Cabling Without a Needle, the Sequel

Kathleen knitting as fast as she can! I'm working on my Knit-a-Long, the Central Park Hoodie, and even though I'm behind my own schedule (!), I'm making fast progress now that I can devote more hours to this project.

The Central Park Hoodie is actually a really quick project, for several reasons: the gauge is a generous 4.25 stitches per inch, the pieces have minimal shaping, and the cable pattern makes me want to keep going ("just one more cable repeat. . ."). I've been working on a couple of other projects for Knitting Daily, though, and my CPH got neglected for a couple of weeks.

I do have the back and one-and-a-half fronts done now, and I'm going to do the two sleeves at once. I usually don't like to do that because I make a mess of the two strands of yarn—I fail at the walking and chewing gum test—but I want to get this sweater done so I can wear it!

I've been using Interweave's cabling without a needle directions (click here for the tutorial I posted on Knitting Daily), but I recently discovered another method, one where you knit the stitches on the needles as you twist them. Our original instructions have you twist the stitches on the needle first and then knit them. This second method is faster, I think, and I need all the speed I can get in order to keep up with my knit-a-long pals!

I made a video of the technique and here it is! I demonstrate a left-crossing cable first, and then a right-crossing cable.

A Free Pattern for You!

Here's a cable pattern for you to try this method with: the Peasant Blouse by Teva Durham. Teva appeared on Knitting Daily TV on season 2 and talked about her theories for designing unique and fashionable knitwear.

There are a couple of different cables in this design, placed off-center to add even more interest and flair. I love peasant blouses in general, but they're usually designed for summer wear; this version of the blouse is appropriate for fall and wintertime, too. I love the cables, of course, but I also admire the neckline, with its eyelets and ribbon tie.

Teva is such an innovative designer; I think you'll really like this project.

And if you need more cabling inspiration, check out our Knitting Daily Workshop Classic to Creative Knit Cables with Kathy Zimmerman. Kathy provides basic instruction, tips, tricks, and excellent patterns in this special tutorial.

Have a wonderful weekend!



Other Things You May Like to Check Out:


Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

68 thoughts on “Cabling Without a Needle, the Sequel

  1. This is a great way to do cables — since I learned this method I haven’t gone back to the old cable needle. I think I saw it first on a tutorial by Kathy, aka Grumperina!

    It’s a little fiddly at first, but once you get it, it makes a cabled pattern fly. I don’t know that I would have lasted Koolhaas otherwise!

  2. This is not for the faint of heart knitter! I can see some of my customers gasping when I ask them to take the needle out of their stitches. I know it works because Annie Modesitt teaches this technique and I’ve tried. It’s great!

  3. This is the only way I’ll do cables. I stumbled on this method a couple years ago, and it’s the reason I started cables in the first place! It’s so much easier than using an extra needle.

    I find it to be less fiddly, especially when you’re already juggling 4 with a pair of socks.

  4. Do you think the girl modeling the Peasant Blouse didn’t look like she just rolled out of bed!! For God sake — use a brush or comb!!! Her hairdo takes away from what you are suppose to be looking at!!!

  5. Yep – I use this method all the time. I first learned it from the Grumperina tutorial as well.. I think she posted it at least a couple of years ago. It would be nice to see the credit of where Kathleen “discovered another method” in the article. 🙂

  6. Kathleen,
    I look forward to my “Knitting Daily” inspiration and read each installment in awe of your talent AND consistent enthusiasm for all things knitted! You do a great job AND I particularly appreciate the cabling video that you created. Easy to understand AND very helpful.
    thank you for your almost daily contribution to my joy in knitting!
    High Springs, FL

  7. Oh, that is brilliant! I’ve been doing the “cross the stitches before you knit them” method but with less stretchy yarn and wider cables that can get really tight. This method should have much more “ease” in the working.

    I should cast on for that Estes Vest in my queue so I can try it. 🙂

  8. Hi Folks,

    I learned this cabling method from a friend at my LYS.

    I’m not surprised Grumperina has a video tutorial for this methos–she’s so great at passing along great info. I learned some wonderful tips on putting in zippers from her website.

    Take care,


  9. On working with two strands at once (as for 2 sleeves at once) — yes, the yarn will twist. It comes from flipping the work over between right side and wrong side rows. I have friends who are **oranized** 🙂 and who claim if you flip the work from the right hand edge on right side rows and from the left hand edge on wrong side rows, it will not twist.

    That’s too much thinking for me! So when the twists accumulate enough to be annoying, I just shove the work the center of the needle, then reach down to the two strands of yarn and put several fingers between them, pulling up gently and separating the strands. The needle, with the work on it, hangs free at the end of the strands and eventually beginst twirling itself around as the twists UNtwist.

    It’s the same technique embroiderers use to remove kinks from their working thread — although letting a teensy emboidery needle twirl around it a little less scary than letting a knitting needle with hours & hours & hours of stitches on it twirl around loose!

    –Lynda in Oregon

  10. Thank you for this video. I was going to take a course at a LYS to learn cables because they looked so complex to me. I am glad I found this to show me how simple cables are.

    Now all I have to do is to get brave and take stitches off the needles…although I guess in theory since there is a yarn over before and after wrapped around the stitches it will only take a little practice. before it becomes naturally!!.

  11. OHG! No wonder people are afraid of cable work! I wouldn’t recommend this for a newbie or even the average knitter. I’d sure find a way to use something else for a cable needle (orange stick works well) It just seems like a really hard way to do something simple.

  12. I am new to cabling, and I usually think of it as a cable FRONT or a cable BACK depending on where I hold my cable needle. On the video, is the first one a cable front and the second one a cable back, or is it the other way around?

    The video is WONDERFUL and I want to try out the technique as soon as possible, but my instructions in the pattern say front and back, not left and right.


  13. Front – left
    Back – right

    If the stitches are held to the front and knitted later, you get a left-leaning cable.

    If held to the back, you get a right-leaning cable.

    I can small cables without a cable needle, but I haven’t tried six stitch or larger ones. The next cable gets the no-needle treatment.

  14. This method for doing cables looks wonderfully easy. Where were you when I just knit a cabled sock pattern! I so could have used this method. I love the way cables look when finished but get to hate the process.

  15. I think I like this non-cable needle method much better than the other – I hate dropping stitches and having to scoop them back up risking losing the loop you need – so was always a little leary of this other method – this one does not look so intimidating, I may even try it!

  16. Wonderful! I always felt like that extra needle dangling there stretched the stitches. I will try this with my next cable project. The fewer needles I have to manage the better!

  17. My KAL group is working on the Great American Aran Afghan with LOTS of cables. I’ll have to show them this technique. We might be able to finish more than a square a month at this rate! Thanks for sharing with your adoring public!

  18. Hmmm. No video. Page just goes to “done” with text & the peasant blouse writeup.

    Have never experienced this problem with other tutorials — am traveling & working “mouseless” from a wireless connection. Is there trick for getting at videos in this situation?


  19. I had the same issue as the Hat Lady – could not link to video. How about the same format for instructions as the twist-first-then-knit with figures 1, 2, etc included also? ac

  20. If you want to knit with speed you should try the Hungarian style of knitting. It’s MUCH faster. Once you’ve got it down pat you can knit without looking and I’m twice as fast as my fellow knitters. They are just set in their ways.

  21. I don’t know what I am doing wrong, but I can never get the video’s. I get it for about 1 second, then it stops, then it starts again for 1 second.
    Kathleen, the little that I saw, looks so simple. Can you give me instructions in another way, so that I can print it?
    I would really appriciate that.

  22. Yes, Moira …. I’m on your wavelength. I’ll give it another try but feel that over more than two stitches I would feel ‘safer’ with the tried n’ true needle. Perhaps it’s a case of horses for courses!
    Btw, I’m not a newbie cabler – have been doing it for years 😉

  23. What a contrived and time consuming way to do cables…what’s wrong with an old fashioned cable needle? I tried the first method that you demonstrated and became totally frustrated with how it slowed down my work. This method looks just as tedious. I’m a very fast knitter (been knitting over 50 years!) and this slowed me down to a crawl. Could not wait to get out my trusty “J” hook.

  24. Kathleen: From photos we look to be about the same size, yet I can never find patterns that fit me correctly. I’ve made sweaters for my daughters, my grandson and my husband, but nothing for myself. I end up taking it apart, starting over (usually after the 4th time, I give up). I would LOVE if you can tell where to get the pattern for whatever you are making. (a free post would be even better, since I have about 6 books of “plus” patterns and can’t get a one to fit right!)

  25. Thank you so much for sharing this technique! I will never forget knitting a cabled baby blanket while waiting to board a plane, I had put the bamboo dpn i was using as a cable needle between my lips inbetween cables but when called to board forgot it was there so it quietly fell to the floor as I rushed to make my plane. What a boring flight!

  26. Thank you for an easy-to-understand video. Will have to try this method again – have always been terrified of dropping stitches! (such a hassle to pick up, especially if there’s a pattern)

  27. To Lynda from Oregon:

    I also untwist my 2 strands by letting the yarn dangle, but I hold the yarn below the needles and let the yarn balls twist. That way you don’t have to worry about loosing your stitches. I keep my yarn balls together in a zip lock bag and one ball strand coming out of the left corner and the other ball coming out of the right corner and the zip is closed in betweem the two strands. This is great for socks and the magic loop method when doing two at once socks. (I learned this technique in the office from untwisting telephone cords!)

    Donna from Camas, WA

  28. Kathy,
    In making two sleeves at once, have you tried to keep the two strands of yarn under control by putting each of the balls/skeins of yarn in a separate zip-top plastic bag? This works great for me. You close the bag, leaving the last half-inch open for the yarn.

  29. Watched the video of the cable done without an extra needle.

    1) You “throw” your yarn and I found it difficult to follow your hand. I work the continental style and have for 75 years. I, find your style of cabling awkward.Will still work the other way with the extra needle. Not racing the clock with my work. Want the project what ever it is, to be inviting, well worked and feel wonderful when wearing.

    2) Of course this is my opinion. Will be 80 on the 27th of this month, and as stated have been knitting, crocheting, sewing, quilting, rug making, etc. add nauseum, since I have been 5 yrs. old. Find that a great deal of the old country style of work still is the easiest way to do things.

    Thank you for your continued information.

    Trudy T

  30. Gasp!

    When you pull that needle out, it’s all I can do to remind my heart to keep beating. I suppose this panicky phobic feeling means that I’ll forever be under the thumb of of my cable needle. Watching your able stitch juggling sure is fun, though and maybe I will get my courage up and try it myself some day.

    Great job on the video.

  31. I hated doing cables. Having to mess with the cable needle seemed to interupt the flow of knitting. Then I learned this technique and no longer avoid cables.

    Changing techniques is optional and being happy with the results is not. I have never seen anyone who knits the same way I do but we all make beautiful things. So do it how ever you want if you like what you get!

  32. How about writing out this new cabling without a cable needle turorial as you did on the first one. It would be easier to have step-by-step instructions in hand.

  33. Kathleen,
    I could not get the video to load but am very anxious to see this method as I’m not crazy about pulling my stitches off the needle before knitting them. Do you, by any have written directions, or still pictures, instead of a video? I’d really appreciate it. Thanks so much, Deborah

  34. I like this method for cables with no more than a total of 6 sts. It’s just too hard for me to keep 4 sts from coming unknit when I do the “release”. Why do we put our yif when we do a right cross?

  35. WOW! I’m bookmarking this page! And I’ll probably be watching this on repeat for an hour trying to get my cables right..

    I’ve never tried cables before and I am new to the knitting world.. and this.. I think I can ACTUALLY do!!

    Thank you very much for making this video!

  36. This IS a great way to do them! Someone had suggested to me before to just slip off the two loops, then do the 3rd & 4th, then pick up the 1st & 2nd, but I couldn’t stand the worry of them slipping away, with that method.

    With this method, you’ve got the first two stitches safely on your needle while you work stitches 3 & 4, and then the first two stitches are only off your needle for a second, at a time when you have your fingers underneath them holding them secure for picking up again.

    Thank you! for sharing this idea. I love cables, but I don’t love either kind of cable needle. I can’t wait to try this.

  37. Thank you so much, Kathleen! I’ve been knitting and cabling for many, many years, but have always been a slave to my cable needle. I’ve noticed that cable needles always seem to be Somewhere Else when I need them. I used this technique on a cabled hat I needed to finish quickly and was able to make it in one day. I am SO hooked! I do have suggestions for anyone who might be a little apprehensive about pulling the needle out of the work.
    1) Loosen the tension on your feeder yarn before removing the needle. If you don’t loosen the tension, you might wind up removing the knitting from the completed cable stitches as you remove the needle – or at least make it so that the loops disappear into the previous row.
    2) I sort of brace the completed stitches with a left finger as I’m removing the needle to hold them in line while I reinsert the needle. This seemed to help keep the loops where I want them and keep them lined up properly.
    3) Make the remove/reinsert happen all in one smooth movement and there will be less chance of dropping a stitch when reinserting the needle. This, of course, takes practice which brings me to:
    4) Remember that learning any new technique takes time and a willingness to be awkward at first.

    Thanks again, Kathleen!

  38. Thank you! I have not done a large cabling project yet, in part because I really don’t like working with slippy cable needles that have to be stowed somewhere when not in use. I am brave about removing stitches so this really appeals to me. I can’t wait to plan a sweater project with cables! I can’t get enough of this kind of inspiration and enlightenment to broaden my knitting knowledge! Keep up the great work.

  39. Thanks so much for your recent technique videos, especially this one. I had tried cabling without a needle following other instructions on the web, but just didn’t “get” it. This one is so clear and so easy, I don’t think I’ll ever use a cable needle again! I just had to start a cable-rich scarf this week so I could practice.

  40. Oh WOW!! that is sooo simple I’m very frustrated with myself since I’ve pruchased so many of those needles that I’m embarassed to say how many.
    I will never be “caught” without a cable needle again!! Thankx so much

  41. Holy Cow! Thanks, Kathleen!!! I’ve been knitting for 40 years or so and I learn something new almost every time I sign on to this site! I’m going knit up a little baby cabled hat today and will certainly try this…..

  42. Thank you so much for sharing this Kathleen. I have practiced this in all of the varied cables in an Aran Fisherman Afghan pattern I have had for many, many years, and now have the courage to start even though it is cables, cables, everywhere. I have put it off for years because I didn’t want to use a cable needle probably a thousand times :), but now I don’t have to!! I know what my oldest son is finally getting for Christmas in 2010!

  43. It’s finally finished! Check out socksaholic at Ravelry to see the FO. I could (or would) have never done this afghan without this method of doing cables. Just for fun, I counted the # of cable crossings in this afghan and it is over 8,000. The FO picture on ravlrey shows half the width of the afghan and and you can see all the different types of cables used.

  44. Thank you, Kathleen, for this great time-saving video! My Christmas knitting will be achieved in a shorter period of time thanks to you!
    Thanks also for all of the terrific help you give on a weekly basis in the e-letters!! 🙂

  45. Beautiful sweater Kathleen. Love the color.

    By the way, how do I view videos? Each time I try to view one the screen whites out – but the audio is fine. Do I have to subscribe to a forum or something? Please let me know because I’d really like to see your no cable needle cabling technique. Thanks! 🙂

  46. به نام خداوند بخشنده و مهربان
    کاتلین عزیز سلام
    من الهام عسکری از ایران هستم
    متاسفانه بلد نیستم به زبان انگلیسی برایتان کامنت بزارم ولی هر روز به سایتتون میرم و مدلهاتونو می‌بینم.
    ازتون ممنونم به خاطر مدلهای قشتگتون
    دوستتون دارم و امیدوارم سال خوبی را شروع کنید در سایه خدای بزرگ و مهربان