Knitting tips and tricks: Cabling without a cable needle

Last Friday I posted about provisional long tail cast on and my failing (so far) to  become proficient at it. Reading everyone’s comments – thank you again to everyone who commented –  I recognised more and more that it’s only my stubborn streak, that doesn’t like to be beaten, which makes me still  want to master it. This raised the question, Having found (maybe even invented) provisional steeking cast on, why am I wasting my time listening to my stubborn streak?


Of course learning for learnings sake is good for our brains, but success (and evolution) are about doing what works best and letting go what doesn’t. So, as a knitting geek determined to learn unnecessarily complex techniques, I’m a bit of a dinosaur. But am I alone? And furthermore are there knitting geeks out there inventing new unnecessarily complicated techniques just to look clever?

One technique I question the point of is cabling without a cable needle by acrobatically twisting stitches around the needles. To me it’s completely unnecessary. Whatever you do, some stitches hang in the air at some stage, so why not just drop them in the first place and pick them up again? ( Many How to cable without a cable needle tutorials do teach it this way too.)


This isn’t the only alternative either. Here’s my three ways of coping when I can’t lay my hands on a suitable cable needle:

  1. Use an ordinary knitting needle as a cable needle.
  2. Drop the stitches to be twisted, to the back or front as necessary. If it’s good ‘sticky’ yarn let them hang, if it’s not, pinch just beneath the stitches, to help stop them running. Knit the stitches on the left hand needle that need to cross over. Slip the dropped stitches back onto the left hand needle and knit them. I sometimes do it this way anyway, because it’s quicker.
  3. In the circumstance that I have no other needles and happen to be knitting with an extra slippy yarn, or am knitting on a rollercoaster, or in the car when a madman Lovely Husband is driving, I use a pen or, if a thinner cable needle is required, dismantle the pen, pull out the middle and use that as my cable needle.


All much easier than finger acrobatics.

Is there a craft technique that you find an overly complicated way of doing things?

Bekki Hill

Update 28/02/16

Further suggestions in comments received of alterative implements to use as cable needles have been:

  • Chopsticks
  • Pencils
  • Skewers – although I do not recommend these as they are sharp and may cause injury

Update 22/03/16

I also discovered a cuticle stick amongst my collection of cable needles, which is practically a cable needle anyway and a really good at hanging onto your stitches if you have problems with them slipping back off your cable needle. I blogged about this one here.



21 thoughts on “Knitting tips and tricks: Cabling without a cable needle

  1. I find some kinitting instructions complicated enough without inventing new and dastardly ways to confuse myself. I’d be a bit scared to leave my stitches hanging in mid-air but have been known to use a pencil in lieu of a cable needle. Whatever works!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Moi! Show off? I really do think it’s easier without a cable needle sometimes, especially if you’ve got a good sticky wool you can trust not to run away down the fabric. And I agree, cabling can feel like wrestling – but at least that burns more calories 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I usually use chopsticks as cable needles, but have been known to use waste yarn as well. I use slippery acrylic a lot, and it does not lend well to just dropping stitches and expecting them to be there when you get back to them. Even if you pinch them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never thought of chopsticks. Although mostly I’m in the car when I forget my cable needle, so none in there. Although I do have a wooden spoon that lives in my car. I can’t remember the last time I cabled in acrylic, so no idea how it behaves under such circumstances.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have been known to do this fairly complicated thing when without a cable needle. It doesn’t work on big fat cables, but it does work well on smaller ones. Slip the right hand needle into the stitches on the left hand needle that need to be knit first (either in front or in back) then, twisting and making everything into a tight mess, poke the same right hand needle into the stitches that need to be knit second. Pull the left hand needle out of all of these stitches (keep them on the right hand needle), and then slip them one at a time back onto the left hand needle in the order that they appear. They are now twisted, so you can just knit them and have a cable.

    If it is a two stitch cable, it is even easier. Knit the second stitch first, either front or back, don’t slide off needle. Then knit the first stitch and slide them both off the needle – cable made.

    These might not work on a rollercoaster or on a bumpy road. Especially if you are driving. 🙂

    In a pinch, stitch holders work well as cable needles, or a circular needle.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am just learning how to cable and was jolly glad to read a blog that alerted me to Lidl who were selling cable needles for 49p for 2. So I have a bendy needle and still the stitches fall off so I have learned how to catch a falling stitch like a good un. I won’t be attempting any fancy short cuts!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great to hear you’ve got the hang of catching escaping stitches – always a good thing to be able to do – although I’m sure you’ll get the hang of making them stay on the cable needle soon 🙂


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