I'd heard people sing the praises of cabling without a cable needle, even as recently as this past weekend when I listened to the latest Knit Picks podcast. I'd even tried it myself but found it fiddly and time consuming. Slipping the stitches off the left-hand needle, rearranging them, slipping them back to the left-hand needle, then knitting them off in their new order seemed more trouble than it was worth. Another method involved slipping the stitches to be cabled to the right-hand needle, then rearranging them as you slipped them back to the left to be knit off. I couldn't see the point of handling the stitches so many times before they were actually knit. And I didn't mind using a cable needle. But just a few rows into the 43", 30-stitch braided cable band for my new sweater I thought, "There has to be a better way."
That's when I remembered Amy Swenson's directions for cabling without a cable needle in the Mr. Greenjeans pattern. By the time I read the instructions for this technique I had already knit half the cables with a cable needle and didn't want to risk changing my gauge by introducing a new method. But I did give her version a try and found it much easier than my previous attempts. For example, when working a basic four-stitch cable, rather than slipping all four of the stitches to be cabled off the left-hand needle at once and rearranging them before slipping them back on, Amy slides her needle into the third and fourth stitch on the left hand needle, slides all the stitches off so that the third and fourth stitches remain on the right-hand needle, inserts the left-hand needle into the first and second stitches (which now hang free) then slips the third and fourth stitches back to the left-hand needle. They are now ready to knit off in their new order. These steps can be performed in a quick and fluid motion, with little or no fumbling with the loose stitches. Best of all, there is only one set of loose stitches to deal with, making them much easier to manipulate. Had I only known it was this simple, I would have converted long ago.
Armed with this new technique I returned to my cable band and am pleased with how quickly and easily it has been knitting up. I am now over a third of the way through and like how neat and even my cable appears. At this rate I am hoping to complete the cable band today and am looking forward to beginning the main part of the sweater.
Today we have real snow and I see my heron friend hunched up in the back field, collecting snowflakes on his feathers. As for me, I am happy to be inside where it's warm and snug, curled up with a pot of tea and my knitting. Not to mention chocolate. Here's to a blissful day!