Knitting cables without a cable needle

A step-by-step tutorial on how to cable knit without a cable needle to increase your speed – no matter if its a left or right cross.

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?

Note: I earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this article.

How to cable knit without a cable needle

three swatches with three different cable stitches

This technique basically 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 - especially as the results will often be much neater

These instructions are for a 2x2 cable (right cross). But will work in a similar way for smaller or bigger cable stitches as well.

Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Instructions

  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
  2. Use your right index finger to press the first two stitches against the right needle and pull the left needle out of those first four stitches.
    Right cable cross without Cable needle - dropping two stitches in the back

    Two stitches should be secured on your right needle, while two stitches will be secured by your index finger pressing them against the right needle so they don't unravel or drop out of range.
  3. Pick up the two dropped stitches with your left needle straight away.

    Right cable cross without Cable needle - picking up the dropped stitches in front
  4. 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

Notes

I KNOW this sounds scary. As a knitter, you 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 that, 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 without a cable needle

The left cross cable is knit in a very similar way. The only difference is that you 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:

Step 1: Insert the needle 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

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. Bavarian twisted stitches are typically always crossed without a cable needle.

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 cables without a cable needle. Feel free to ask your questions in the comments below!

How to knit the cable stitch without a cable needle

3 thoughts on “Knitting cables without a cable needle”

  1. I just discovered this awesome video, 95% into my wicker pattern kimono.
    And it just works wonders, lesson learned for my next projects.

    As for me, I sometimes have to release & hold the stitches before I can catch the next ones (even scarier), because my KnitPro 8mm needles are too blunt to be inserted easily (knitwise three stitches behind the first three).

    Thank you so much !

    Reply

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