Katy Elliott

A daily design journal about new england life, home decorating resources, and renovating a 257-year-old house in Marblehead, MA.

Handknit Cable Pillows: Make or Buy

Posted on | November 3, 2011 | 24 Comments

I love cables and made my first cable knit hat last spring. Since then I’ve been hooked and dreaming of making euro size pillows for my bed. I started with a garter stitch set because I thought it would be a super easy project…I still haven’t managed to finish. Turns out garter stitch is really, really boring and euros are really BIG. So maybe I should start smaller? I could knit a front cable panel and back with wool fabric, slightly easier and faster?

Above my sister’s chair with a beautiful little gray hand knit cable pillow she received for her birthday. A much more doable size, right?

Or I could buy one which is the lame way out but I’ve been finding so many hand made options at reasonable prices. Have you seen these pillows from Ruth Cross? I’ve drooled over her work since 2008. The three pillows below are hand knit lambswool, so tempting. On etsy I found hand knit wool cable covers and patterns available for download.

The nice thing about knitting your own is that you can choose the color and the yarn. I’ve come across much lower priced cable pillows in big box stores but many of them are made of acrylic which I’m not a fan of. If I knit my own I can go crazy with a really beautiful wool yarn in any color I choose.

Since this cable obsession has been a long time in the making I’ve also gathered a few books. If you’re knitting a panel with a fabric backing you really don’t need a pillow pattern but just a guide for cables. Experienced knitters always recommend to me the old Harmony Guides; which can be found at used book stores and the library. Harmony Guides: Cables & Arans is a newer version but I hear complaints it’s just not as good as the oldie but for me it was really useful. I also picked up The Very Easy Guide to Cable Knitting which offers large samples of many different techniques with nice photos. Enjoy!

A close-up of the gray cable pillow by Emily on the chair.

Ruth Cross, hand knitted lambs wool pillow with stag horn button fastening, about $85.

Ruth Cross, hand knitted lambs wool with stag horn button fastening and feather, custom order (2 week lead) and available in a number of colors, about $229.

Ruth Cross, hand knitted lambs wool pillow with stag horn button fastening, about $85.

Hand knit using 100% wool with wool backing, $125, Precious Knits on etsy.

Chain link pillow pattern by Precious Knits, $5, available for download on etsy and raverly or purchase it already made for $69.

Related Posts:
Pleated Slipcover, Cable Pillow and Linen Crewel
Handknit Pillows from Ruth Cross and Blodwen
My First Cable Knit Hat

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24 Responses to “Handknit Cable Pillows: Make or Buy”

  1. Patsy
    November 3rd, 2011 @ 11:37 am

    Oh, make your own! Definitely! I’m sure you know this, but Swans Island sells yarn. Seed Stitch in Salem carries it, as well as the shop in Beverly Farms.

    It looks like you are using small needles on your garter stitch pillows – choose a cable that you can knit up on larger needles and it will go a LOT faster.


  2. Katy Elliott
    November 3rd, 2011 @ 11:46 am

    Thanks Patsy! Swans Island yarns are really gorgeous. I’ve been eyeing them. They can also be purchased via their website: http://www.swansislandblankets.com/ourcollection/yarns.cfm:)

    I know, I know, my needles are a little small but I love that gauge in stripes. Sometimes I think the bulky yarns can get too bulky. But I can’t make myself crazy, right?


  3. LindsB
    November 3rd, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

    I love the idea of making them, but I also know that it really is alot of work.

    That gray one on your sisters chair is just beautiful!


  4. evencleveland
    November 3rd, 2011 @ 12:17 pm

    I’m a philistine – I’d buy. Pillows in my house tend to get a lot of wear. For the cost of nice yarn and the time involved, the prices on the options you found seem incredibly reasonable.


  5. Amanda (Dear Frances)
    November 3rd, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

    I am knit phobic – so I’d be inclined to buy as well. And buying from an artist on Etsy, etc. is the next best feel-good thing to making it yourself!

    Do you know where your sister’s chair is from? I’m sourcing slipcovered furniture – love everything about that chair (including the pillows of course)!


  6. Katy Elliott
    November 3rd, 2011 @ 12:32 pm


    lol, I know. The yarn adds up quick and then your standing at the yarn store register when the total makes you’re jaw drops and you think, “um how much is this to buy made?”.

    I guess it all really depends on how much enjoy the process. I have a zillion projects I want to do so I definitely need to weigh the options. I love the process of them but I can’t do them all.

    You should see my basket of half started knitting projects from last year. I need two of me!


  7. Christie
    November 3rd, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

    Ever thought about upcycling and buying a used Aran sweater from a thrift store and sewing it to a fabric back? Tres chic and environmental too.

    I am also in the market for new pillows and want to use up my handspun. I am looking into rug punching for that. Thought a nice shillouette of a horse would look great.

    Thanks for all the great pics and inspiration.


  8. Katy Elliott
    November 3rd, 2011 @ 12:54 pm


    I’ve done that before and given them as gifts! So easy and very cute. Would definitely recommend.


  9. Katy Elliott
    November 3rd, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

    Amanda (Dear Frances),

    My sister’s chair is from a thrift store and she had the white pleated slipcover made.


  10. brianne
    November 3rd, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

    my mind went to thrifting sweaters and sewing, too. in your part of the world nice sweaters might not pop up at thrift stores the same way they do here, people probably hang on to them!


  11. Rachel from Love a la Mode
    November 3rd, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

    I’ve seen several tutorials where you just buy old sweaters from goodwill and turn them in to pillows, would probably be way cheaper!


  12. nina
    November 3rd, 2011 @ 8:54 pm

    get an old fab cashmere cabled sweater and remake it into a pillow cover! xo nina (your sis’s friend)


  13. Abigail
    November 4th, 2011 @ 11:39 am

    oh Katy! I think you just answered a dilemma for me. I bought some wool that comes from my husband’s family’s region of France and was thinking of making it into a pillow but just couldn’t get started. The wool is a bit rough so I don’t want to make a wearable item out of it. But this little size is just perfect! And I could make another to gift to his grandparents. That’s what I’ll do! :)

    You’ve gotten some great suggestions already about knitting/DIY/or buying but I think what ever you choose, go with real wool/fiber. The synthetic stuff always looks bedraggled within minutes.


  14. Katy Elliott
    November 4th, 2011 @ 11:54 am

    Hi Abigail,

    Great, glad I could help. For me. I’m leaning towards making. :)


  15. mopar
    November 4th, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

    So cute! I like the one on your sister’s chair the best.

    Knitting a cable is less difficult than it looks. My cable knit hat was going splendidly — until I got to a mistake in the pattern. A year later, I got the corrected pattern but by then had no idea where I was in the instructions. Never finished.

    Some of these look like cut and sew (they buy the knit fabric as yardage, then cut and sew the pillow).

    There is no shame in buying one! You can’t make everything.


  16. mopar
    November 4th, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

    Oh duh, I just realized: I bet most of these pillows are made from old, cut-up sweaters on hand or found at the thrift store. That’s a really nice project and a good way to re-use old sweaters that have a stain or holes.


  17. Katy Elliott
    November 4th, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

    Just to clarify. All the above photos are hand knit and a few are backed with fabric.

    But you could use an old sweater and back it with fabric too!


  18. Jennifer Moser
    November 5th, 2011 @ 9:16 am

    I have been following your blog for a long time and I love it! I have been knitting for years and it is one of my favorite hobbies – if you are just getting started the book Stitch ‘n Bitch by Debbie Stoller is a great getting started book. I hope you make your pillows! :)


  19. Kim
    November 5th, 2011 @ 10:14 am

    I think that you should definitely make the pillow! You could learn a lot about cable knitting without having to worry about the shaping that would need to be simultaneously incorporated with knitting a garment.

    Have you been to yarn.com? It’s the online version of the enormous store called Webs in Northampton, MA. If you haven’t been there, you definitely need to go! It’s the most yarn I think you’ll ever see in one store. There is a huge (I cannot emphasize how huge) warehouse in the back where the yarn is discounted. When I was living in Massachusetts, much of the time I got my yarn there for 50% off or more, and now I order it from their large selection online. It’s a great resource if you need a lot of one kind of yarn for a project.

    I would recommend being careful to get a wool that won’t pill. I’ve heard that Debbie Bliss Cashmerino doesn’t pill easily, and I’m sure there are others.


  20. Southern Gal
    November 5th, 2011 @ 5:38 pm


    a rectangle or square is the easiest and you are right – just measure the front and make your cable pattern to that length and then just stocking stitch or garter for the back panel.

    seam up the sides, drop the pillow in and sew the bottom – instant pillow!

    as for designing – try KNIT VISUALIZER software – wonderful for creating your own cables and putting them together – print out the chart and away you go.

    another good source for cables and patterns that work together – any knitting magazine – find a cable sweater you like and just use that pattern.

    and dont forget your gauge swatch! that is crucial in figuring out your row and stitch length per inch…

    cant wait to see them!


  21. Southern Gal
    November 5th, 2011 @ 5:39 pm

    one more thing – if you do the pillow in the round – you would knit the front section as the cable pattern and then the back in stocking stitch which would be KNIT every row – very easy and fast as then you just have the top and bottom to stitch together.


  22. mopar
    November 6th, 2011 @ 12:39 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, Katy.


  23. Carol
    November 13th, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

    There is something magical about cables.
    In my last knitting class one of my students finally mastered cables, and she burst into tears.She never thought she could do it.


  24. Monika
    November 16th, 2011 @ 2:45 am

    I make everything with cables and I make similar pillows. There is nothing like coziness they add to the feel of home.


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