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.
How to cable without a cable needle video
We show you how to cable without a cable needle in the video walthrough with aC3B and C3F knitting demo
How to cable without a cable needle walkthrough
You Will Need
- Knitting needles
Cable 3 front (Left leaning cable)
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.
Keeping the working yarn at the back of the work, knit the next stitch on the left-hand needle.
Insert the left needle through the front of the two slipped stitches on the right-hand needle.
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.
Insert the right-hand needle purlwise into the dropped stitch.
Knit the two slipped stitches.
Cable 3 back (Right leaning cable)
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.
Bring the working yarn to the back of the work and knit the next two stitches on the left-hand needle.
Insert the left-hand needle through the back of the slipped stitch on the right-hand needle.
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.
Insert the right-hand needle purlwise into the two dropped stitches.
Knit the one slipped stitch.
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!
Explore a whole world of cables in our how to cable knit guide and discover 24 different cable knitting patterns, too.