Monday, October 10, 2011

Cableing Without a Cable Needle

Let me preface this by saying there's plenty of tutorials out there on how to cable without a cable needle. Mine is not particularly special except for the fact that this is how I do it and this is my blog.  I know there's a lot of knitters out there currently knitting the Rocky Coast Cardigan (myself included) which, as I said yesterday, is a pretty cable heavy design (although easy cables!) and hanging on to a cable needle the entire time (or in my case, sticking it in your hair for safe keeping and then forgetting where you put it causing you to get up and shake everything up around you) can slow you down.  This will save you time by not having to put your yarn down to switch tools and keeping you in knitting motion.

Disclaimer: I really only do this with a heavier weight yarn that has the ability to kind of stick to itself. So, no silk. But a nice weighty wool or alpaca would be fine. I also did this with some sport weight linen. Those stitches could stand up by themselves.

Ok, let's get started. The first thing you do is knit to the point where your cable will start (in case you couldn't figure that out).

For a cable that is right slanting (generally known as a cable back in which the first half of the stitch crosses in the back) you will skip the first two stitches and slip your right needle into the next two stitches purlwise from the front.

At the same time, you'll use your right index finger to press the first two stitches on the wrong side of your knitting on to the right-hand needle.

Now for the scary part: slip the four stitches off the needle (you can do it! This is part where a thick, stiff, or sticky yarn comes in handy, in case you let one go they won't go disappearing down the fabric). You should have (from left to right) two stitches on and two stitches being held behind the right needle.

Now, with the left-hand needle, pick up the two held stitches.

Got them? Good. Place the two stitches on the right-hand needle back onto the left-hand needle. You've now re-oriented the stitches.

Now knit across as you normally would.

And there's your cable!

Now, if you're trying to make a left-slanting cable (also known as a cable front in which the first half of the cable stitches cross in the front) you'll start by skipping the first two stitches on the left-hand needle and putting your right-hand needle into the next two stitches through the back.

You'll hold the first two stitches against the right-hand needle with your thumb.

Go ahead and slip all four stitches off the needle (don't forget to breathe!).

Now, with the left-hand needle, pick up the two held stitches.

Place the two stitches from the right-hand needle back onto the left needle.

Now your stitches are re-oriented.

And knit across them as you normally would. 

You're such an awesome cabler now (kind of). It definitely takes some getting used to but once you get in the swing of things you'll be able to pick up the pace.


  1. there might be heaps of other tutorials on this out there, but this is the first time I've seen one that hasn't scared me half to death! I might now actually give it a go as I'm working on a fairly cable heavy hoodie at the moment.

  2. Andrea, thanks so much for posting this, your pictures were perfect as were your directions. I am a cable needle fan, but they are so easy to lose when you are knitting, this will make things a lot easier.

  3. Thanks for posting this - I love knitting cables but everything you say about keeping track of the cable needle is true! Getting ready to start the cable-heavy Adize - your tutorial is a really helpful reference.

  4. Thanks for the great step by step instructions and lots of pics!

  5. It's such a great method. I have to remind myself if I don't use it often enough, and your pictures make it very clear! Thanks for taking the time to do this! That yarn really looks lush.

  6. Wow, although a bit scary ;-) I'll definitely try it! Thanks!

  7. Wonderful tutorial -- sometimes it's nice to have fewer tools to keep track of and your method is a winner!

  8. great job with the photos! (love the manicure :-) this project is perfect for practicing the technique!

  9. Toooo scary for me! I've tried it before and by the time I got done trying to get all the stitches knit back that had come undone in the process of moving them and switching this and that, I could have already done several cables with a cable needle. I've used lots of things when I couldn't find mine. I've used a dpn , I've used a elastic runner needle, I've used a chopstick and I've seen golf tees used. Just anything to hold the stitches to the front or the back will work. Great tutorial for those who aren't a chicken like me though!!! Ha!


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