No Needling: Cabling without a cable needle

I'm just over the half-way mark with my cabled pillow:


Whee! That's one big pile 'o' cables.

Before I learned how to knit them, cables used to intimidate me. All those twisty bits! Must be hard, right? I could not have been more wrong. Cables are a piece of cake. (Maybe not vanilla cake, but still cake. Maybe something a little spicier, like carrot). The Next Step Six booklet my pillow pattern comes from has really great instructions for learning how to cable, but I thought I'd show you something that's not in there. I prefer to cable without a cable needle (nose firmly in air).


That up there, is a cable needle. There are a few different styles, but they all essentially do the same thing; hold a few stitches in the front or the back of your work.



The first cable project I ever worked on was a jumper dress. I know, a dress? The dress turned out to be horribly unflattering, but that's another story. After getting acquainted with cabling, I couldn't help thinking; "there's got to be a better way!". I didn't like the process of having to insert and remove the cable needle over and over. Besides, those little suckers are worse that dpns for disappearing between couch cushions! On a long bus trip I managed to figure out a way of doing without the cable needle, and it seems to be the method most "no needle" cable-ers use. So without further ado, I present:


The following demonstrates a what a pattern would call C6B. I knit "English" or right-hand style. My apologies to continental knitters. I hope you can follow!

First, you're going to carefully slip the first three stitches off the left needle. Slip them where? Nowhere. They're just going to float in space. (Scary! I know, it's okay. Breathe.) I like to press the right hand needle along the base of the free-floating stitches at this point to make sure they don't get up to any monkey business.


Now with that right hand needle in front of your floating stitches, slip the next three stitches from the left needle to the right needle. Now with the left needle, scoop up those floaters in the back. See? Nothing terrible happened.


Next comes the "twist". Pull that right needle over to the right and slip those first three stitches from the right needle back to the left.


Now that the stitches are all back on the left-hand needles, you can just knit across them like nothing ever happened! Ta-da!


To cross with the stitches held in front (C6F) it's essentially the same process:

This time, skip the first three stitches on the left needle, take the right needle behind the work, and stick 'er in the next three stitches.
Next, slip those first three stitches from the left hand needle into the free and open air. Whee!


With those first three stitches are out of the way, you can completely slip the next three stitches onto your right-hand needle. Now you can rescue the first three stitches from oblivion and slip 'em back onto the left needle.


Cross-er-oo time! Pull that right hand needle lurking in the back over to the right and slip it's three stitches back on the left needle. (Sure the stitches look twisted and weird, but I'm willing to bet your face does too, trying to wrangle those stitches around. Is your tongue between your teeth? Is your brow furrowed?)


Now just knit across those twisted up six stitches like nothing ever happened!


So there you have it. Cables without a cable needle. No safety-net. No holds barred knitting! I find this method the easiest way to cable, though it has it's drawbacks. If you need to cross a large number of stitches, there's greater danger of dropping a stitch (or five!). Also, you might want the security of a cable needle to babysit your precious stitches if you're using a particularly slippery yarn. It's also uses a lot more hand and wrist motion, so you might find it hard on your hands. Nonetheless, I think the pros outweigh the cons. It might not be for you, but you never know until you try!



I tried cabling this past month without a cable needle, floating the stitches, as you wrote. works great! much faster and easier to me. will definitely be knitting more cable patterns because of this method. cheers, Barbara

I've tried this method a few times but never quite felt it 'stuck' (literally). Maybe I'm just too afraid to leave live stitches, even for a second. I will give it another shot on the next knitting project I've got coming up, which (surprise, surprise) has cables too!