You slip the next (two, in this case) stitches coming at you onto a short double-pointed needle (aka a dpn, the light-colored one here) and stab it into the knitting, either in back or in front according to the pattern, to hold it out of the way. You knit the next ones on the regular needle, then bring that short needle back up and knit those delayed stitches. Voila: your cable.
When we moved to California it was several years before I knew anybody besides me who knit. It wasn’t till some time after that that I finally learned, after knitting since age ten, why those dpns were sold in sets of four or five.
To me they had always been, and had only been, cable needles. That was their name. I know because that’s what my mom called them. A memorable part of my childhood had involved watching her use them while knitting Aran sweaters for my dad and my next-older sister and an all-over-diamonds one for my grandfather.
On size 2 needles. In endless tiny hanks of tapestry yarn, because that was the only thing available back then if you wanted wool yarn at that fine a gauge. For her father, who treasured it the rest of his life.
Socks? They’re called dpns and they’re for knitting socks? Or even hats? On a kind of a scaffolding arrangement, and that’s why so many, and not because the manufacturers know you’re going to drop one somewhere down the cushions of the doctor’s waiting-area chair and never find it again and they’re just being helpful?
And none of the manufacturers even call them cable needles? Who knew?
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