How To Cable Without A Cable Needle

Confession: I find cabling to be a little tedious. Using a cable needle and transferring stitches back and forth breaks my flow, and it annoys me. I knit cables sparingly.

Until, that is, I discovered how to cable without a cable needle. Now, I don’t mind cabling so much. In fact, it’s kind of fun.

I know of two ways to cable without a cable needle. One way, I learned from Grumperina’s website, here. But after trying it, I found that I didn’t love it as much as the straight rearranging-stitches method that I’m about to show you. But one of the joys of knitting is that you can try a couple methods and then settle on your very own favourite. In fact, I encourage it. Try everything!

Basic Construction of a Cable

A cable is made of a column of knit stitches, usually flanked by columns of purl stitches. The column is generally, but not always, divided in half. The direction the cable leans is determined by which half of the stitches in the column crosses in front of the other half.

If the left half crosses in front, the cable leans over to the right.

If the right half crosses in front, the cable leans over to the left.

Right-Cross Cable without a cable needle

To get a cable to lean to the right, you’ll want the left half of the stitch column to come across the front. So, with your right-hand needle, reach in front of the right half and insert the needle tip into the stitches that form the left half of the cable. In this case, I have a 6-stitch cable, with 3 stitches in the left half and 3 stitches in the right half. A written direction for this cable might read either C6R (cable 6 right) or 3/3 RC (3 over 3 right cross).

Right cross cable step 1. Cabling with a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

With your right hand, pinch the stitches under the cable. With a smooth, straight movement, withdraw the left needle from all the stitches in the cable.

Cable right cross step 2. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

The right needle will be holding on to the left half, and the right half of the column will be free at the back, but pinched and held in place by your right hand underneath. With the same smooth, straight movement at the back, poke the left needle back into those stitches immediately.

Right cross cable step 3. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

Slip the stitches on the right-hand needle back to the left needle…

Right cable cross step 4. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

…then knit across all the stitches.

Right cross cable step 5. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

Right Cross Cable: Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

Tips:

While you’re performing these movements, keep the needle positions the same except for the straight, out-and-in motion of the left needle. Don’t move or spread the needles and stitches in any way. Keep the movement small and quick.

A slippery needle works best for this maneuver. I use Knit Picks Nickel-Plated needle tips. Metal Addis or Hiya Hiyas are also perfect. Anything slightly sticky, like bamboo, laminated wood, or plastic might add just enough friction to tug the stitches and frustrate you.

Left-Cross Cable without a cable needle

To form a left-leaning cross, the right half of the cable column needs to go in front, and the left half needs to cross behind. So, with your right-hand needle, reach behind the right half and insert the needle tip into the stitches that form the left half of the cable.

Left cross cable step 1. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

With your right hand, pinch the stitches under the right half of the cable. With a smooth, straight movement, withdraw the left needle from all the stitches in the cable.

left cross cable step 2. Cabling without a cable neede. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

The right needle will be holding on to the left half, and the right half of the column will be free at the front, but pinched and held in place by your right hand underneath. With the same smooth, straight movement at the front, poke the left needle back into those live stitches immediately.

left cross cable step 3. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

Slip the stitches on the right-hand needle back to the left needle…

left cross cable step 4. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.come #knittingtips #write31days

…then knit across all the stitches.

left cross cable step 5. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

left cross cable. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

 

It is completely normal to be nervous about this technique. Most of us freak out a little when we pull our needles out of our stitches. Needles usually fall out against our will, so we try to avoid it at all costs. But it doesn’t have to be something you’re afraid of. Tomorrow, I’ll show you how to easily pick up dropped stitches, even if they’ve dropped all the way down to your cast on edge.

But in the meantime, don’t worry. Practice this on a worsted-weight project with real wool so it’s nice and sticky and doesn’t want to unravel. It might feel awkward the first couple times, but, before you know it, your hands will get the knack of it and your cabling rhythm will improve and get faster.

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. www.aknitica.com #write31days #knittingtips

This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.

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  • Doreen

    Amanda, this is the best description of how to knit cables without using a cable needle. Now I see why I wasn’t successful when I tried it before. I’m Going to give it another try. Thanks so much.

  • Doreen

    Hi Amanda, I should have looked at this post again this evening before I started the cables on the cushion. Now I see what I was forgetting to do. Thanks for your help sorting out the other problem with the pattern repeats too. Doreen

    • Oh, good! I’m glad you sorted it out. After our class, I realized we’d gotten sidetracked with the chart and hadn’t gone over the cabling like I meant to! Oops. 🙂