Before we get started, I'd like to cover a few basics about this technique. For one, it's not my favorite way to cable, but when you've left the house with your project, find yourself with time to kill, and then realize you didn't bring your cable needle along this technique can be a real life saver. There are drawbacks, however. My rule of thumb for using this technique is simple - if I'm doing more than a 6 stitch cable, meaning if I'm actively cabling any more than 3 stitches, I won't use it. The work gets too tight, and it's much too easy to lose those stitches and unravel hours of work - which doesn't save anyone any time. But when used over a small number of stitches, it can help speed you up by taking out the repetition of picking up and putting down your cable needle.
Left Cable (Often LCT, LCB, or C(#St)B)
A left cable twist is a cable that will point, or go off to, the left side of your work when the right side of your work is facing you. To create a left cable twist, the cabled stitches will be held to the back of your work.
Right Cable (Often RCT, RCF, or C(#St)F)
A right cable twist, on the other hand, will go off to the right side of your work. To create a right cable, the cabled stitches will be held to the front of your work.
And that's it! It's really that simple. Usually cabling is done with a cable needle, or just a double pointed needle, where you'll slip the stitches onto the cable needle, hold them in their respective place while you knit the stationary stitches, and then knitting off of the cable needle. This makes it easy to not lose track of stitches, or have them come unraveled. Cabling without a needle is a little (or a lot) more daring, but if your cable pattern is a simple braid, like the example above, or is a cable pattern worked over a small amount of stitches, I think you'll be just fine.
Left Cable Without a Cable Needle:
1. Work up to the stitches that would normally be cabled. Now, skip the normally cabled stitches (in my case it is the first two stitches of the stockinette panel) to the next two (again, this in my case, your pattern may be worked over three, or more stitches). Insert your right hand needle into the back of these stitches.
2. Here's where it gets scary. Mentally steel yourself, my friend, it will all be alright. Deep breath in, deep breath out.
Now you're going to slide the preceding stitches (the 2 that would normally be slipped onto a cable needle) off the left hand needle, and slip the two stitches you just went into the back of onto your right hand needle. (Do this slowly, don't jerk your knitting around, and you shouldn't have any problems.)
Taking your left hand needle, scoop those free stitches up. Again, do it slowly. Going fast is instinct, but if you jerk too much you're bound to have those free stitches unravel at some point.
Now you're going to pull the 2 stitches your transferred to your right hand needle up and slip them back onto the left hand needle, in front of the two previously free stitches. (I kinda messed up and didn't get a picture of that, sorry!) Now all you have to do is knit across the now cabled stitches. Easy peasy. Essentially all we did was rearrange the stitches on the needles themselves, instead of doing it with the help of the cable needle.
Right Cable Without a Cable Needle:
Now we'll move on to the right cable steps. A right slanting cable calls for the stitches to be held behind the work. As you can imagine, we'll be reversing the directions above. Again work up to the stitches you'd normally slip onto the cable needle, skip those stitches and insert your needle into the front of the two stitches (or whatever your pattern specifies) after.
Just as before, slide the stitches to the tip of your left hand needle, letting the first two stitches fall free, and pulling the stitches you went into off the left hand needle, and on to the right hand needle. Using your left hand needle, pick up the free stitches. Then slip the two stitches transferred to your right needle back to the left hand needle.
And then all you do is knit along as normal!
We're done! That's how you cable sans the actual cable needle. As always, if you have any questions feel free to comment, email, smoke signal, or telegram! But the first two really are ideal.
If a video would work better for you, I have found the couple listed below helpful.