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Cabling without a Needle (Plus a free pattern!)

Sep 4, 2009


My current project in Kathleen's Knit-a-Long—the Central Park Hoodie—is a cable pattern, and I'm saving tons of time doing the cables without a needle. In the fall 2009 issue of Interweave Knits there's a Beyond the Basics lesson on this technique, and I thought I'd present it here, too. I don't recommend this method for use with slippery yarn or with big cable crossings (crossing more than four or five stitches over each other), but for most of your cabling needs, it's magic!

Step 1
On a cable crossing row, work to just before the full cable group. With the yarn in back, slip all the stitches from the group purlwise to the right-hand needle to loosen them.

Step 2
For a cable crossing left (standard instructions: hold the cable needle to the front of the work), bring the left-hand needle to the front of the work and insert it into the fronts of all stitches that need to be held (Figure 1).

For a cable crossing right (standard instructions: hold the cable needle to the back of the work), bring the left-hand needle to the back of the work and insert it into the backs of all stitches that need to be held (Figure 2).  

Step 3
Between the left thumb and forefinger, pinch the base of the slipped stitches firmly. Pull the right-hand needle completely free of all the slipped stitches (Figure 3; half will be on the left-hand needle; half will be free for a moment) and maintaining front/back position as established, quickly reinsert it into the free stitches. Make sure all the stitches are seated correctly on the needle; if they’re held firmly, the stitches won’t have twisted or moved at all during the time that they were dropped.

Step 4
Slip stitches on the right-hand needle back to the left-hand needle. The stitches are now out of order and will be crossed when they’re worked (Figure 4). Work as directed.


Check out our new DVD workshop, Classic to Creative Knit Cables with Kathy Zimmerman (whose friends call her the Cable Queen). I wish I would have previewed Knit Cables last week. I was watching TV while knitting on the Central Park Hoodie, and I did two complete cable chart repeats with the cable crossings going the wrong way. In the last segment of the workshop, Kathy demonstrates fixing miss-crossed cables without ripping back rows! I ripped back about twenty rows, but next time (and I'm sure there will be a next time!) I'll be able to avoid the frog. Katharine Hepburn Knitted Cardigan



Today's free pattern is Kathy Zimmerman's Katharine Hepburn Cardigan (photo at left), which first appeared in Lace Style. Made up of tiny rope cables and lace, this pattern harkens back to the 1950s and one of the icons of that era, Katharine Hepburn. This sweater begs to be worn with a skirt and a scarf around the neck, but it's equally at home over a fitted tee-shirt and some nice jeans. It's a true classic. Plus, the pattern gives directions for a bolero version for even more variety. This pattern is available in our recent free eBook, Knit Cardigan Patterns From Knitting Daily:7 FREE Knitting Patterns. So click on the link and get the free pattern, plus six more cardigans to keep you busy this fall!

Kathy Zimmerman says cabling can be hazadous to your stash, and I couldn't agree more.

Cable on!







Featured Products

Central Park Hoodie Knitting Pattern

Availability: In Stock
Price: $5.50


This best-selling hoodie pattern from Heather Lodinsky now offers expanded sizes. Tahnki's Donegal Tweed wool singles yarn delivers beautiful cable structure and insulation from the cold.


Knitting Daily Workshop Classic to Creative Knit Cables with Kathy Zimmerman

Availability: In Stock
Was: $19.99
Sale: $19.95


An introduction to the rich variety of cable knitting with Cable Queen Kathy Zimmerman.


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Maxermoo wrote
on Oct 20, 2009 12:12 PM

I made the Teva Durham Peasant Blouse (with all the cables) without a cable needle, and now I'm working on a cabled hoodie, still without a cable needle.  I discovered your instructions for cabling without a needle after I was finished, though!

It does save time, but you have to be working with a yarn that has a little bit of "grip," like a wool or a wool blend.  Yarns that have a high percentage of acrylic in them are too slick and the stitches drop through the row below before you can get them back on the needle, so that may be a challenge for some of your readers if they've tried this and been unsuccessful.

I'm a cable-holic (and proud to admit it) and will continue to cable without a needle.  Thanks for bringing this clever trick to the public, even if the instructions are slightly backward...

knitterie wrote
on Sep 7, 2009 6:18 AM

I agree, I think the instructions are backwards.  Having tried to switch to this method in the middle of the "Every Way Warp" it was a disaster.  I have gone back to the cable needle.  I'll try again sometime and reverse to see if it looks better.

GeetaN@2 wrote
on Sep 4, 2009 11:20 PM

i saw katherine hepburn cardigan pattern u have give the finished sizes but what will be the actual sizes

amschick23 wrote
on Sep 4, 2009 5:53 PM

I have used this technique for a few years now... I mainly use it when I have to cross 2 stitches  or a wavy stitch pattern that moves 2 stitches left or fight.  It does save time, especially when I found myself dropping my "slippery" metal cable needle too much!!  Go For Cable!!  Annette

on Sep 4, 2009 3:03 PM

I agree with Maragaret B that the directions seem reversed.  What I did was first align the cables using a cable needle, and then followed their direction with the needle-less technique.

I liked the technique because I find it distorts the stitches less than a cable needle.

This wouldn't matter I guess if you did a whole pattern backward.

Razor wrote
on Sep 4, 2009 2:23 PM

I like the 'no cable needle' technique! I'm doing a project with a 3x3 cable and I was never comfortable with the cable needle--it felt a little 'fiddly' to me. This is a wee bit slower as I'm getting the hang of it, but I like it!

DaniLee@2 wrote
on Sep 4, 2009 2:05 PM

Thanks for the helpful tips Kathleen - looking forward to giving this a try!

Kabira wrote
on Sep 4, 2009 1:22 PM

HI - you wrote:

I'm saving tons of time doing the cables without a needle.

I've done cables for years with and without a cable needle - I don't find one faster than the other - just handy to know how to cable without a needle if you don't have it along.

lotsofyarn wrote
on Sep 4, 2009 12:59 PM

The directions and figures are very clear and easy to understand.  However, I'm fairly certain they are reversed.  For right cross I would follow Figure 2 and bring my left hand needle to the back of the work and insert it into the backs of all stitches that need to be held;  for left cross follow Figure 1 and bring the left-hand needle to the front of the work and insert it into the fronts of all stitches that need to be held.  In other words, the left hand needle goes to the front or back just as the cable needle would.

SusanR@4 wrote
on Sep 4, 2009 12:57 PM

DVD is a great idea, but I prefer books.  It is difficult to watch a video and knit at the same time.  I do it with TV (listen a lot).  Guess I am just old-fashioned.


PattiP wrote
on Sep 4, 2009 12:14 PM

I have tried the no cable needle cable technique...I don't find it saves any time, but it is handy if you're cabling on vacay and forget your cable needle.