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How To Knit Cables (Without A Cable Needle!)

Sheleigh McCulloch


Cables are down right delicious.  
They add warmth and a special squishy softness that few other knit techniques can give. The stitches twist seductively around each other as if by magic. And who’s to say it’s not?

But the magic isn’t in the knitting of the cables. The magic is in how freaking easy it is to knit cables.
If you have ever been too intimidated to try them out, this is your lucky day.

Oh, and throw away those cable needles. I’m going to show you how to twist these suckers without having to fumble and fuss with extra needles.
(On a side note, this technique works brilliantly with up to four stitches at a time, depending on how tight you knit. If you knit crazy tight or want a cable with five or more stitches passing at one time, cable needles are super handy to have. So maybe don’t throw it totally away, just toss it in a drawer somewhere.)

We’ll be knitting 2 stitch cables. Meaning, we’ll be passing 2 stitches at a time, so we will want a section with 4 stitches for the actual cable.
Cables stand out best when they are bordered on each side with purl stitches. I always try to have at least 2 purls on each side, so for an average 2 stitch cable you’ll want a section that is 8 stitches total.
Now, the whole premise of cables is you want to knit the stitches in a different order than what they are in on the needle. To do this, you need to shuffle things around a bit.
So grab your favorite pair of 4mm needles, some worsted weight yarn that makes your heart sing, and let’s make some magic.


Cast on around 20 stitches. Knit in stockinette stitch until you have a few inches of fabric to work with.
Choose four stitches you want to make into a cable. This will be a left leaning cable. We’ll be talking about these stitches as the first 2 stitches and the second 2 stitches, going from tip of needle back.

Insert your right needle purl wise into the second 2 stitches through the back, like this:

Now, slip those first 2 stitches off the left needle. Don’t worry! As long as you don’t pull the fabric, they aren’t going anywhere.

Slip your left needle out of the second 2 stitches and scoop up those first 2 stitches who are hanging free:

So now we have the first 2 stitches on the left needle being held to the front of the work, and the second 2 stitches on the right needle. Slip the two stitches on the right needle, in order, onto the left needle. Should look something like this:

Tada! You just made a cable. Easy, right? Now knit the stitches just like they were normal. It may look a bit strange and feel tight, but once you knit a couple more rows it will sort itself out.

Now to make a cable in the other direction. This will be a right leaning cable.
Start with your four stitches:

Insert your right needle purl wise into the second 2 stitches through the front, like this:

Slip the first 2 stitches off the left needle. Don’t worry, you got this!

With the left needle, scoop those suckers right up.

Now we have first 2 stitches on the left needle being held to the back, and the second 2 stitches on the right. Slip the 2 stitches on the right needle, in order, on to the left needle.

All done! You got this cable thing down pat. Knit the stitches as usual, and revel in the magic of knitting.

After a few rows be sure to take a break and admire your work.

Any cables you may encounter in patterns will be variations of this technique. The number of stitches in the cable may change, but how you need to rearrange them stays the same.
Continue knitting for a while, and start playing around! What happens when you cable just 1 stitch? How about 4? How does it look when you change the cable directions back to back? Add in strategic purls to make the cables stand out.
Most of all, have fun. There are no knitting police. If you don’t like something…frog it, baby!

Ready to try out your new found knitting technique on a pattern? I've got you covered. Click HERE to get your free pattern!

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1 comment

  • This really great. I love how clear and precise a your directions are.


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