If you've ever noticed a sloppy column of stitches after your cables, those are ladders. Besides being unattractive, they affect the finished measurements of your project.
Cables are arguably one of the most impressive design elements in hand knitting. The intriguing, raised patterns that cross and intertwine make knitting look incredibly complex yet are not so difficult to knit. Creating a framework to show off the cables is equally as important. A good background provides a platform to display the cables and accentuates the cabled stitches. It is this space between the cables that we focus on when talking about ladders.
What is a Ladder?
Ladders are vertical columns of horizontal running threads that connect one stitch to another stitch within a fabric. They are most noticeable when you have a dropped stitch. The running threads surrounding a dropped stitch stretch out horizontally, leaving a gap. In order to understand ladders, we need to look at the formation of a cable. Cables are stitches that are knit out of sequence. Stitches are placed usually on a cable needle or double pointed needle, then held in front or behind your work temporarily so the next stitches can be worked. When you return the stitches held on the cable needle to your knitting needle and knit them, they will be stretched across the stitches just worked. This manipulation creates a tightness in the cable and affects the relationship of the stitches involved in the cable and the stitches before and after it.
Continue reading the full article, with step-by-step photos in my article published in Interweave.