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Cable Back Shell

The hard part about having a favorite item of clothing is that it wears out. About a year ago I knit a summer shirt called the Cap Sleeve Lattice Top, and boy, oh, boy, has it seen some action. Shockingly, there’s little sign of wear and tear. To keep it that way, I thought I’d knit up another sleeveless sweater to work into my rotation.

The Cable Back Shell, is perfect for the days I’m not wearing my Cap Sleeve Lattice. A simple knit with a few special moments of intrigue: twists and turns, dips and dives. Wait, now I’m thinking the Cap Sleeve may be just right for days I’m not wearing my Cable Back Shell!

This lofty cashmere top is a cloud of a shirt that hovers off the body with feminine elegance. Only Jade Sapphire’s sumptuous 2-Ply Mongolian Cashmere could produce such an ethereal fabric.

The Cable Back Shell is knit flat, starting at the bottom of the back and moving up and over the shoulders and down the front. Two short seams and you’re done, just like the Cap Sleeve Lattice Top. I hope you like its cousin just as much! -Laura

Materials

Gauge

7 stitches = 1 inch in stockinette stitch

Sizes

XSmall (Small, Medium, Large, XLarge, XXLarge)

  • Bust Circumference: 33 (37 1/2, 42 1/4, 46 1/2, 51 1/4, 56) inches
  • Length from Shoulder to Bottom Edge: 21 1/4, with directions to lengthen in 2 1/2-inch increments
  • Length from Underarm to Bottom Edge: 13 1/4 (12 3/4, 12, 11 3/4, 11 3/4, 11 1/2) inches, with directions to lengthen in 2 1/2-inch increments
  • Fit: designed to fit with an ease of at least 2 inches

Notes

C22B: Cable 22 Back. Place 11 stitches on cable needle or spare double point and hold to the back of work, knit across following 11 stitches, then knit across 11 stitches on cable needle. For a cable tutorial, please click here.

M1R: Make 1 Right. Please see our tutorial by clicking here.

M1L: Make 1 Left. Please see our tutorial by clicking here.

Pattern

Back

Cast on 126 (142, 158, 174, 190, 206) stitches.

Row 1 (wrong side): P2, *k2, p2, repeat from * to end.

Row 2: K2, *p2, k2, repeat from * to end.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until piece measures 2 1/2 inches, ending with Row 2.

Next Row (wrong side): Change to stockinette stitch, beginning with a purl row, and work for 19 rows, ending with a wrong-side row.

Cable Row (right side): K52 (60, 68, 76, 84, 92), place marker (pm), C22B (see Pattern Notes above), knit to end.

**Work in stockinette stitch for 19 rows, ending with a wrong-side row.

Cable Row (right side): Knit to marker, slip marker (sm), C22B, knit to end.

Repeat from ** five more times or, to add 2 1/2 or 5 inches in length, repeat from ** six or seven more times.

Work in stockinette stitch for 19 rows, ending with a wrong-side row.

Shoulders and Neck

Row 1 (right side): K2, *p2, k2, repeat from * to end.

Row 2: P2, *k2, p2, repeat from * to end.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 for 1 1/4 inches, ending with a wrong-side row.

Next Row (right side): Work in established rib pattern for 38 (46, 54, 58, 66, 74) stitches, place previous 38 (46, 54, 58, 66, 74) stitches on stitch holder or scrap yarn, bind off 50 (50, 50, 58, 58, 58) stitches in pattern, removing stitch marker, work in rib pattern to end. [38 (46, 54, 58, 66, 74) stitches remain for each shoulder]

Front

Note: You will work the top Left and Right sides of the Front separately, starting with the Front Left. Stitch counts in the following two sections do not include the stitches on hold.

Front Left Shoulder Ribbing

Row 1 (wrong side): P2, *k2, p2, repeat from * to end.

Row 2: K2, *p2, k2, repeat from * to end.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until there are 2 1/2 total inches of ribbing, including ribbing at top of Back, ending with a wrong-side row.

Front Left Neck

Row 1 (right side): [K2, p2] twice, pm, knit to end.

Row 2: Purl to marker, [k2, p2] twice.

Row 3 (increase row): [K2, p2] twice, sm, k1, m1R, knit to end. (1 stitch increased)

Row 4: Repeat Row 2.

Repeat Rows 3 and 4 four (four, four, five, five, five) more times. [43 (51, 59, 64, 72, 80) stitches]

Next Row (increase row): [K2, p2] twice, sm, [k1, m1R] twice, knit to end. (2 stitches increased)

Next Row: Purl to marker, sm, [k2, p2] twice.

Repeat previous 2 rows two more times. [49 (57, 65, 70, 78, 86) stitches]

Next Row (increase row): [K2, p2] twice, sm, [k1, m1R] three times, knit to end. (3 stitches increased)

Next Row: Purl to marker, sm, [k2, p2] twice.

Repeat previous two rows one (one, one, two, two, two) times. [55 (63, 71, 79, 87, 95) stitches]

Next Row (increase row): With right side facing, cable cast on 8 stitches, [k2, p2] four times, sm, knit to end. [63 (71, 79, 87, 95, 103) stitches]

Next Row: Purl to marker, sm, [k2, p2] four times.

Next Row: [K2, p2] four times, sm, knit to end.

Repeat previous two rows until piece measures 8 (8, 8, 8 1/2, 8 1/2, 8 1/2) inches from the end of the Shoulder Ribbing.

Cut yarn and place Front Left stitches on hold.

Front Right Shoulder Ribbing

Note: You will now be shaping the Front Right. Stitch counts in the following two sections do not include the Front Left stitches on hold.

Rejoin yarn with wrong side facing.

Row 1 (wrong side): P2, *k2, p2, repeat from * to end.

Row 2: K2, *p2, k2, repeat from * to end.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until there are 2 1/2 inches of ribbing, including ribbing at top of Back, ending with a wrong-side row.

Front Right

Row 1 (right side): Knit to last eight stitches, pm, [p2, k2] twice.

Row 2: [P2, k2] twice, sm, purl to end.

Row 3 (increase row): Knit to 1 stitch before marker, m1L, k1, sm, [k2, p2] twice. (1 stitch increased)

Row 4: Repeat Row 2.

Repeat Rows 3 and 4 four (four, four, five, five, five) more times. [43 (51, 59, 64, 72, 80) stitches]

Next Row (increase row): Knit to two stitches before marker, [m1L, k1] twice, sm, [k2, p2] twice. (2 stitches increased)

Next Row: [P2, k2] twice, sm, purl to end.

Repeat previous 2 rows two more times. [49 (57, 65, 70, 78, 86) stitches]

Next Row (increase row): Knit to three stitches before marker, [m1L, k1] three times, [k2, p2] twice. (3 stitches increased)

Next Row: [P2, k2] twice, sm, purl to end.

Repeat previous increase row one (one, one, two, two, two) times. [55 (63, 71, 79, 87, 95) stitches]

Next Row (increase row) (wrong side): With wrong side facing, cable cast on 8 stitches, [p2, k2] four times, sm, purl to end. [63 (71, 79, 87, 95, 103) stitches]

Next Row: Knit to marker, sm, [p2, k2] four times.

Next Row: [P2, k2] four times, sm, purl to end.

Repeat previous two rows until piece measures 8 (8, 8, 8 1/2, 8 1/2, 8 1/2) inches from the end of the Shoulder Ribbing, ending with a wrong-side row.

Join Front Right and Left

Row 1 (right side): Knit to marker, [p2, k2] twice, you will work the remaining 8 stitches of the Front Right and the first 8 stitches of the Front Left together. To do this, place 8 stitches from Front Left onto spare double pointed needle or cable needle and hold needle parallel to the working needle, with the working needle with the remaining stitches of the Front Right in front of the doubled pointed needle with the Front Left stitches, *[p2tog] twice (1 stitch from Front Left together with 1 stitch from Front Right), [k2tog] twice (1 stitch from Front Right together with 1 stitch from Front Left), repeat from * once. Now, continue working across Front Left stitches on hold, [k2, p2] twice, knit to end. [118 (134, 150, 166, 182, 198) total stitches]

Work in stockinette stitch across all stitches until the Front length is 2 1/2 inches shorter than the Back length, ending with a right-side row.

Front Ribbing

Row 1 (wrong side): P2, *k2, p2, repeat from * to end.

Row 2: K2, *p2, k2, repeat from * to end.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until ribbing measures 2 1/2 inches.

Bind off in pattern.

Side Seams

Fold the piece at the shoulders. Starting just above the bottom ribbed edges, use mattress stitch to sew the Front and Back together, ending 8 (8 1/2, 9 1/4, 9 1/2, 9 1/2, 9 3/4) inches before the shoulder fold.

Armhole Edging

Beginning at bottom of armhole, rejoin yarn. Binding off stitches as you pick them up, pick up approximately 3 stitches for every 4 rows.

Weave in your ends and you’re finished!

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41 Responses to Cable Back Shell


  1. Becca says:

    I love love my cap sleeve lattice top! And it's cousin looks just as lovely :) I was wondering, as I already have a cap sleeve look with the cap sleeve lattice top, if there is a simple modification you could recommend to make this into more of a tank top? I was thinking some simple decreases along the back about where the armhole would start and then similar increases along the front would do the trick but do you have any suggestions?

  2. Jane says:

    Wow! This looks like it is right out of a couture show!

    I have some Jade Sapphire silk/cashmere 2 ply that I bought at Purl last year and have been saving for a special project. Would that work here?

    Your work is amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  3. eileen says:

    this is beautiful! thank you for showing the construction too – very cool way that the seamless neckline is created.

  4. Ruth says:

    This sweater is so elegant and feminine. Love the look.

  5. Hannapat says:

    It is lush! LOVE LOVE LOVE it!! xo

  6. Maria H says:

    I already knit your Lattice Top and love it so now I have this gorgeous beauty to knit!
    Thank you for keeping me busy!

  7. Charlotte says:

    It's beautiful! I really need to learn how to knit! x

  8. Tina says:

    Lace weight seems too thin for my style. Would you recommend a fingering weight or heavier?

  9. Veronica says:

    This is a lovely sweater with simplicity, but has a
    dramatic look to it. Thank you for sharing…I always look forward and enjoy
    The Purl Bee emails.
    Veronica

  10. Lisa says:

    I really love the look of the sweater. Even my seventeen year old daughter would like one. Guess I will be making two. Thank you.

  11. Jody says:

    This is beautiful, both in construction and finished garment. Is there a cotton or silk yarn I could use instead? I, personally, cannot wear cashmere in the summer – it would shrink on my body!!

  12. purl bee says:

    Hi Jane.
    The 2-ply Silk/Cashmere would be perfect! So beautiful, with a bit more sheen and drape. Please let us know how it turns out!
    Laura

  13. purl bee says:

    Hi Tina.
    I can definitely recommend some other yarns. While I did use a lace weight yarn to make this, it is knit on the loose side due to how cashmere blooms. At 7 stitches to the inch you could use any number of fingering weight yarns (link below).

    http://www.purlsoho.com/purl/products/3-knitting-crochet-yarn?filters=3

  14. purl bee says:

    Hi Jody.
    Ever since I knit that White Caps Cowl, I have been in love with Habu's Cotton Slub. It will definitely change the look of the piece a bit, but it is one option. It will be a bit on the thinner side… http://www.purlsoho.com/purl/products/item/8701-Habu-Textiles-Cotton-Nerimaki-Slub

    Ultra Pima Fine is another option, it is a bit thicker
    http://www.purlsoho.com/purl/products/item/6299-Cascade-Yarns-Ultra-Pima-Fine

    Have you ever worked with Linen…
    http://www.purlsoho.com/purl/products/3-knitting-crochet-yarn?filters=28
    Habu and Euroflax make lovely linen yarns.

    Lastly… I would check out Anzula's lace and fingering weight yarns… They do the most elegant blends.
    http://www.purlsoho.com/purl/products/3-knitting-crochet-yarn?company=371&filters=3
    http://www.purlsoho.com/purl/products/3-knitting-crochet-yarn?company=371&filters=2

    Thanks for asking. Hope this helps. Let me know if you'd like any more guidance.
    Laura

  15. purl bee says:

    Jody,
    I forgot about Alchemy's Silken Straw… such a gorgeous yarn. It might be just the thing!
    http://www.purlsoho.com/purl/products/item/1408-Alchemy-Silken-Straw
    Laura

  16. purl bee says:

    Hi Megan,
    I don't see your comment above, but I swear you wrote in asking about the Wash My Lace from Anzula… Wash my Lace would be a wonderful substitute. It isn't going to bloom quite as much as the cashmere does, but it's a great yarn choice.
    Laura

  17. Megan Morton says:

    Thank you!

  18. pkett says:

    Oh, how I love this! I did the Cap Sleeve Lattice Top also and love it, so will have to do this one. Saving up so I can do the cashmere – what a luxurious sweater to knit and to wear. Such a lovely design. I am now finishing your Knit T-Shirt with just one more sleeve to go. I did it out of Euroflax in ivory and I must say, it is a really beautiful pattern, too! I do love all of Purl Soho designs and always look forward to the next one.

  19. Marie says:

    Could you tell how much is needed from third skein fir size S ? I would love to make this one, but really can't afford this yarn (and anyway I'm from France and it seems I can't find it here).
    Thank you.

  20. Veronica says:

    Hi! I'm intrigued by using linen for this instead (namely for durability)… Could you tell me more about the Habu Dyed Linen – there's virtually no info/description of it on the purlsoho website.
    Between that and the Euroflax and the Sylph – would I follow the same instruction (i.e., same needle size)? How much yarn would be needed? For a S or M you have 3 skeins each of the cashmere (which totals 1200 yd), but since it's also enough for the L, I assume there's left-over.
    Since the linens come in smaller sizes (anywhere from 270-370 yd/skein), I don't want to over-buy.
    Anyway, I'm new to yarn substitutions (I almost always use the recommended yarns), so I'm a bit paranoid about it still coming out nice. Thanks for any advice!

  21. Dawn says:

    This is lovely – thank you SO much for sharing the pattern! … stilll swooning! ;)

  22. cup + penny says:

    Gorgeous! Is cashmere comfortable enough to wear in the summer?

  23. purl bee says:

    Hello Marie and Veronica,
    Here are the yardage requirements: 770 (875, 985, 1080, 1190, 1300) yards.

    Veronica,
    The Habu Hand Dyed Linen is lovely, it's quite thin, but lovely. I would definitely recommend the Sylph over the Habu Hand Dyed Linen though, just for a little extra body.

    We will be sure to get more of a description of the linen up on purlsoho.

    Thanks,
    Laura

  24. Claire says:

    It's gorgeous, your pattern is really impressive, simple and sophisticated at the same time. Can't wait to finish my current project and start this one!

  25. purl bee says:

    Hi Cup + Penny,
    I will definitely sport some very thin cashmere on cool summer nights, but I wouldn't dare wear it at noon on a humid 90 degree day.
    Laura

  26. purl bee says:

    I'd love to make this beautiful pattern with Anzula's Squishy, but 2 skeins is the exact yardage you said is required for the xs size. Is it too risky to buy just two? Thanks so much for the beautiful pattern.

    Jessica Stoun

    Hi Jessica,
    I didn't see your comment above, but I wanted to address it so it's cut and pasted here.

    If you are planning on making it exactly as I did then no, you will be fine. But if you plan on lengthening it or knitting it at a different gauge, then I would buy 1 more skein.
    Laura

  27. Sarah says:

    HI! I am working on this right now, and I think I noticed an error in the pattern. On the front right section, where you increase the 8 stitches with the cable cast on, you then say knit to the end. I think it should be purl to the end, because it is on the wrong side. Otherwise, great pattern, really easy to follow and it's turning out beautifully so far!
    Thanks,
    Sarah

  28. purl bee says:

    Sarah!
    You are absolutely correct! Thank you so much. The pattern has been corrected.
    Thank you again.
    Laura

  29. Robin says:

    I think I may have found another small error in this beautiful pattern.
    When ending the ribbing on the back it says to end with a wrong side row but the next direction is to start stockinette with a wrong side row. Shouldn't the ribbing end with row 2 (a right side row)?

  30. purl bee says:

    Hello Robin!
    You are so very very right. Thank you for writing in. I really appreciate you taking the time. I have corrected the pattern.
    Thanks again,
    Laura

  31. Kristin says:

    This is a beautiful vest! Is there any possibility of creating the option to add long sleeves to the pattern? Or to point me to an existing pattern?
    Hopeful,
    Kristin

  32. purl bee says:

    Hi Kristin,
    Thank you for your interest in this pattern. Unfortunately we do not currently have the resources to expand this pattern to include long sleeves… You could in fact, pick up along the armhole and work down to the wrist, decreasing as you go. It would make a nice drop shoulder design. You could add the ribbing at the wrist to tie it all together.

    As for other patterns, we have you seen the Everyday Linen Raglan, different style but similar-ish weight… http://purlbee.squarespace.com/the-purl-bee/2012/6/10/lauras-loop-everyday-linen-raglan.html

    If you decide to pick up at the shoulders and knit down, do let me know if you'd like help or get stuck anywhere.

    Good Luck,
    Laura

  33. LGN says:

    Has anyone made with sleeves? There aren't any on ravelry, and I'm afraid of ruining such a beautiful finshed object (http://www.ravelry.com/projects/LGN/cable-back-shell) by adding something awkward looking. i'd love to see a picture of a sleeved cable back shell, if anyone made one.

  34. purl bee says:

    LGN,
    What a vibrant color your chose!! Looks great.

    I personally have not tried adding sleeves, but I have thought about it, and I think others have too…. (I responded to a similar comment from Kristin just above your comment). If you do it… please let us know! I'll keep an eye on your Ravelry page.

    Thanks for writing in.
    Laura

  35. Jennie says:

    Would your Purl Soho line weight yarn work for this shell?

    Thanks,
    Jennie

  36. purl bee says:

    Hi Jennie.
    Yes, it sure would!
    Laura

  37. Danielle says:

    Hi.
    question about the pattern. when you get to the front right section – toward the end. right before you repeat the last 2 rows for 8 inches. shouldnt it be {P2, K2} four times , sm, purl to end? not twice as stated so it matches the knit row above?

  38. purl bee says:

    Hello Danielle.
    YES! You are absolutely correct. I have corrected the pattern and added a note on our Errata page. Thank you so much for taking the time to write in and share your (very right) thoughts.
    Best,
    Laura

  39. Danielle says:

    Hi Laura – another question. should i block this sweater when complete? is it ok with cashmere?

    thanks
    danielle

  40. purl bee says:

    Hi Danielle.
    Great question. I definitely blocked mine! I did not submerge it in a bath of water, but rather used a steam iron and hovered over the fabric, dampening it only slightly with hot steam, then I gently tugged at the fabric vertically then horizontally to even out my stitches.
    Laura

  41. Dindi says:

    This is the first non-sock or scarf pattern that I've ever attempted. I was worried able using cables, but now that I'm more than half way done, I'm amazed at how much easier this was than I expected. I love this project, and I'm so thankful for the way your instructions and photos were put together. I will most definitely be trying another one of your patterns when I'm done with this one. Thank you.

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