Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Knitting Tool Profiles: The Cable Needle

This is the second post in a year-long series.1 I'll post a new one on the last Tuesday of every month, with facts, photos, and further resources about twelve knitting tools.

Those who enjoy working cable designs know quite well how easy it is to lose these little tools; I have heard rumors that they can be found in the same place as lost socks.

-June Hemmons Hiatt, The Principles of Knitting

The Cable Needle

A selection of cable needles
From top to bottom, left to right: Knit Picks, LeslieWind silver ring needle, KnitPro Symphonie wood needles, 
a variety from Craftsy, RebbeltjesTouch's cable needle necklace, and Boye curved and ridged plastic needles.

What is it?
A cable needle is generally a short needle that can have a curve, bend, or notch, that is used to temporarily hold live stitches when completing a knitted cable.

Fun Facts
  • searching out the history of cable needles is a bit of a challenge; the closest I could get was to do a bit of reading on the history of cable knitting in general
  • the very famous Aran style sweater was "invented" in the 20th century
  • in her excellent knitting tome The Principles of Knitting, June Hemmons Hiatt notes that cable needles come in "three different sizes, for fine, medium, and heavy-weight yarns..." (pg 574)
  • her book was originally published in the late 1980s, and described there being only four different designs for cable needles on the market: a short and straight needle, a short straight needle with a dip in the centre, a fish hook shaped needle (which she notes stays put much better than the first two!), and a cable tool that looks like a "lethal weapon" and consists of a very short needle mounted on a ring that is worn on one finger
  • Maggie Righetti notes that there are various special "gadgets" made solely for the purpose of cableing, but personally prefers using a dpn one size larger than her working needle as this doesn't tend to slow her work down
  • do YOU use cable needles? what's your preferred shape or substitute device for cables? Please comment on this post and share!
Read More
Ethnic Knitting Adventures: Aran Sweaters in America by Donna Druchunas, Knitty Winter 2012
The Principles of Knitting, June Hemmons Hiatt
Knitting in Plain English, Maggie Righetti
Tips for Knitting Cables
Crazy for Cables (but not the cable needle)

Knit Kit (the curved crochet hook on this kit is my personal favourite cable needle)
Lantern Moon straight needles with grooves
Boye curved plastic needles with ridges
Knit Picks' variety of cable needles
LeslieWind's Ring cable needle and experimental needle
RebbeltjesTouch's cable needle necklace

1 Read the first profile on needle gauges.


Josiphine said...

I like the idea of cable needles but always find myself too impatient to use them. I just slip the stitches off the needle and then pick them back up in the new orientation.

I love these profile posts, :)

kingshearte said...

I have pretty much not used a cable needle since reading Glenna C's post on how to cable without one. I'll use them now for really wide cables, but in general, I find them a huge pain, and even on those wide ones, I'm more likely to use the extra needle to just rearrange things on my main needle, rather than deal with the whole "hold in back and knit off the cable needle" business.

Meredith M said...

Like kingshearte, I rarely use cable needles. But then I met a lovely 16 stitch cable that I had to knit, so invested in a gorgeous set of rosewood cable needles. It was still fiddly, but the beauty of the tool made up for a lot of it. Cabling without a needle is definitely faster and easier. I love this series. It's super fun to read about!

lilirious said...

nice post! I honestly don't use cable needles since I learned how to cable without them (I learned via Grumperina's tutorial). In the beginning I thought they were useful, but now it just takes up a lot of time :) I would advise beginners to use one though, dropping stitches in the middle of an intricate cable pattern is really not that great an experience :P

Anonymous said...

I don't use a cable needle much any more; I prefer cabling without one! But I'm currently knitting a piece that has a 16 stitch cable, so I do relent and use one then.I use a hook shaped needle; it feels more secure. But I'm going to take a tip from kingshearte above, and try rearranging stitches instead of holding them to be knit! Thanks for a fun post.