Knitting with Circular Needles: Beginner’s Guide

Knitting with Circular Needles: Beginner’s Guide

Knitting with circular needles can seem daunting to beginners, but rest assured, it’s not as complicated as it looks! In fact, once you get the hang of it, you may find that you prefer knitting with circular needles over traditional straight needles. Circular needles are versatile, allowing you to knit larger projects like sweaters and blankets, as well as smaller projects like hats and socks.

One of the first things to know about circular needles is that they consist of two needle tips connected by a flexible cable. This design allows you to knit in the round or work flat projects with ease. Circular needles also distribute the weight of your project more evenly, reducing strain on your hands and wrists.

When starting out with circular needles, it’s important to choose the right size and length for your project. The size of the circular needles refers to the diameter of the needle tips, while the length refers to the length of the cable connecting the tips. As a general rule, smaller projects require shorter cables, while larger projects require longer cables. Keep in mind that you can always use a longer cable for a smaller project, but you can’t use a shorter cable for a larger project.

Choosing the Right Circular Needles

When it comes to choosing the right circular needles for your knitting project, there are a few factors to consider. Here are some tips and factors to keep in mind:

  1. Material: Circular needles can be made of various materials, such as plastic, wood, or metal. The choice of material usually comes down to personal preference. Some knitters prefer the smooth glide of metal needles, while others prefer the warmth and flexibility of wood or the lightweight feel of plastic.
  2. Cable length: Circular needles have a cable connecting the needle tips. The length of the cable can vary, and it’s important to choose a length that fits your project. For larger projects like blankets or shawls, a longer cable length is needed to accommodate the stitches. For smaller projects like hats or socks, a shorter cable length can be used.
  3. Needle size: Circular needles come in various sizes, from very thin for delicate lacework to thicker sizes for bulkier yarns. The needle size needed will depend on the yarn weight and the desired gauge for your project. Be sure to check the recommended needle size on your yarn label or pattern.
  4. Join type: The join is where the cable and needle tips meet. There are different types of join, such as a screw-on join, a fixed join, or an interchangeable join. The type of join can affect how smoothly your stitches glide across the needle. Interchangeable circular needles offer the flexibility to change needle tips and cable lengths, which can be handy for different projects or sizes.
  5. Cord flexibility: The flexibility of the circular needle’s cord is important for comfortable knitting. Some cords are stiffer and can cause hand fatigue, while others are more flexible and allow for smoother movement. Flexibility can also affect the drape of your project. It’s a good idea to try different cords to find the level of flexibility that suits your knitting style.

By considering these factors and experimenting with different circular needles, you’ll be able to find the perfect fit for your knitting project. Remember, everyone’s preferences may vary, so don’t be afraid to try out different options until you find what works best for you.

Understanding Needle Sizes and Materials

When it comes to knitting with circular needles, understanding needle sizes and materials is important. The size of the needle determines the gauge and the size of the finished project, while the material affects the overall feel and durability of the needle. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

Needle Sizes

  • Needle sizes are typically measured in millimeters (mm) or US sizes.
  • The mm sizes range from very small, like 2.0 mm, to larger sizes like 10.0 mm or more.
  • In the US size system, the sizes range from 0 to 15, with larger numbers indicating larger needle sizes.
  • The size of the needle affects the tension and gauge of the knitting, so it’s important to choose the correct size for your project.

Needle Materials

  • Circular needles can be made from various materials, including metal, wood, bamboo, and plastic.
  • Metal needles are smooth and durable, making them great for fast knitting, but can be slippery for some knitters.
  • Wood and bamboo needles have a warm and natural feel, provide good grip, and are great for those who prefer a slower pace of knitting.
  • Plastic needles are lightweight and affordable, but they may not be as durable as other materials.

Choosing the Right Needle

Choosing the right needle size and material is a personal preference and can vary depending on the project. If you’re a beginner, it’s recommended to start with a medium-sized needle made from wood or bamboo. This will give you a good balance of grip and speed while allowing you to get comfortable with the circular knitting technique. As you gain more experience, you can experiment with different sizes and materials to suit your preferences.

Casting On and Joining Stitches

Before you can start knitting with circular needles, you need to cast on your stitches. Casting on is the process of creating the first row of stitches on your needle. Here are some steps to help you cast on:

  1. Hold the needle and yarn: Hold the circular needle in your dominant hand, with the needle tip pointing to your left. Hold the yarn in your other hand, with the tail end of the yarn between your thumb and index finger, and the working yarn over your index finger.
  2. Make a slipknot: Take the tail end of the yarn and cross it over the working yarn, creating a loop. Insert the tail end through this loop and pull it tight, creating a slipknot. Slide this slipknot onto your needle, making sure to leave a short tail of yarn.
  3. Cast on stitches: With the slipknot on your needle, hold the needle with the slipknot in your right hand. Insert the left needle into the slipknot from front to back, with the working yarn under the needle. Use your right hand to bring the working yarn over the left needle and through the slipknot. Slip the loop onto the left needle, and repeat this process until you have cast on the desired number of stitches.

Once you have cast on your stitches, you can join your round to start knitting in the round. Here’s how to join your stitches:

  • Bring the last stitch to the first: After casting on the desired number of stitches, make sure all your stitches are on the needle and not twisted. Push the last stitch you cast on up to the first stitch, creating a full circle.
  • Hold the needle: Hold the circular needle in your dominant hand, with the needle tip pointing to your left. Make sure the working yarn is on the side of the needle closest to you.
  • Knit the first stitch: Insert the right needle into the first stitch on the left needle, going from front to back. With the working yarn, wrap it around the right needle counterclockwise. Use the right needle to pull the wrapped yarn through the first stitch, creating a new stitch on the right needle. Slip the old stitch off the left needle, and you have completed your first round!

Now you are ready to continue knitting with circular needles. Happy knitting!

Knitting in the Round

Knitting in the round is a technique used when working with circular needles. Instead of knitting a flat piece of fabric, such as a scarf or a flat panel, you will be creating a continuous circular shape, like a hat or a tube. This technique is great for projects that require a seamless finish, as there are no seams to sew up at the end.

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get started with knitting in the round:

  • Choosing the Right Circular Needles: When knitting in the round, you will need a set of circular needles with a length suitable for your project. The length of the needles will determine how many stitches you can comfortably fit on the needle. If you are unsure, choose a longer needle to ensure you have enough space.
  • Joining in the Round: To start knitting in the round, cast on your desired number of stitches using the long tail cast on method. Make sure none of the stitches are twisted, and then slide the stitches towards the other end of the needle, so the working yarn is on the right side. Insert the right needle into the first stitch on the left needle and start knitting.
  • Using Stitch Markers: Stitch markers can be used to mark the beginning of rounds or to denote specific sections of your pattern. These can be helpful when working on complex patterns or when you need to keep track of increases or decreases.
  • Working in the Round: When knitting in the round, you will be working the same stitch pattern for every round. This means that for stockinette stitch, you will knit all rounds, while for garter stitch, you will alternate between knitting and purling rounds. There is no need to turn your work at the end of each row, as you would when knitting flat.
  • Joining New Yarn: If you run out of yarn while knitting in the round, you can join a new ball of yarn by simply overlapping the old and new yarns for a few stitches. Make sure to leave a tail of yarn at least 6 inches long on both the old and new strands, which you can weave in later to secure the join.
  • Avoiding Twisted Stitches: It’s important to make sure that your cast on stitches are not twisted when joining in the round. If your stitches are twisted, it will result in a twisted and misshapen project. Take your time to ensure that all of your stitches are properly aligned before beginning to knit.

These are just a few tips and tricks to get you started with knitting in the round. With practice, you will become more comfortable and confident working with circular needles, and will be able to tackle a wide variety of projects using this versatile technique.

Avoiding Twisted Stitches

When knitting with circular needles, one common issue that beginners often face is twisted stitches. Twisted stitches occur when the stitches are not properly aligned on the needles, resulting in a twisted or turned appearance. This can be frustrating, but with some simple tips and tricks, you can easily avoid twisted stitches and create beautifully even knitting projects.

1. Cast On Correctly:

One of the main causes of twisted stitches is an incorrect cast on. Make sure to cast on your stitches in the same orientation as the needles. This means that if you are using a circular needle that has a joined cable, you should cast on with the yarn tail coming from the back needle and the working yarn coming from the front needle. This will ensure that the stitches are aligned correctly and prevent them from twisting.

2. Check the First Row:

After casting on, take a moment to double-check that all the stitches are properly oriented before you start knitting. This is especially important when working in the round, as any twisted stitches will create a visible seam in your project. If you notice any twisted stitches, simply unravel them and reinsert them onto the needle in the correct orientation.

3. Use Stitch Markers:

Stitch markers can be a helpful tool for keeping track of your work and preventing twisted stitches. Place a stitch marker after every few stitches or at regular intervals, depending on your pattern. This will allow you to easily identify any twists in your work and correct them before they become more complicated to fix.

4. Be Mindful of Your Needles:

Pay close attention to the position of your needles and make sure they are always oriented correctly. The front needle should be in front of your work, and the back needle should be behind. Avoid accidentally crossing the needles or flipping them around, as this can lead to twisted stitches.

5. Practice Patience:

Knitting with circular needles can take some getting used to, so practice patience and take your time. Twisted stitches can be frustrating to fix, so it’s better to take a moment to check your work and prevent them from happening in the first place. Remember, knitting is a relaxing and enjoyable craft, so don’t rush and enjoy the process.

By following these tips and tricks, you can easily avoid twisted stitches and create smooth and even knitting projects with circular needles. Happy knitting!

Using Stitch Markers and Counting Rows

When knitting with circular needles, it can be helpful to use stitch markers to keep track of your progress and to help you remember where certain stitches or techniques need to be worked. Stitch markers are small, usually plastic or metal, rings that can be slipped onto the knitting needle between stitches.

Here are some tips for using stitch markers:

  • Place a stitch marker at the beginning of each round to mark the start of your work. This can be especially helpful when working in the round, as it allows you to easily see where each round begins and ends.
  • Use different colored stitch markers to mark different sections or pattern repeats in your work. This can help you easily distinguish between different parts of a complex pattern.
  • If you are working on a project with a specific number of stitches, place a stitch marker every few inches or so to help you count your stitches and make sure you haven’t accidentally added or dropped any.
  • If you need to increase or decrease stitches at specific points in your work, place a stitch marker before and after the stitches where the increase or decrease will occur. This will help you easily identify where the changes need to be made.

In addition to using stitch markers, it is also important to be able to count your rows. This can help you keep track of your progress and ensure that your work is the correct length. Here are some methods for counting rows:

  • Count each row as you complete it. This can be done by simply keeping track of the number of times you have worked a complete round or row.
  • Create a row counter using a piece of paper or a row counting app on your phone. This allows you to easily keep track of your progress without having to rely on memory.
  • Place a stitch marker or piece of contrasting yarn every ten or twenty rows to act as a visual indicator of your progress.
  • If working from a pattern, refer to the row numbers specified in the pattern to help you keep track of your progress.

By using stitch markers and counting your rows, you can keep better track of your knitting progress and ensure that your work turns out as intended.

Increasing and Decreasing Stitches

When knitting with circular needles, it’s important to know how to increase and decrease stitches to shape your project. These techniques allow you to create curves and angles in your knitting, making it more versatile and interesting.

Increasing Stitches:

To increase stitches, you will usually use one of the following methods:

  1. Knit Front and Back (KFB): This is a common method for increasing stitches. To do this, knit into the front of the stitch and leave it on the left needle. Then, without removing the stitch from the left needle, knit into the back of the same stitch. Finally, slip the original stitch off the left needle.
  2. Make One (M1): This method creates a new stitch by lifting the yarn that runs between two stitches. To do this, insert the left needle from front to back under the horizontal strand between two stitches. Knit into the back loop of this strand to create a new stitch.
  3. Yarn Over (YO): This method is often used for decorative increases and creates a small hole in the fabric. To do this, bring the yarn to the front of the work between the needles, and then wrap the yarn over the right needle to the back. On the next row, knit or purl the yarn over as a regular stitch.

Decreasing Stitches:

To decrease stitches, you will usually use one of the following methods:

  1. Knit Two Together (K2tog): This is a common method for decreasing stitches. To do this, insert the right needle through the front loops of the next two stitches on the left needle, and then knit them together as if they were one stitch.
  2. Purl Two Together (P2tog): This is the purl version of the knit two together decrease. To do this, insert the right needle through the back loops of the next two stitches on the left needle, and then purl them together as if they were one stitch.
  3. Slip, Slip, Knit (SSK): This is another common method for decreasing stitches. To do this, slip the next two stitches one at a time knitwise onto the right needle. Then, insert the left needle through the fronts of these two slipped stitches and knit them together.

These are just a few of the most common methods for increasing and decreasing stitches with circular needles. Practice these techniques and experiment with different patterns to create beautiful and intricate knitting projects.

Finishing Techniques and Binding Off

Finishing Techniques and Binding Off

Once you have completed your project on circular needles, it’s time to finish it off and bind off your stitches. This is an important step that ensures your stitches don’t unravel and gives your project a neat and professional-looking edge.

Here are some common finishing techniques and methods for binding off with circular needles:

  • Basic Bind Off: This is the most common method for binding off. To do this, knit the first two stitches, then use your left needle to pass the first stitch over the second stitch and off the right needle. Continue knitting one stitch and passing the previous stitch over until you have one stitch left. Cut your yarn, leaving a long tail, and pull it through the last stitch to secure.
  • Elastic Bind Off: If you want a stretchy edge, such as for a cuff or neckline, an elastic bind off is ideal. To do this, work a regular bind off for the first few stitches, then switch to a stretchy bind off method like the suspended bind off or the tubular bind off.
  • I-Cord Bind Off: An I-cord bind off adds a decorative and polished touch to your project. This method creates a small cord along the edge of your work. To do this, knit the first three stitches, slide the stitches back to the left needle, and repeat. This creates a small tube that you can then bind off.

After binding off, you may need to weave in loose ends to secure them and make your project look tidy. You can use a tapestry needle to weave the ends into the back of the work or between stitches.

Once you have finished binding off and weaving in ends, you can block your project to even out the stitches and shape it, if necessary. Blocking involves wetting the project, gently shaping it, and allowing it to dry flat. This can help your project look its best and improve stitch definition.

With these finishing techniques and binding off methods, you’ll be able to complete your knitting projects with confidence and create beautiful, professional-looking results.


What are circular needles and how are they different from straight needles?

Circular needles are knitting needles that are connected by a cable, creating a circular shape. They are different from straight needles because they allow you to knit in the round and can also be used for flat knitting.

What size of circular needle should I use for a beginner project?

The size of circular needles you use will depend on the type and weight of yarn you are using, as well as the pattern you are following. It is best to refer to your pattern for needle size recommendations.

Can I use circular needles for knitting flat projects like scarves or blankets?

Yes, you can use circular needles for flat knitting projects like scarves or blankets. Simply knit back and forth as you would with straight needles.

How do I join a new yarn when using circular needles?

To join a new yarn when using circular needles, simply leave a long enough tail of the new yarn, and start knitting with it as you normally would. After a few stitches, you can weave in the ends to secure them.

What is the benefit of using circular needles instead of straight needles?

There are several benefits to using circular needles instead of straight needles. They are more versatile and can be used for both flat and circular knitting. Circular needles also distribute the weight of your project more evenly, making them more comfortable to use for larger projects.

How do I store circular needles when I’m not using them?

You can store circular needles by using a needle storage case or by wrapping them up with a rubber band or hair tie to keep them secure.

Are circular needles more difficult to use than straight needles?

Circular needles may take a bit of getting used to if you’re used to knitting with straight needles, but once you get the hang of them, they can be just as easy to use. Many knitters find that circular needles are actually more comfortable to use for longer knitting sessions.


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