Have you ever looked at an Aran sweater and felt like there was no way you could make it? That juggling all those gorgeous cable patterns at the same time was beyond your ability?

It’s not. There is a simple way to keep every pattern on track as you work that dream sweater.

## The Problem

Aran sweaters typically have several cable patterns worked as vertical panels. Some designs have mirror-imaged patterns on the front and back, so that they’re symmetrical about the center of the body. But you could, if you wanted to, make an Aran sweater without repeating any of the patterns at all.

The patterns are almost always going to have a different number of rows in their row repeats: simple cables usually have a row repeat that matches their number of stitches (so a four-stitch cable has a four-row repeat, and a six-stitch cable has a six-row repeat); the popular OXO or Hugs and Kisses Cable has a sixteen-row repeat; patterns that are more complex might have dozens of rows in their repeats.

Juggling all those patterns’ row repeats simultaneously need not induce a migraine!

## The Solution

Which pattern in your Aran sweater has the most rows in its row repeat? Can you count that high? Of course you can. Then you can juggle as many patterns as you want!

Just to have some actual numbers to work with, suppose your desired patterns have row repeats of four, six, and sixteen rows.

Make yourself a table on paper (or in your word processor). Your table will have four columns. The first column will contain the project row number. The other three columns will be used to hold the three patterns’ row numbers as they cycle from one to the number of rows in the pattern.

Starting at the top, you simply write each pattern’s row numbers in its column, starting over again at one when you get to its last row. Keep going all the way down each column.

Here are the first ten rows of our hypothetical table:

Project Row | Four-Row Pattern | Six-Row Pattern | Sixteen-Row Pattern |

1 | 1 | 1 | 1 |

2 | 2 | 2 | 2 |

3 | 3 | 3 | 3 |

4 | 4 | 4 | 4 |

5 | 1 | 5 | 5 |

6 | 2 | 6 | 6 |

7 | 3 | 1 | 7 |

8 | 4 | 2 | 8 |

9 | 1 | 3 | 9 |

10 | 2 | 4 | 10 |

You use the table to show you which pattern row you work in each panel on each project row. So when you’re working project row nine, you work row one of the four-row pattern, row three of the six-row pattern, and row nine of the sixteen-row pattern.

You can make a little check mark next to each project row number as you complete it, and you can use a small ruler or even a pen or pencil to mark your place in the table.

## How Big Will the Table Have to Be?

If one of the patterns is fairly tall, there’s a good chance that the other patterns won’t all fit into it neatly in just one repeat. So in our example, we know without even thinking that we will have to do four repeats of the four-row pattern during the first repeat of the sixteen-row pattern, because

4 × 4 = 16

But the other pattern, the six-row one, won’t fit perfectly into a single go of the sixteen-row pattern because

16 ÷ 6 = 2 with a remainder of 4

So how many times **will** we have to repeat both the six-row pattern and the sixteen-row one until we start over again with row one of both patterns? The technical term is *least common multiple*, and if you search the Internet, you’ll find lots of calculators that let you enter all the numbers involved, then they tell you what the smallest number is that can be divided evenly (without any remainder) by all the numbers you entered.

Getting back to our sample numbers, if we do two repeats of the sixteen-row pattern, that’s thirty-two rows, which still leaves a remainder when we try to divide by six.

Let’s bump to a third repeat, which will be forty-eight total rows. Ah ha! We know that

48 ÷ 6 = 8

with no remainder. So we’ll have to work the sixteen-row pattern three times to match up exactly with eight repeats of the six-row pattern.

Since forty-eight is evenly divisible by four as well, that means our table showing every row number of every pattern will have to be forty-eight rows tall. On project row forty-nine, all three patterns will finally work row one at the same time.

Project Row | Four-Row Pattern | Six-Row Pattern | Sixteen-Row Pattern |

1 | 1 | 1 | 1 |

2 | 2 | 2 | 2 |

3 | 3 | 3 | 3 |

4 | 4 | 4 | 4 |

5 | 1 | 5 | 5 |

6 | 2 | 6 | 6 |

7 | 3 | 1 | 7 |

8 | 4 | 2 | 8 |

9 | 1 | 3 | 9 |

10 | 2 | 4 | 10 |

11 | 3 | 5 | 11 |

12 | 4 | 6 | 12 |

13 | 1 | 1 | 13 |

14 | 2 | 2 | 14 |

15 | 3 | 3 | 15 |

16 | 4 | 4 | 16 |

17 | 1 | 5 | 1 |

18 | 2 | 6 | 2 |

19 | 3 | 1 | 3 |

20 | 4 | 2 | 4 |

21 | 1 | 3 | 5 |

22 | 2 | 4 | 6 |

23 | 3 | 5 | 7 |

24 | 4 | 6 | 8 |

25 | 1 | 1 | 9 |

26 | 2 | 2 | 10 |

27 | 3 | 3 | 11 |

28 | 4 | 4 | 12 |

29 | 1 | 5 | 13 |

30 | 2 | 6 | 14 |

31 | 3 | 1 | 15 |

32 | 4 | 2 | 16 |

33 | 1 | 3 | 1 |

34 | 2 | 4 | 2 |

35 | 3 | 5 | 3 |

36 | 4 | 6 | 4 |

37 | 1 | 1 | 5 |

38 | 2 | 2 | 6 |

39 | 3 | 3 | 7 |

40 | 4 | 4 | 8 |

41 | 1 | 5 | 9 |

42 | 2 | 6 | 10 |

43 | 3 | 1 | 11 |

44 | 4 | 2 | 12 |

45 | 1 | 3 | 13 |

46 | 2 | 4 | 14 |

47 | 3 | 5 | 15 |

48 | 4 | 6 | 16 |

49 | 1 | 1 | 1 |

For tracking your progress, you start over at the top of the table, adding forty-eight to the project row number if you’re writing each one down as you complete it. You could also just use the project row number as is, if you have to work through the table more than once.