the cabling needle to rule them all

A looong long time ago, in a galaxy… (Ok I’ll stop geeking out now.) (And I’ll also stop mixing up my geeky references.)

Anyway, what I meant to say is that a long time ago, I saw mention on one blog or another of a knitter hanging her cabling needle on her necklace while not in use. This puzzled me greatly. The only kind of cabling needle I was familiar with at the time looked like this. My brain did a few funny twist and turns, but, even with its limited knowledge of physics, conclusively decided that it was simply not possible. I was so confused that I actually got in touch with the person and asked her what on earth she was talking about. Luckily, she was very kind about it, and shared with me a piece of information that I was probably the last person on earth to find out: there are other shapes of cabling needles.

I thanked her and was relieved by the explanation, but never gave it much thought afterwards. It was only several years later, when I saw the same needle listed in the tools section of an online yarn shop, that I remembered the whole exchange and decided to give it a try. Now, with this big intro, you must be expecting some revolutionary tool. Sorry to disappoint, we’re talking about a simple and cheap needle here. Nonetheless, it has been revolutionary for me, and I don’t think I’ll go back to using any other type of cable needle again.

I love this thing! So, what’s so great about it?

1. The U shape means that you don’t have to balance it precariously with your other needles as you keep the cable stitches on hold. I like to use a cabling needle several sizes smaller than my knitting needles, to make sure the stitches don’t stretch out while on hold. But this also means that my stitches are loose on the cabling needle and my cabling needle would often tip over vertically and fall out of the stitches. No chance of that with this needle. Because of its vertical orientation, gravity helps it do its job, and there is no precarious balancing of a horizontal stick being held in place by 2 or 3 loose stitches while knitting on other stitches.

2. The short end is perfect for transferring stitches. Let’s face it, it’s annoying (it’s a small annoyance, but when I have to knit 15 cables in one row, any small annoyance counts in my book) if you have to transfer stitches to one end of a needle and then push them all the way over to its other end (or rather, push them to the middle, then knit the stitches which are not on hold, then push them to the other end to knit the stitches on hold). With this needle, you grab the stitches with the short end, and they just slide naturally to the U turn. It’s a short slide and gravity helps, again.

3. The long end is long enough to hold as a normal needle. It wouldn’t be good if it was shorter, because it would be awkward to knit with. But here, when you get to the point of actually knitting the held stitches, you have a needle just long enough to hold comfortably.

4. The difference between the short and long end also helps remember from which direction the stitches came from. One problem I often have with manipulating cables is that, while I’m working on the other stitches, the cabling needle gets pushed around, twisted and turned, and in the end I’m not sure I’m holding it the right way. With this needle the problem is eliminated: I just have to make sure the short end is on the left and the long one on the right.

5. Finally, this needle is plastic. Which means it’s light as a feather. Despite all the gravity we talked about above, it holds the stitches perfectly in place without pulling them down or stretching them out (one of my pet peeves with cabling).

Are you convinced yet? I am totally in love with this needle, and actually my dislike for cabling has gone down considerably since discovering it! I’m also happy that even after all this time knitting, I still sometimes find simple and inexpensive tools which are capable of completely changing my perspective. Cool, no? :)

Do you have any simple tools which were game-changers for you?

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About fridica

I started knitting completely by accident, when I was visiting my parents for a holiday in 2008. On a boring Sunday afternoon, I decided to dig through their stash of books to see if there was anything interesting to take back to my apartment. A knitting manual happened to be one of the books I found. I got curious, my mom immediately dug out her old needles and yarn stash (which she hadn’t used in a decade at least), and in a few minutes we were both casting on - she by memory, I by following the instructions from the book… :) Since I normally prefer learning from books, this was ideal.. I took the book home with me, and very very soon - I was an addict.

20 thoughts on “the cabling needle to rule them all

    • I bought it at a German online shop (wollbox.de), but I think it is available at a huge number of places, just search for Clover Cable Stitch Holders “U”

  1. Bas dobar prikaz ! Do sada sam i ja koristila ove relativno prave igle za pletenice … Ali ideja da se nosi na ogrlici dok nije u upotrebi je super :)

  2. Nice! I usually cable without a needle whenever possible. I’ve also seen cable needle rings you can wear on your thumb, but those probably aren’t easy to knit off of like yours.

  3. I have never seen a cable needle like this. In fact, until recently I just used a dpn. Your one looks really good. I will have to search for one. However, I am intrigued by your other commenters who cable without a needle so am off to look at the tutorial.

  4. I have a couple of cable needles like this, but in lightweight aluminium. It depends on the size, direction and knit/purl make-up of the cables I’m knitting whether I use a cable needle or not. Though I agree with some of the other commenters that it can be quicker to cable without, for some particular cables I find that a cable needle can give a neater, tighter result with fewer loose stitches.

  5. I have the first one you discussed and dislike doing cables for the reasons you mentioned. The cable needle falls out and my stitches are loose. I must get one of those U-shaped cable needles soon as one of my next projects has cables.

    Thanks for reminding me.

    Glad to see you are back to blogging again. :)

  6. It’s not simple, but a ball winder and swift was a game changer for me. I felt like I was spending more time winding yarn than knitting for awhile there.

    • True, those two help a lot! I share a ball winder and swift with a friend/neighbour (she has one, I the other, and they both travel between our two houses according to need), and it’s great. But I think in Europe it’s also a lot more common for yarn to be sold in balls, rather than skeins.

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