Crazy for Cables (but not the cable needle)

By Carri Hammett

Before I attained my current cable mojo I avoided making projects with too many cables. Don’t get me wrong, I love cables—I even wrote a book about cables. It’s the cable needle I have a problem with. If I saw a pattern like the Crazy for Cables Hat (pictured below) I would have said “Oh, heck no!

Crazy for Cables Hat

I counted, and this hat has 204 cables. That means 204 times I would have to stop knitting, pick up the cable needle, cross the stitches, knit off the left needle then the cable needle. Once I learned how to make cables without the needle (the source of my mojo) I could knit across my cables with just a momentary pause for switching the stitches. Making cables without a cable needle feels a little risky at first but once you learn the technique it sure gives you a feeling of freedom!

Before I share the magic, let’s take a moment to review cable basics. I made a little swatch and on the right side there is a 4-Stitch Right Knit Cross. To make that cable using the conventional method with a cable needle, you would slip 2 stitches to a cable needle held at the back of the work, knit the next 2 stitches from the left needle, and then knit 2 stitches from the cable needle. The 4-Stitch Left Knit Cross is on the left side of the swatch and the traditional method is similar except you hold the cable needle with 2 stitches at the front of the work instead of the back.

Basic Cable Swatch

If you think about it, the essence of making a cable is knitting the stitches out of order. Well, what if you could change the order of the stitches on the left needle before you knitted them without the hassle of a cable needle? That, my friends, is how you get the power to say “Yes!” to a hat with 204 cables.

Here’s how to make a Right Knit Cross without a cable needle:

Insert the right needle into the front of third and fourth stitches on the left needle.

Slip four stitches off the left needle.

At this point you need to stay calm and carry on.

Quickly insert the left needle into the two stitches that are hanging loose.

Now, twisting the needles away from each other to make a bit of room, transfer the two stitches on the right needle back onto the left needle.


Hey! Look at that, the order of the stitches have been changed and they are magically crossed.

Now all you have to do is knit across the four stitches on the left needle and the cable is complete. No cable needle!

Here’s how to make a Left Knit Cross without a cable needle:

Instead of inserting the right needle into the front of the third and fourth stitch, insert it into the back of them.

Slip all four stitches off the left needle.

It’s a little harder to see the loose stitches in the photo so I’ve circled them.

Insert the left needle into the two loose stitches and…

Twisting the needles apart, transfer the two stitches on the right needle back to the left needle.

Just knit across the crossed stitches on the left needle and the cable is complete.

I always get in trouble with my editors for talking too much (sorry Kara!) but I have to leave you with a few words of advice. I use this method without any problems on four- and six-stitch cables. An eight-stitch cable can be a little more challenging because you have four stitches hanging loose, but if your yarn is clingy like mohair—no problem! Also, a left cross is easier because the loose stitches are in front and easier to catch.

I’m happy to share the Crazy for Cables Hat Pattern with you, which will be available on October 6th. For the next few months you can find a free version on my website,, or just shoot me an email at

Carri Hammett is an author and former yarn shop owner. Her latest projects have both been for Annie’s. She recently wrote More Than a Dozen Hats & Beanies and also filmed the online class, Knit Finishing Techniques. Both the book and the class are available at All of Carri’s books are also available at your local yarn shop.

19 Responses to Crazy for Cables (but not the cable needle)

  1. Savannagal says:

    How timely. I’ve been doing 1×1 cables using a cable needle because I couldn’t remember how to do them without the cable needle – okay, I was also being too lazy to look on YouTube. But then along came your easy to follow post. I’m all set now. Yeah! Thanks much!

  2. This is fabulous! Thanks so much for sharing!!

  3. Martha Kaul says:

    Am going to try this as soon as I can. I love the cable look and this looks as if it will be easy once you try it and use it for a while. Thanks.

  4. Arti says:

    I have been putting of a baby cables cardigan for my daughter for more than 2 years now. With this easy technique, I am going to give it a try this week.
    Thank you so much for simplifying it.

  5. Patricia Rice says:

    This is the way I have always done cable stitches. I have never used a cable needle, even for larger cables with 8/10 stitches. I did try using a cable needle but found it time consuming and a bit awkward.

  6. Ronwyn Proctor says:

    Thanks have never seen this before so will give it a try.

  7. Great! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. That’s highly appreciated and honored. If I would be given a chance to knit, I’ll get back on this. I thought cable stitches are hard to do but as what I’ve read and saw on this pictures, I think that would be easy if I will just follow instructions. Thank you again!

  8. Ashlee says:

    This article just blew my mind! I avoid all cable patterns like the plague because the thought of using the cable needle is just too terrifying. I can’t wait to try this method, thank you so much for sharing!

  9. kelly Brown says:

    Never cabled before was worried about using another needle this seams so much easier.

  10. Sheri Martin says:

    Wow, how simple, how impressive, how generous of you to share ths nifty little trick! I love cables and now I am going to love them even more!!! Thanks again, Sheri

  11. patty says:

    🙂 I see the post above are from 2012..and here I am 2 years later to tell you I am squealing with delight at finding your post!! Thank you so much for finding such an easy way to these cables and sharing it with us!!!I knew there HAD to be an easier way!! Thanks again soooo much! Patty

  12. arl olster says:

    Like this A LOT BETTER than the “pinch and hold” method I’ve been using! This lokks much more secure, and with my sometimes “fumble fingers” just as quick!


  13. Linda says:

    Thanks so much for a fabulous idea. I have disliked the cable needle for years and now I am saved from ever using it again. Brilliant. Many thanks.

  14. Julie Stone says:

    Works wonderfully with cotton yarn…sooo much easier!

  15. e says:

    I’m delighted to have found this blog. It may not be new but it is news to me! Many thanks,

  16. Michelle Wright says:

    Thank you so glad I came across your blog!!

  17. Lluïsa Nuñez says:

    Thank you very much! This really makes a difference

  18. Jenny says:

    WOW… I just found this amazing pattern for a blanket and was pondering how to go about doing the cable stitches… cos it takes way too long and I stumbled across your nifty little idea thanks for sharing….


  19. Shirley says:

    What if your yarn is slippery and runs before you can get your needle back in the stitches? That’s what usually happens when I try this. Not all of us are lucky enough to use “good” yarn.

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