Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ditching the Cable Needle

Not that I have ever actually had a cable needle in the technical sense.  A spare double point is my usual "cable needle," and in a pinch I'll grab whatever is handy ~ even a crochet hook or a pin, then place the stitches back on the left hand needle to knit them, if necessary.

Not long ago I saw a tutorial for making cables without a needle. I started to watch it, but I got impatient with the long introduction.  (I just wanted to see how it is done!)  The instructor mentioned that you have to leave the stitches off the needle for awhile.  I guess I figure if that's how it's done, I don't really need a tutorial ~ if the stitches are held in back, I can pinch them in my left fingers while I knit, and I if they are in front, I can keep my eye on them.

I am presently working on Nicky Epstein's Tree of Life pattern.  The cables in it are never more than two stitches over two.  During my first round through the pattern, I used a cable needle pretty much every time I had to move more than one stitch.  But now I'm on my second time through the pattern, and as my cable needle wasn't handy, I decided to try just knitting the stitches in the order called for without taking them off the left hand needle (like you would for a twisted stitch.)  It works great!  Unless you are a beginner or are working with a large number of stitches, why use a cable needle at all?

A left cross can be a bit tricky, because the first stitches you knit are the ones that are behind ~ which means you have to find the right strand on the back of your needle.  You don't want to twist  your stitch by knitting in the back loop, so you have to stick your needle between the stitch you want to knit and the one in front of it (coming from behind.)  Then you pull your stitch out to the back of  your work and knit it.

The only way to purl a stitch from the back of the needle is to use the back loop of the stitch.  That means that your stitch will be twisted on the knit side.  Depending on the pattern, it may be worth doing.  Pearling from behind on more than one stitch is a difficult maneuver, and it takes some practice for it to become quicker than reaching for a cable needle, but the thought of being free of that intruder (three is a crowd, you know) is very appealing to me.

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