June 4, 2004
Oh cables, how I love thee. I have reached the cables on the blue tank, and the magic happened.
What is it about cables that speeds knitting up? You would think that all that screwing around, moving stitches from needle to needle would slow you down, but nope. Cables up the fun factor and the whole thing just whizzes along.
I personally cable without a cable needle.
This is a decision that I made seven years ago on a Wednesday morning riding the 504 King Streetcar.
Some knitters learn techniques out of a sense of ambition. They want to be the best knitter possible and challenge themselves constantly. These knitters hear of a technique, or even more impressively, invent a technique, try it, then adopt or abandon it according to how it fits their personal knitting style. These knitters are on a constant mission to elevate their knitting to the highest possible form. These knitters know 7 heels for a sock, 3 ways to make a steek and 4 different buttonholes. I salute them.
Some knitters are content knitters. They have their own way of doing things and not much moves them to adopt new technique. What they are doing works for them and why change? These are happy knitters who are probably not going to try techniques for fun, but may try them to solve a knitting frustration or because a pattern they adore demands it.
Then there is me.
Riding the streetcar that morning, as I lovingly inserted my cable needle into the soft wool stitches, the streetcar shuddered it's way over the track divisions at Dufferin. (If you live in Toronto you know what I mean. That 20 feet of track will shake the teeth out of your head. I realized recently that I quietly clench every muscle in my body as I pass over it, just to minimize the wobble) As we passed over the last of the track, the cable needle (well, it wasn't actually a cable needle, it was a dpn, I lost the cable needle quite some time before this) slipped from the back of my work, hit the floor and rolled into the crack that runs down the side of the street car. It all happened so fast. I stared with horror at the crack, and examined my options.
1. Try to remove the needle from the crack with the power of my mind. (Although I always *try* this option, it is yet to work. I think it's important to keep it at the top of the list, despite it's miserable track record as an actual solution.)
2. Let it go. (Yeah...good one. I have that kind of personality don't I? Raise your needles if you think that I have ever, ever in my whole life just "let it go". )
3. Casually attempt to retrieve the needle by using the other needles that I still have. (Love it. "Casually", yup, my name is Stephanie and denial is a powerful force in my life. )
I opt for #3, because in my special kind of world, I actually believe that it is possible for me to dig a dpn out of a crack under my seat in a streetcar with my knitting while possessing dignity and grace. I began by "casually" leaning forward in my seat, extending my arm beneath me and attempting to raise one end of the lost dpn so that I could grab it with my other hand.
The attempt ended when I was crouched on the floor, arms twisted beneath the seat, dodging gum and assorted streetcar flotsam jamming my aran sweater (on the needles) into the crack...ignoring the stares of nearby passengers.
Posted by Stephanie at June 4, 2004 1:41 PM
When the driver turned in his seat at a red light and asked me if I was "ok", with a look on his face that indicated his concern for my sanity, I kissed the dpn goodbye, reclaimed my seat, tried to look normal, and learned to cable without a cable needle. Never looked back.
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but embarrassment isn't bad either.
I'm not so sure about the whole "cable without a needle" thing. I tried it once. It wasn't pretty. Dropped stitches everywhere + Samina in a panic = bad knitting experience.
By the way, as to yesterday's post: I'm a B-/C+ knitter. I agree with the article in theory (at least up to the point that I read before going "yeah, right", but I can't see myself putting any of that into practice. I've got no patience for most of that.
I cabled with a cable needle for about a third of the way through the first pattern repeat of Alice Starmore's Little Rivers wrap, which was the first cable project I ever started (although it was admittedly the third cable project I completed). For anyone not familiar with Little Rivers, there is a LOT of cabling. I was a very new knitter, and realized that if I was to continue this cable-needle foolishness then I was going to be a VERY old man before ever finishing the wrap (or a not-so-old man when I gave up). I worked out how to cable without the cable needle (which I was perpetually misplacing anyway), and have never looked back since.
I'm sort of suspicious of this technique, I'm of the opinion that it's only for the Really Good Knitters. But-it's one I think I should really learn because I began cabling with cable needles, it seemed logical, then went to dpn's because in reality, more logical, cabling with just the orignal two sticks seems the most logical. And yet, it terrifies me. For instance, my current cable project calls for placing 5 sts on a cable needle to the front then 3 to the back, knitting 4, then doing the front cable and back cable sts. How do I manage that without a cable needle? Confusing to the Feeble Minded Knitter, see.
Have cable without a needle for a while now and find it pretty simple and very convenient.
To jenifleur: Trust me, it's not just for good knitters - I'm not a good knitter. But I am a lazy knitter and this is soooo much faster :)
Hi Stephanie! I love your blog!
Just a quick note, I hadn't seen MicroSpun in the Toronto area either until I popped into Michael's to pick up some other art supplies for the pups. (At least the one near Whitby carries an excellent selection for about $5-6 per skein)
I looked at the cabling without a cable needle page, and I can see that working for simple cables with reasonably good sized yarn. Have you tried it with fingering weight? I knit rather tightly, too. But I'm tempted to try it. I usually just use one of the little short straight ones, like a mini DPN slightly waisted in the middle.
The only thing I can't cable without a needle is a 6 sts cross in gansey yarn on size 1 needles. I'm much saner using one for that.
I can cable fine without one most of the time. Making NaCraga without it.
Do you ever get the feeling that you've been set down on the planet for the sole purpose of repopulating it with dpns? I lose them everywhere...
Cables. No needle unless it's slippery yarn or something like Starmore's St. Kilda with the 10 over 12 monzo cable.
Oh, and I love to do the math and the diagrams, even swatches, but when I actually get around to spinning/knitting a garment, I wing it and then make notes on my notes, so I guess the answer would be all of the above?
Okay, Harlot you never did state your preference yesterday -not officially anyway - A. B. or C.???
As for cable needles, never owned one..although I do use a wooden (non slippery) dp when required.
I've found that the only place I can stick a cable needle and find it again without a mess of fidgeting, or sometimes even standing up, turning around, and staring at my seat like an idiot, is in the cleavage. The problem with this is of course getting in the habit of it, and then absent mindedly doing it in public. But I tell you, I always know where it is. That is, until I've stopped knitting for awhile, and stumble across it later, like when I'm putting on pajamas.
I finally found a solution for the dpns that wander off whilst I am "travel knitting". I usually carry sock knitting in my bag everywhere. Every set of #2s that I own consists of 3 needles.
While roaming the aisles of our new JoAnn's store, I came upon the dowels in the woodcraft section. A tiny lightbulb started shining above my head. Tiny brain, tiny lightbulb. I whipped out my needle gage and lo and behold the 1/8" dowel just fit into the #2 hole. I purchased two of the 36" lengths of wood.
I went home and did higher math to figure out that I could get 6 needles, 6" in length out of each piece. I cut them and trimmed the ends of each piece with an exacto knife. It was like sharpening a pencil, very carefully, the old fashioned way. I got just the right concave points like the ones on my favorite set of antique needles. I then sanded them with #400 sandpaper, and kept sliding them through the #2 hole in the gage. To finish them, I waxed them with Johnson's paste furniture wax. If any of you try to do this, make sure you take your gage with you to the store. I went to Wal Mart later and bought a couple more 1/8" dowels, thinking that it was so much fun that I would make more. I discovered that WM dowels are #3s! Guess who is now making #3s? I have been testdriving these things for a few weeks now. I like them so much better than the bamboo or birch. And the best part? All 12 needles cost me about an hour of knitting time and 84¢!
My mom taught me to cable with a dpn in high school, and later I was horrified at discovering there was this weirdo dip-in-the-middle thing in some store being called a "cable needle". Gack, how could that thing possibly be better? Why fuss with that? Besides, up till then I thought dpns WERE cable needles, back then I didn't know they could be used for anything else!
I still much prefer them over not using one at all. Just stab and run.
Great story. Not sure what I would have done besides paniced. Obivously, there were no knitters on the streetcar or someone who have helped you find the needle.
I guess I'm a conbination of the "Best Knitter/Combo Knitter". In the few months I've been knitting, I've been learning so many things--cables, lace, socks, etc. and I also like to do things my own way.
Many chuckles (and I thought I was the only one who had ever tried option 1 for retrieval of lost objects).
Some years ago at a knitters retreat, the mini project was a little knitted ball, stuffed with yarn remnants, with an attached cord for hanging the ball around the neck, so the ball would hang about boob level. This was a very handy cable needle holder! Back then the thought of knitting cables without a cable needle would never have occurred to us unimaginative folk - lo, we have discovered fire since then).
I am inspired (tho' not necessarily competent !) to try no-needle cabling. I never knew such a possibility existed - but then like Alison I thought dpns were for cabling until about 2 years ago, I'm so sloooow.
I can just see me doing the same thing, crawling around on the floor. I once crawled around on the sidewalk reaching under the bench you sit on to wait for the bus. Before I found the needle, 4 people had given me their pocket change (I was young and had a backpack...guess they thought I was homeless) I had enough to buy a whole new set of needles.
And I believe in option #1. It is the power of my mind that keeps the airplane in the air. I cannot sleep on planes, or my concentration will lag, and the plane will fall. If it works for planes, it should work for needles.
I am a life long knitter who didn't even know cable needles existed till I tried to knit a lace shawl out of very fine lace weight merino & silk. The edging of this thing had 144 cables. I gave up about a week into the effort and got a cable needle. I was tired of dropping stitches every time I had to cable. Don't know why this one was such a problem since I have made this shawl out of this yarn before and never even thought of using cable needles. But this time it saved my sanity.
Shawl is on it's way to new baby girl and I am on to another project.
I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of kissing your dpn goodbye. I mean, a) if you could kiss, why didn't you just reach down and pick it up; and b) I can only imagine what was on the floor of that streetcar- next time be careful what you kiss!
I too am skeptical of this technique I must say. I have a low guerilla knitting factor - knitting without needles? Psha!
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