How to cable without a cable needle

Create cables more quickly by setting aside your cable needle. It’s easy when you know how, says Jen Bartlett.

How to cable without a cable needle

Knitting cables without the use of a cable needle may seem a bit wild and dangerous, but rest assured, it’s very easy and will save you lots of time and fiddling.

It’s especially quick with smaller cables of three or four stitches. The cables whizz past without all that messing around with a cable needle. You may also find your cables look tidier.

To do this, you’ll be slipping and knitting the stitches that make up your cable and then doing the ‘pinch and pull’ manoeuvre: pinching the stitches with finger and thumb while pulling the needle out and then sliding it back in to reposition the stitches in a different order. Making sure your tension is even as you slip and knit will help keep the cables neater, and snugly knitting the first stitch after your completed cable will help reduce any gaps in your fabric.

It may help to at first try this technique using a yarn that isn’t too slippery, because your stitches will be more likely to stay put if they are knitted in a woollier yarn. Also, trying it out on thicker yarns such as an aran-weight will make everything easier to see and manipulate.

Here are examples of how to work Cable 3 Front (C3F) and Cable 3 Back (C3B), which show the basics of needle movement, and can easily be translated to cables with larger numbers of stitches.

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You Will Need

  • Knitting needles
  • Yarn

Total time:

Cable 3 front (Left leaning cable)

Step 1

Work to where you want to place your cable. Hold the yarn to the back of the work and slip the next two stitches purlwise onto the right-hand needle.

Cable without a cable needle 1

Step 2

Keeping the working yarn at the back of the work, knit the next stitch on the left-hand needle.

Cable without a cable needle 2

Step 3

Insert the left needle through the front of the two slipped stitches on the right-hand needle.

Cable without a cable needle 3

Step 4

Pinch the base of these three stitches with your left thumb and forefinger and carefully pull the right-hand needle out of all of them. This leaves the two slipped stitches on the left-hand needle and the one knitted stitch sitting behind.

Cable without a cable needle 4

Step 5

Insert the right-hand needle purlwise into the dropped stitch.

Cable without a cable needle 5

Step 6

Knit the two slipped stitches.

Cable without a cable needle 6

Cable 3 back (Right leaning cable)

Step 1

Work to where you want to place your cable. Hold the yarn to the front of the work and slip the next stitch purlwise onto the right-hand needle.

Cable without a cable needle 7

Step 2

Bring the working yarn to the back of the work and knit the next two stitches on the left-hand needle.

Cable without a cable needle 8

Step 3

Insert the left-hand needle through the back of the slipped stitch on the right-hand needle.

Cable without a cable needle 9

Step 4

Pinch the base of these three stitches with your left thumb and forefinger and carefully pull the right-hand needle out of all of them. This leaves the one slipped stitch on the left hand needle and the two knitted stitches sitting in front.

Cable without a cable needle 10

 

Step 5

Insert the right-hand needle purlwise into the two dropped stitches.

Cable without a cable needle 11

Step 6

Knit the one slipped stitch.

Cable without a cable needle 12

 

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These techniques can easily be altered if you are doing larger or smaller cables, by changing the number of stitches slipped and knitted (or purled!).

As you become more experienced, I hope you’ll find that, except perhaps for extra-large cables with lots of stitches, you need never bother with a cable needle again. Enjoy your freedom!