Different types of connecting cables / cord for circular needles


I’m an avid aran cable knitter generally of multicoloured tweed yarns, but have expanded into different yarn weights and materials, thinking finally to do something with my enormous unused stash of exquisite Noro yarns, and have had occasion (Christmas) to use circular needles for the first time (also foraged and stashed and hitherto unused). I found them unfalteringly annoying, with their twisty-turny nylon cable of doom.

My question then is: are there other cable or cord types, ideally for interchangeable circular needles, and what are their advantages / disadvantages? (E.g. are other cables better or worse for magic loop knitting?)
Sub-question - why are the gauges of the cables the same and not more nearly the gauge of the needle? I would like to graduate onto doing aran knits in the round, using multiple colours (if possible) and worry that I would lose some of the cable loft and neatness in the hurly-twirly-burly of a narrower gauge nylon cord ruckus.

As a tight knitter generally using scratchy wools I usually use metal pins (also they feel more ‘real’) so generally prefer a slippy needle and imagine I would prefer the cable to be likewise, so can anyone recommend a set of interchangeable circular needles with this and the cord quandary in mind?

With many thanks and a hopeful heart…


If you were using cable of doom needles I would guess they were either old or of cheap nylon cable variety found at craft stores? There are definitely better cables available. Most better ones are now flexible with no memory so you don’t get so much craziness. Most types can be had in metal (often nickel plated) or birch/bamboo. I have both and use them both depending on the yarn and what I have available in the correct size. There are lots of brands and you’ll find everyone has their favorites so I’m sure you’ll hear from others. Just remember that our favorites may not be yours so getting sampler sets is good if possible or you can buy singles or go willy nilly and buy a whole set. :slight_smile:

What I use 99% of the time are Knitpicks Options Nickel plated and Knitter’s Pride Dreamz in birch. Both types come in either metal or wood so if you find a type you like go for it. I also have a few Hiya Hiya I bought for socks and like them fine. All of these have flexible no memory cables.

And also no… don’t worry about the cable being smaller. That’s one thing makes them so flexible in addition to cable material. I tried some that were resin with a thick cable and hated them… mostly the thick cable.

Thanks very much, Jan. I’ll check out the different sorts you mention, and get a feel for the different materials probably by good old fashioned hands-on shopping in an actual shop. So the more expensive ones generally have non-bonkers *cords - what a relief!

  • I’m calling the ‘cable’ between circular needles ‘cord’, because ‘cables’ to me are the plait strands in aran knitting, and in this discussion, I’m apt to confuse myself (and possibly others) if I call both ‘cables’.

Notwithstanding your comment about the needle set with the thicker cords I’m still keen to understand how much more useful skinny cords are in comparison to pliable full-bodied ones. I generally have a separate bobbin of yarn for each aran cable strand - sometimes 30 or more - and the base yarn(s) has (have) to be carried and wrapped with the cable yarns to bind them together as I go along (intarsia? like) and I wonder about the plait strands parting company from each other or from the base or becoming un-uniform with a skinny cord. I realise I possibly have greater problems to face with respect to managing colours generally with circular knitting… but one question at a time!

Thanks again :slight_smile:

Cord and cable is kind of used interchangeably for the thing that goes between the needles, but you are right it could be confusing if you are actually knitting cables on your project. :wink:

Holy cow… I’ve never seen or heard of anyone using intarsia method for knitting cables. Sounds crazy making to me. :joy: Are they in different colors? Because that’s new to me I can’t answer your question. All I know is that thin cords make it easier to slide the yarn across and make them flexible.

The size of the needles is going to determine the size of the stitches. Just sliding onto a thin cable isn’t going to upset the stitch size or placement. As long as you don’t store the knitting for really extended periods of time on the cables, you won’t see any change in the uniformity of the knitting.

Many thanks again for your help. The cables are always in different colours to the background and sometimes different to each other; each cable strand is always from a separate bobbin. The cables stand up (and out) better that way. That’s why I’m keen not to lose the relief, but the consensus seems to be that there’s no change cf flat knitting. I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating though, so I’ll just crack on and try it. As you can imagine it’s a big set up and it’s as well when it takes 20 minutes to do a row that there are as few problems stored up from the beginning as possible! First world problems, eh? :wink: Thank you again for your kind reply

Thanks for your reply salmonmac and the advice concerning storage. My projects take years to complete so that may be significant. Also my concern isn’t so much for the stitches per se but for the distortion to the cables when the yarn threads are crossed to bind the pattern elements of the garment together. I think I’ll try 2 sorts of cord gauges and associated needles for the same pattern sample and see what happens. If I’m lucky the shop may loan me sets to try. Thanks again.

We’d love to see pictures of your projects or project!

It’d be my pleasure to show you only I’m not sure how…:confused:

When you’re in the text box click on the up arrow and you can upload a picture from your computer. Cameras and cell phones make huge photos now so resize it if it’s huge or won’t upload due to size.

I find circulars with magic loop better for cables than DPNs. I have a trick with DPNs to avoid ladders by stretching stitches away from the joint between needles. With magic loop all I do is tug the stitch tight to the cord at the “turn” after pulling the needle out. With regular circular all the stitches are happy because there are no joints to stretch.

Double knitting, not intarsia but

Wow that’s totally flabbered my gast! Thanks very much Mike for that link - a whole world of wonder has just opened up in front of me!

Thanks for that Mike - it’s very encouraging to hear that cables are ok on circular needles, with a little tweaking. Colour-work, double-knitting, cables, working in the round - fabulous :astonished: Thanks so much.

:joy: Great response!

Double knitting takes some practice, but it’s so cool! I made a headband once, but it was too big and my gauge was off on the inside part.

I like cabled sweaters and double knitting. I do 2 socks at once double knitting so I’m used to rearranging stitches for inc, dec and picking up stitches when double knitting, but I’m a lot intimidated mixing cables with double knitting. It looks so amazing I’m going to have to try it (probably buy his book).
Luckily a double knit cabled sweater would be too hot so that probably won’t ever happen by me.

I’ve learned with hats to knit the color I want out most on the inside. My socks come out closer in size so I’m wondering if making a hat with a mainly purl side and a mainly knit side or equal mix would work out better matching the sides’ sizes.

If you really like double knitting be sure to check out Lucy Neatby’s projects and patterns. I have her double knitting video, but haven’t seen it yet. I want to watch on my laptop rather than tv, but don’t have a dvd player on my laptop so I’ll have to get an external one.

Bit of catching up to do…Ok so I’ve got photos of the last jumper I’ve been working on, and have worked out how to resize them - what size would be optimal to upload?

I think he might have 2 book purchasers this night (afternoon where you are?).

As a ‘lean’ guy in cold, damp England, a double-knitted cable sweater sounds just fine. I just need to set aside several years to finish it. Whereupon global warming would have obviated the need for it! Hey-ho.

Oh I suppose 800 pixels on the longest side would be good. If it’s a little bigger that’s okay, too.