It might seem like a daunting task to fix mistakes when you're knitting cables, but it isn't. Here are two fixes for the most common problems when knitting cables.
Which row am I on?
If you've lost track of where you are in a cable repeat, it's easy to count the number of rounds or rows since your last crossing. Pull a cable apart gently to see where the out-of-order stitches of the last crossing are knitted and joined to their new neighbors. Start counting with the second stitch above that slightly stretched stitch, and include the row on the left needle. Compare with your chart or instructions and cable on.
There's a mistake 10 rows back!
If you find a mistake in a cable crossing several rows (or even repeats) down and don't want to live with it, don't rip out all your work to that point! Instead, insert a small double-pointed needle or stitch holder into the stitches in the row just below the incorrect cable.
Work up to the point of the offending crossing and then drop only the involved stitches from your needle. (If the error involves strands that have since separated, this point may be several stitches away from the original crossing point. The stitches in each strand stay with it throughout the knitting, meaning that you must drop from wherever the original strand's stitches have ended up.) Ladder the dropped stitches down until you reach the held stitches.
Rework the pattern correctly, using the ladders as the working yarn. Use a blunt-tipped needle to even the tension in any wonky stitches afterwards.
It sounds crazy, but I've done this, and it works. Just close yourself in a well-lit room and fix that cable!
I love tips and tricks that make knitting easier, and Kathy Zimmerman, a.k.a. The Cable Queen, has so many great ones! Get her video, Classic to Creative Knit Cables, for just 6 bucks! What a deal.
An introduction to the rich variety of cable knitting with Cable Queen Kathy Zimmerman.