How to Use Circular Knitting Needles

How to Use Circular Knitting Needles

Knitting with circular needles is a versatile and practical way to create seamless projects. Whether you’re making a sweater, hat, or socks, circular needles allow you to work in the round without the need for seams. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of using circular knitting needles, from casting on to completing your project.

Before you begin, you’ll need a set of circular knitting needles in the appropriate size for your project. Circular needles consist of two needle tips connected by a flexible cable. The length of the cable can vary, and you’ll want to choose one that is suitable for the circumference of your project. Additionally, you’ll need yarn and any necessary tools such as stitch markers and a tapestry needle.

To start, cast on your desired number of stitches onto one of the circular needle tips. The yarn should be attached to the ball, so you’ll have enough working yarn to complete your project. Make sure your stitches are not twisted on the needle, as this will affect the final result of your project.

Once your stitches are cast on, you can join them to work in the round. Hold the circular needle with the cast-on stitches in your right hand and the empty needle tip in your left hand. Insert the empty needle tip into the first stitch on the right-hand needle, making sure to keep the yarn to the back of your work. This will create a seamless circle of stitches, and you can now begin knitting in the round.

Choosing the Right Circular Knitting Needles

When it comes to circular knitting needles, there are a few factors to consider before making a purchase. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Length: Circular knitting needles come in various lengths, typically ranging from 16 inches to 60 inches or longer. The length you choose depends on the size of the project you plan to work on. For smaller projects, such as hats or socks, shorter needles are more appropriate. Larger projects, like sweaters or blankets, require longer needles to accommodate the larger number of stitches.
  • Material: Circular knitting needles can be made from different materials, such as metal, wood, or plastic. Each material has its own unique qualities. Metal needles are known for their smooth and slick surface, making them great for fast knitting. Wood needles provide a warmer feel and can be more comfortable for those with sensitive hands. Plastic needles are lightweight and affordable, but may not have the same durability as metal or wood.
  • Needle Tips: Circular knitting needles come with different types of needle tips, such as pointed or blunt. Pointed tips are ideal for precision knitting and working with finer yarns, while blunt tips are better for bulkier yarns or those who prefer a more relaxed knitting style.
  • Cable: The cable of a circular knitting needle is the part that connects the two needle tips. It should be flexible enough to easily move the stitches around, but not so flexible that it becomes floppy and difficult to control. Look for cables that are made from a high-quality material and have a smooth, snag-free surface.

Ultimately, the right circular knitting needles for you will depend on your personal preference and the type of project you plan to embark on. It’s always a good idea to try out different types and sizes of needles to see what works best for you.

Prepping Your Circular Knitting Needles

Before you start using circular knitting needles, it’s important to properly prepare them for your project. Follow these steps to ensure your needles are ready for knitting:

  1. Inspect the Needles – Before you use your circular knitting needles, take a close look to make sure they are in good condition. Check for any bends, nicks, or other imperfections that may affect your knitting experience. If you notice any issues, consider replacing the needles before starting your project.
  2. Clean the Needles – If your circular knitting needles are dirty or have any residues on them, it’s a good idea to clean them before use. You can use a soft cloth or a mild cleaning solution to gently wipe away any dirt or grime. Make sure to let the needles dry completely before use to avoid any moisture compromising your yarn.
  3. Join the Cables – If your circular knitting needles have detachable cables, you’ll need to join them together before starting your project. Simply screw the cables into the needle tips, making sure they are securely attached. Some circular knitting needles may have a locking mechanism to ensure a tight connection.
  4. Test the Connection – Once you’ve joined the cables, give them a gentle tug to make sure they are properly secured. You don’t want the cables to detach mid-knit, so it’s important to confirm that the connection is strong and reliable.
  5. Check the Needle Sizes – Double-check that the size of your circular knitting needles matches the recommended size for your project. The size should be clearly marked on the needle tips or cables. Using the wrong needle size can result in an incorrect gauge and affect the overall fit and appearance of your knitted item.

By taking the time to prep your circular knitting needles, you’ll ensure a smooth and enjoyable knitting experience. These simple steps will help you get started on your project with confidence!

Casting On Stitches

Before you can begin knitting with circular needles, you need to cast on stitches onto the needles. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

  1. Start by making a slipknot at the end of the yarn. To make a slipknot, create a loop with the yarn, then pull the end through the loop, creating a knot that can be easily adjusted.
  2. Hold the circular needles in your hands, with the working yarn (the yarn attached to the ball) hanging down from the right needle. The right needle should be at the back, and the left needle should be at the front.
  3. Insert the right needle into the loop of the slipknot.
  4. Using the right needle, bring the yarn over the left needle from front to back, creating a new loop on the right needle.
  5. With the right needle, pull the new loop through the slipknot loop, then transfer the loop onto the left needle. This creates the first cast on stitch.
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 to cast on the desired number of stitches. The number of stitches you need to cast on will depend on your knitting pattern.
  7. As you cast on each stitch, make sure to keep the knitting yarn taut, but not too tight, to ensure your stitches are evenly spaced.
  8. Once you have cast on all the stitches, you are ready to start knitting in the round with circular needles!

Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t worry if your first attempts at casting on stitches aren’t perfect. Keep practicing, and soon you’ll be able to confidently cast on stitches with circular needles for all your knitting projects!

Working the First Row

After casting on your desired number of stitches, you are ready to begin working your first row with circular knitting needles. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to get started:

  1. Position the needles: Hold the circular knitting needles with the needle tips pointing to the right and the working yarn attached to the first stitch on the right-hand needle.
  2. Insert the right-hand needle: Insert the right-hand needle into the first stitch on the left-hand needle. Make sure to insert the needle from front to back, as if you were going to knit the stitch.
  3. Wrap the yarn: Take the working yarn and wrap it counterclockwise around the right-hand needle. This is the same motion as when you knit a stitch.
  4. Pull the new loop through: Use the right-hand needle to pull the wrapped yarn through the stitch on the left-hand needle, creating a new loop on the right-hand needle.
  5. Slide the stitch off: Slide the original stitch off the left-hand needle, leaving only the newly created loop on the right-hand needle.
  6. Repeat the process: Continue steps 2-5 for each stitch on the left-hand needle until you reach the end of the row. Your right-hand needle will now hold all the stitches, and the left-hand needle will be empty.

Remember to hold the needles and yarn comfortably, and give yourself some time to practice this motion. It may feel a bit awkward at first, but with practice, you will become more comfortable working with circular knitting needles.

Joining in the Round

When using circular knitting needles, joining in the round is an essential step to create seamless garments or projects. Here is how to join your work and start knitting in the round:

  1. After casting on your desired number of stitches, make sure they are spread evenly along the circular needles. Depending on your project, you may need to use stitch markers to indicate important points in your pattern.
  2. Hold the circular needles in front of you, with the working yarn on the right side and the first cast-on stitch closest to the right needle.
  3. Make sure that the stitches are not twisted around the needles by double-checking that all the cast-on stitches lie flat in a circle.
  4. Slip the first stitch onto the right needle to create a smooth join. Be careful not to twist the stitches as you slip the first stitch.
  5. You can use a stitch marker to mark the beginning of the round if needed. This can help you keep track of your progress and pattern repeats.
  6. Start knitting in the round by bringing the right needle through the first stitch on the left needle and working the stitch in your chosen stitch pattern.
  7. Continue knitting in the round, working each stitch as normal, until you reach the end of the round.
  8. To keep track of your rounds, you can place a safety pin or marker in your work for every completed round.
  9. Repeat the last two steps until you have completed your desired number of rounds or reached the desired length of your project.

That’s it! You have successfully joined your work in the round and can now continue knitting your project using circular knitting needles.

Knitting in the Round

Knitting in the round is a technique used to create seamless tubes of fabric, such as hats, socks, and sleeves. This method is often used with circular knitting needles, which are longer than regular straight needles and have a flexible cable connecting the two needle tips.

Here are the steps to knit in the round using circular knitting needles:

  1. Choose the appropriate size circular needles for your project. The length of the cable should be shorter than the circumference of your project.
  2. Cast on the required number of stitches onto one of the needle tips. Make sure the stitches are not twisted.
  3. Hold the needle with the cast-on stitches in your right hand and the empty needle tip in your left hand.
  4. Insert the empty needle tip into the first stitch on the other needle, as if to knit.
  5. Wrap the yarn around the right needle tip and pull it through the stitch, just like you would for a regular knit stitch.
  6. Slide the stitch off the left needle tip, and the stitch is now transferred to the right needle tip.
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 for the remaining stitches on the left needle. Your working yarn should always be coming from the last stitch on the right needle.
  8. Once all the stitches are transferred to the right needle, the left needle becomes the empty needle.
  9. Rotate your work clockwise so that the empty needle is now in your right hand and the needle with the stitches is in your left hand. The working yarn will now be on the left side.
  10. Repeat steps 4-9 until you have completed the desired number of rounds or rows in your project.

Knitting in the round can take some practice to get used to, but once you master it, it opens up a whole new world of project possibilities. With circular knitting needles, you can create hats, cowls, socks, and more without worrying about seaming and joining pieces together.

Switching Colors or Yarns

Switching colors or yarns while using circular knitting needles is a straightforward process. Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Before starting, ensure that you have enough length for the new color or yarn by leaving a tail of at least 6 inches.
  2. Finish knitting to the point where you want to switch colors or yarns.
  3. Drop the current color or yarn and pick up the new color or yarn.
  4. Take the tail of the new color or yarn and hold it together with the working yarn.
  5. Knit the first stitch with both the old and new yarn held together.
  6. Continue knitting with the new color or yarn, leaving the tail and the old color or yarn hanging at the back of your work.

If you plan to switch colors frequently or want to create stripes, it is recommended to carry the unused color or yarn up the edge of your work, so you don’t have to cut and join the yarn each time. This technique is called “carrying the yarn” and helps eliminate the need for weaving in loose ends later on.

When working with multiple colors or yarns, it’s essential to take care of the loose ends and avoid creating holes or gaps in your knitting. Secure the loose ends discreetly by weaving them into the fabric using a yarn needle or by twisting the yarns together when switching colors.

Example: Carrying yarn up the edge of work
Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Color A Color A Color B
Color A Color B Color B
Color A Color B Color B

In the example above, the unused color “Color A” is carried up the edge of the work while knitting with “Color B.” This eliminates the need to cut and rejoin the yarn each time a color change occurs.

Remember to pull the yarn tightly when switching colors or yarns to avoid loose stitches or gaps in your knitting. With practice, you’ll become more comfortable and confident in switching colors or yarns while using circular knitting needles.

Finishing Off the Project

Once you have completed your knitting project using circular knitting needles, there are a few final steps to finish off the project:

  1. Weaving in the ends: Use a tapestry needle to weave in the loose yarn ends on the wrong side of the fabric. This will help secure the ends and prevent them from unraveling.
  2. Blocking: Depending on the type of yarn and project, you may need to block your finished piece. Blocking helps to shape your knitting and even out any irregularities. Wet blocking or steam blocking are common methods used, but be sure to follow the specific instructions for your yarn and project.
  3. Adding any necessary finishing touches: This step will vary depending on your specific project. It may involve sewing on buttons, adding a zipper, or attaching any other desired embellishments.
  4. Finishing off: Once all the necessary steps are completed, you can finish off your project by carefully trimming any excess yarn and securing the stitches. This will give your project a clean and professional look.

By following these finishing steps, you can ensure that your knitting project using circular knitting needles is completed with a polished and professional finish.


Why should I use circular knitting needles instead of straight ones?

There are several reasons why circular knitting needles are preferred by many knitters. Firstly, they are more versatile as they can be used for both flat knitting and seamless knitting in the round. Secondly, circular needles distribute the weight of your project more evenly, which can reduce strain on your hands and arms. Lastly, circular needles allow you to knit larger projects, such as blankets or sweaters, without the weight of the project pulling on the needle.

How do I choose the right size circular knitting needles for my project?

The size of circular knitting needles you need will depend on the weight of your yarn and the desired gauge. Generally, you should use circular needles that are slightly smaller than the recommended needle size for your yarn. This will help create a tighter fabric and prevent holes. However, it’s always a good idea to make a gauge swatch before starting your project to ensure you have the correct needle size.

Can I use circular knitting needles for knitting socks?

Absolutely! Circular knitting needles are commonly used for knitting socks. The most common method is to use the Magic Loop technique, which allows you to knit small circumferences using a long circular needle. However, if you prefer, you can also use double-pointed needles or a set of short circular needles specifically designed for knitting socks.

What is the best way to store circular knitting needles?

There are several ways to store your circular knitting needles. The most common method is to use a needle case or organizer with individual compartments for each needle size. This will keep your needles organized and prevent them from getting tangled or lost. Another option is to use a binder with clear plastic sleeves, where you can store each circular needle in its own sleeve. Additionally, you can use a large zip-top bag or a dedicated knitting needle case with clear pockets.


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