How to Knit Cables Without a Cable Needle

Have you ever traveled, took a cable project with you, and then forgot your cable needle at home? Or maybe the cable needle fell into the deep abyss of your couch, and you can’t seem to find it.

A cable needle isn’t always necessary to knit cables. If you’re on the go or just lost your cable needle, here’s how you can knit cables without the needle.

Knitting Cables Without a Cable Needle

Kiss your cable needle buh-bye — at least for now — as you practice knitting cables without the cable needle.

Knitting a cable without a cable needle

For this tutorial, let’s take a look at how to knit a C2B (Cable 2 Back). Later we’ll cover how to knit a C2F (Cable 2 Front). I’m using Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick in Flamingo.

Here’s the pattern we’ll be working with for our practice swatch:

Cast on 8 stitches.
Row 1: Knit 3, C2B, knit 3.
Row 2: Purl.
Repeat these 2 rows.

Ready? Let’s work the cable! Put your cable needle away and give this a try:

Step 1:

Knitting without a cable needle

Cast on 8 stitches. Knit the first 3 stitches.

Step 2:

Knitting without a cable needleKnitting without a cable needle

Now it’s time for the cable. Since we’re working a back cable (C2B), first bring the yarn to the front of your work. Then, instead of slipping the next stitch onto a cable needle, slip it purlwise (as if to purl) onto your right needle.

Step 3:

Bring the yarn to the back of your work again, then knit the next stitch.

Step 4:

Knitting Without a Cable Needle

Insert your left needle into the back of the slipped stitch. (This is the stitch that would usually be on the cable needle.)

Step 5:

Knitting without a cable needle

Remove the right needle from the first and second stitch, so that only three stitches remain on it. The slipped stitch is now on the left needle, and the last knit stitch is now hanging out.

(Ah! We know it’s scary, but don’t panic!)

Step 6:

Slide the right needle back into the knitted stitch again. We just switched the order of those two stitches.

Step 7:

Knitting without a cable needle

Knit the slipped stitch, which is now on the left needle. That’s it!

Knitting without a cable needle

You should now have a tiny little cable running down the center. It looks exactly the same as if you knit it with a cable needle!

Working a front cable

If you’re working a front cable, the process is the same except that you will keep your yarn to the back of your work in Step 2 rather than bringing it to the front.

Working larger cables

This no-cable-needle method can work for bigger cables too, but it can get a little scary when you’re working with more stitches. For example, if you’re working a CB6, you’re going to have three live stitches hanging out instead of just one. 

Keeping live stitches alive

To help keep those live stitches in place, you can just put your thumb over top of the stitches until you can pick them up with the needle again.

If your live stitch does unravel, don’t worry! You can always use a crochet hook to rescue it. Check out Stefanie Japel’s how-to video for a quick tutorial.

Choosing yarn for cables

Wool yarn works well for this technique, since wool tends to stick together. Yarns like cotton are a little smoother and therefore slippery, so they’re more likely to unravel. Be careful if you’re working with a slippery yarn.

Want to see it in action?

Watch the Grocery Girls demonstrate this technique in an episode of Off Our Needles:

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