So there it is, the cable sweater you have to have. But oh! all those cables.. Working cables is one of the most satisfying techniques in knitting, but if you have a lot of cables in one panel it can be also be repetitive, and not in the knitting and purling repetitive way that we all love so much about knitting. A simple way to relieve the annoyance of constantly picking up and putting down that cable needle is just to work without one! You do this by (heavens!) dropping your stitches, replacing them on the needle in the crossed position and then working them in either knits or purls as called for in your instructions.
And don’t worry, the dropping part is not as risky as it may sound! The trick is to pick them up in such a way as to minimize the risk of them being lost. In this example I will show you a cable that is worked using 3 sts. The cables are on a purl st background, and the two cable stitches are crossing over one purl stitch, heading to the right.
Step 1: Drop the stitches. Some prefer not to do this, in which case you could work into the back of the purl stitch, then bring your yarn to the front to work the knits. Personally, I find this method a bit cumbersome and sometimes confusing if you are working a variety of cables in multiple directions. As I show you here, you can also just drop all the relevant stitches off your left needle. What I need to do now, is bring the purl stitch to the back of the knits, back on to my left needle, so that I can first work into the cabled knit stitches.
Step 2: Picking them back up again. I certainly don’t want to lose my 3 little stitches here, and the sequence in which I pick them up will either make my life easier or harder. For this cable, I have found is that it works best to pick up the stitches closest to the left needle first, in this case, the two cable knit stitches. I bring forward my right needle and catch those two stitches, then I can reach down with the left needle to re-catch the purl stitch. Next, I will slide the 2 knit cable sts also back onto the left needle, which will put them ahead of the purl stitch, and in the correct position to be worked.
Step 3: Working the cable. Here the stitches are in the correct sequence, with the knit stitches crossing over the purl stitch, and I am now able to knit the first of the two knit cable stitches. (BTW – though it appears as though I’m knitting into the back of my stitch here, that is not necessary. In all likelyhood, I had accidentally twisted the stitch when I picked it up, so rather than re-dropping it, I just went ahead and knitted into the back of the stitch.)
Here is a second example, this time cabling with four stitches. In this cable, I am crossing over again from left to right, but this time, one cable over another.
Step 1: Drop the stitches. As shown here, I have already dropped the four cable stitches and have now picked up the 2 sts closest to my right needle, these will be crossed behind the stitches that I have yet to pick up, which I will do with my right needle as shown in the next image below.
Step 2: Picking them back up again . To do this, I will bring my right needle forward and catch the two loose sts. The next step would be to slide these front stitches back onto the left needle, putting them in the correct place in front of the other cable. They will then be ready to knit.
Step 3: Working the cable. In this image, you can see that I have knitted the first two stitches and will now knit the next two, competing this front cross.
There is really no reason why this technique could not be worked with any size cable, the main thing being of course that you don’t drop your stitches. It may be a little more challenging if you were knitting at a really small gauge, but given good lighting and a bit of bravado you should be able to do this with no trouble at all. So don’t be afraid to give it a go.
These images were taken as I was working on what will be a sweater. At the size I’m making it, I have 14 repeats of four overlapping cables that will eventually form a trellis design. I’m crossing stitches in both directions, left and right, on every other row. This means if I were to use a cable needle I would have to pick it up and put it down some 56 times each cable round. As it is, working without the cable needle has made this project a lot more fun, engaging and satisfying, let alone considerably faster to do.