise when I get to them. 

Vertical stripes worked with slipped stitch technique (RS)


Vertical stripes worked with slipped stitch technique (WS)


Vertical stripes worked with stranded colourwork technique (RS)


Vertical stripes worked with stranded colourwork technique (WS)

It takes four passes to work two rows, because you only work half the stitches at a time; you have to work both a RS and a WS with one colour before you can change to the other.

The patterns you can work are a little more limited than classic stranded colourwork, but it’s so much easier to do. 

(When worked in garter stitch, this method is also known as Mosaic knitting.) 

This is one of the things I love about knitting: there are so many fabulous patterns and variations, all from those two simple building blocks of knit and purl. And even better, if you don’t like one way of doing something, as these pictures show, chances are there’s another way to get the same result!

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