Knitting the Cable stitch without a cable needle

Sometimes a pattern involves a lot of cable stitches. Typically Aran sweaters are riddled with them. Slipping stitches, moving the cable needle back and forth requires time. And if there are a lot of cables, this will amount to quite a lot of time. So, what if there was a way to knit cables without cable needles?

Here’s the good news: There are actually two! And in this tutorial, I am going to show you step by step how to knit the more popular version.

I use the exact same technique to knit my cable projects (like this beautiful cable cowl or this cable knit hat) and I’d never ever go back to knitting with hooks, cable needles, and the like.

But if you find it a bit too difficult yet, then you’ll find my detailed regular cable stitch tutorial here.

Anyway, let’s dive right into it, eh?

Step by step instructions:

By knitting without a cable needle, I feel you get neater cables because you are not stretching the stitches as much. Basically it boils down to dropping the stitches you normally would have to hold in the back/front and then picking them up again. Sounds scary? Like it would unravel? Absolutely not! With a little bit of practice, you will soon wonder why you ever used a cable needle.

1. Right cable cross

Step 1: Insert the right needle into the third and fourth stitch on your left needle from the front.

Right cable cross without Cable needle - inserting the left needle into the third and fourth stitch on the left needle in back

Step 2: Use your right index finger to press the first two stitches against the right needle.

Step 3: Pull the left needle out of those first four stitches. Two stitches should be secured on your right needle, while two stitches will be secured by your thumb pressing them against the right needle so they don’t unravel or drop out of range.

Right cable cross without Cable needle - dropping two stitches in the back

Step 4: Pick up the two dropped stitches with your left needle.

Right cable cross without Cable needle - picking up the dropped stitches in front

Step 5: Slip the two slipped stitches on your right needle back to the left needle and knit 4 stitches.

Right cable cross without Cable needle - slipping back the stitches back on the left needle

I KNOW this sounds scary. As a knitter, we are taught to avoid all situations where stitches may drop. But contrary to what you might think, stitches only unravel if you put stress on the fabric/yarn. So, avoid these, keep calm and things will work out just fine. Try to bunch the next stitches on the left needle really close to the tip. If they are too loose, you will have to move your needle around too much when dropping the stitches and picking them up again.

2. Left Cable Cross

The left cross cable is knit in the very same way. The only difference is that insert the needle into the third and fourth stitch from the back. It’s actually the easier version. As a lot of steps are the same, here’s an abbreviated version

Step 1: Insert the need into the third and fourth stitch from the back

left cable cross without a cable needle - inserting the right needle into the fourth and third stitch from the back

Step 2: Secure the first two stitches with your thumb and pull out the right needle.

left cable cross without a cable needle - dropping two stitches with thumb pressing them to the needle

Step 3: Pick up the dropped stitches with our left needle again.

left cable cross without a cable needle - picking up the dropped stitches in the back

Step 4: And slip the two stitches on your right needle back to the left needle as well. Then knit four.

left cable cross without a cable needle - slipping the stitches back on the left needle

Continue knitting.

In that manner, you can also knit 1×1 or 3×3 cables without a needle. The smaller the cable, the easier it is, the bigger, the harder it gets.

An alternative method: Knitting into back stitches

For 1×1, 2×1 or 3×1 cables there is also a way to knit without a cable needle and without dropping the stitches. Basically it involves knitting a stitch from the back of your work. So, you insert the needle in between two stitches, then you bring the needle to the front, and then you knit a Norwegian purl or knit stitch.

I don’t like this method at all as it requires you to knit very closely and it results in sloppy cables (in my opinion, lol).

Either way, this was my guide to knitting the cable stitch without a cable needle. I hope I was able to help you. Feel free to ask your questions in the comments below!

How to knit the cable stitch without a cable needle

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