Learn How to Cast on Knitting with Circular Needles

Learn How to Cast on Knitting with Circular Needles

If you’re new to knitting or looking to expand your skills, learning how to cast on with circular needles is a great technique to add to your repertoire. Circular needles are a versatile tool that allow you to knit in the round, making them perfect for projects like hats, socks, and sweaters. In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of casting on with circular needles step-by-step.

Before we dive into the casting on technique, it’s important to understand the anatomy of a circular needle. Circular needles consist of two flexible knitting needle tips connected by a thin, flexible cable. The cable comes in various lengths, ranging from 16 inches to 60 inches, depending on your project needs. The needle tips can be made of different materials, such as metal, wood, or plastic, and they can be straight or slightly curved.

To begin casting on with circular needles, you’ll first need to determine how many stitches you need for your project. This will depend on the pattern or design you’re following. Once you know the number of stitches, you can start the casting on process. There are several methods to cast on with circular needles, but the long tail cast on is a popular choice. To do the long tail cast on, you’ll need a long tail of yarn that is approximately three times the width of your finished project. This ensures you have enough yarn to create the foundation row of stitches.

Once you have your supplies ready, you can begin casting on. Start by making a slipknot at the end of your yarn, leaving a long tail. Then, slide the slipknot onto one of the circular needle tips and tighten the loop. Hold the needle tip with the slipknot in your right hand, and the other needle tip in your left hand. Insert the left needle tip into the slipknot from front to back, creating a loop around the needle. This loop will be your first cast on stitch.

Knitting Techniques: Learn How to Cast On with Circular Needles

Knitting with circular needles provides a versatile and convenient way to create various projects including hats, socks, and sweaters. Understanding how to cast on with circular needles is the first step towards mastering this technique. Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Gather Your Materials: To begin, you will need a pair of circular needles suitable for your chosen project and the type of yarn you are using. Make sure you have a knitting gauge handy to ensure proper sizing.
  2. Select a Cast On Method: Different cast on methods can be used with circular needles, such as the long-tail cast on, the knitted cast on, or the cable cast on. Choose the method that you feel most comfortable with or try out a new one for added versatility.
  3. Prepare the Needles: Hold the circular needles in your hands, making sure the working yarn is on the right-hand needle. The tips of the needles should be pointing to the right and the cable should be coiled between the needles.
  4. Make a Slip Knot: Create a slip knot at the end of the working yarn, leaving a tail of around 6 inches. Slide the slip knot onto the right-hand needle, making sure it is not too tight or too loose.
  5. Begin the Cast On: Using your chosen cast on method, start adding stitches to the right-hand needle. Depending on the project, you may need to cast on a specific number of stitches or follow a pattern. Keep each stitch snug but not too tight to ensure an even tension.
  6. Join in the Round: Once you have cast on the desired number of stitches, make sure they are all on the right-hand needle. Hold the needle with the stitches in your right hand and the empty needle in your left hand. Make sure the stitches are not twisted around the needles.
  7. Knit the First Round: With the right-hand needle, insert it into the first stitch on the left-hand needle as if to knit. Wrap the working yarn around the needle and pull it through the stitch, transferring it from the left needle to the right needle. Repeat this process for each stitch until you have completed the first round.

Congratulations! You have successfully cast on with circular needles. Now you can continue knitting your project using various stitch patterns and techniques. Remember to have fun and practice regularly to improve your knitting skills.

Getting Started: Materials and Tools

Before you can begin casting on knitting with circular needles, you will need to gather a few materials and tools. Here is a list of what you will need:

  • Circular knitting needles: Circular knitting needles are a pair of needles connected by a flexible cable. They come in various lengths and materials, so choose a pair that is appropriate for your project.
  • Yarn: Choose a yarn that is suitable for your project and compatible with the needle size you have chosen. The yarn should be smooth and easy to work with.
  • Scissors: You will need a pair of scissors to cut the yarn once you have finished casting on.
  • Tapestry needle: A tapestry needle is used for weaving in ends and sewing pieces together. It should have a large eye and a blunt tip.
  • Stitch markers: Stitch markers are used to mark specific stitches or sections in your knitting. They can be helpful for keeping track of your progress and making sure you maintain the correct stitch count.
  • Measuring tape: A measuring tape is essential for checking gauge and measuring your progress as you knit.
  • Pattern or instructions: If you are following a specific pattern or set of instructions, make sure you have them readily available before you start.

Having these materials and tools on hand will ensure that you are well-prepared to begin casting on knitting with circular needles. Now that you have everything you need, you can move on to the next step.

Step-by-Step Guide to Casting On

Learning how to cast on is the first fundamental step in knitting. It is the process of creating the first row of stitches on your knitting needle. Here is a step-by-step guide to casting on with circular needles:

  1. Start by holding one circular needle in your dominant hand, with the cable and needle tip on the right side.
  2. Take the yarn end and make a slip knot by folding the yarn into a loop and passing the end through the loop. Tighten the knot onto the needle, leaving a small loop.
  3. Hold the needle with the slip knot in your dominant hand, and use your other hand to hold the tail of the yarn.
  4. Insert the needle into the slip knot from front to back, going through the loop. Hold onto the tail of the yarn to keep the loop secure.
  5. Using your dominant hand, bring the yarn over the needle, creating a new loop. This is called the first cast-on stitch.
  6. Continue to create more cast-on stitches by repeating step 5. Hold onto the tail of the yarn and slide each new cast-on stitch onto the needle.
  7. Keep casting on until you have the desired number of stitches as indicated in your knitting pattern.
  8. Once you have finished casting on, you are ready to start knitting your first row.

Remember to take your time and practice casting on to feel comfortable with the process. It may feel a bit tricky at first, but with practice, it will become easier.

Understanding Circular Needles: Sizes and Types

When it comes to knitting with circular needles, understanding the different sizes and types available can help you choose the right needle for your project. Circular needles are different from straight needles in that they have a flexible cord or cable connecting two needle tips. This allows you to work on projects that require a large number of stitches, like sweaters or blankets, without the need to constantly slide your work along the needles.


Circular needles come in different sizes, just like straight needles. The size of the circular needle refers to the diameter of the needle shaft. The size is usually indicated in millimeters (mm) and can range from as small as 2.0 mm to as large as 10.0 mm or more. The size you choose depends on the weight of the yarn you are using and the desired tension or gauge for your project. Be sure to check the recommended needle size on your yarn label or pattern.


There are two main types of circular needles: fixed circular needles and interchangeable circular needles.

Fixed circular needles: These are circular needles with a fixed cord length, which means the needle tips are permanently attached to the cord. Fixed circular needles are available in various lengths, ranging from 16 inches to 60 inches or more. They are great for projects that require a specific cord length and are not meant to be adjusted or changed.

Interchangeable circular needles: These are circular needles where the needle tips can be swapped out and replaced with different sizes or lengths of cords. Interchangeable circular needles typically come in sets that include a variety of needle tip sizes and cord lengths. They offer versatility and flexibility, allowing you to customize your needle size and cord length based on your project needs.

Tips for Choosing the Right Circular Needles

  1. Consider the weight of your yarn and the recommended needle size on your yarn label or pattern.
  2. Decide whether you need a fixed circular needle or an interchangeable circular needle based on the type of project you are working on.
  3. Choose the appropriate cord length for your project. A longer cord is useful for large projects, while a shorter cord may be more suitable for smaller projects.
  4. Try different needle materials, such as wood, metal, or plastic, to see what feels most comfortable for you.
  5. Remember to check your gauge while knitting with circular needles to ensure your project turns out the correct size.

By understanding the sizes and types of circular needles available, you can select the right needle for your knitting project and enjoy the benefits of working with circular needles.

Choosing the Right Yarn for Circular Needle Knitting

When it comes to circular needle knitting, choosing the right yarn is crucial for a successful project. Here are some factors to consider when selecting yarn for your circular knitting needles.

  • Fiber Content: The first thing to consider is the fiber content of the yarn. Different fibers have different properties and will create different results in your knitting. Common fiber options include wool, cotton, acrylic, and blends. Think about the qualities you want in your finished project, such as warmth, drape, or durability, and choose a yarn with the appropriate fiber content.
  • Weight: Yarn comes in different weights, from lace weight to super bulky. The weight of your yarn will affect the size and thickness of your finished project, as well as the overall look and feel. Make sure to choose a yarn weight that is suitable for your pattern and the intended use of your project.
  • Texture: Consider the texture of the yarn and how it will work with your chosen pattern. Smooth yarns are great for showing off intricate stitch patterns, while textured yarns can add interest and depth to simpler patterns.
  • Color: The color of your yarn can have a big impact on the final look of your project. Think about the overall aesthetic you want to achieve and choose yarn colors that complement your vision.
  • Availability: Finally, consider the availability of the yarn you choose. Make sure the yarn is in stock and readily available in the quantities you need for your project. It can be frustrating to run out of yarn halfway through a project and not be able to find more of the same dye lot.

By considering these factors and taking the time to choose the right yarn for your circular needle knitting project, you can ensure that your finished piece turns out just as you envisioned.

Troubleshooting Common Casting On Problems

Troubleshooting Common Casting On Problems

Casting on is the first step in any knitting project, and it can sometimes be tricky. Here are some common casting on problems and how to troubleshoot them:

  • Tight cast on: If your cast on edge feels tight and is difficult to work with, try using a larger needle size or a looser tension when casting on. Alternatively, you can cast on using the “long tail cast on” method, which typically creates a looser edge.
  • Loose cast on: If your cast on edge feels loose and floppy, try using a smaller needle size or a tighter tension when casting on. You can also try doubling up the yarn or using a thicker yarn to create a denser edge.
  • Inconsistent tension: If you notice that your cast on edge has varying tension, it may be helpful to use a stitch marker or a different color yarn to mark every few stitches. This way, you can keep track of your tension and make adjustments as needed.
  • Twisted cast on: If you accidentally twist your cast on stitches, you can either unravel the entire cast on and start again, or you can continue knitting with the twisted stitches and then fix the twist when you join in the round. To fix the twist, simply untwist the stitches and make sure they are all facing the same direction before continuing.
  • Dropped stitches: If you accidentally drop a stitch while casting on, it is important to fix it before continuing. You can use a crochet hook or a spare knitting needle to pick up the dropped stitch and place it back on the left needle. Make sure the stitch is not twisted before continuing.

Remember, practice makes perfect! If you encounter any casting on problems, don’t get discouraged. Keep experimenting with different techniques and find what works best for you.

Enhancing Your Knitting Skills with Circular Needles

Knitting with circular needles can open up a whole new world of possibilities for your knitting projects. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced knitter, using circular needles can enhance your knitting skills and allow you to tackle a wider range of projects. Here are some reasons why you should consider incorporating circular needles into your knitting repertoire:

  • Versatility: Circular needles can be used for a variety of projects, including hats, socks, sweaters, and even blankets. They allow you to easily knit in the round, eliminating the need for seams.
  • Portability: Circular needles are more compact and easier to carry around than straight needles. This makes them great for knitting on the go or taking your projects with you on trips.
  • Comfort: Knitting with circular needles can be more comfortable for some people, as the weight of your project is distributed across the flexible cable instead of resting on your lap or on your wrists.
  • Speed: Once you get the hang of using circular needles, you may find that you can knit faster than with straight needles. The continuous loop of the circular needles allows for a seamless knitting motion.

If you’re new to using circular needles, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the different techniques and stitches involved. Casting on with circular needles, for example, requires a slightly different method than casting on with straight needles.

  1. First, create a slipknot by making a loop with your yarn.
  2. Insert one needle tip through the loop and tighten the slipknot on the needle.
  3. Hold the needle with the slipknot in your right hand and the empty needle in your left hand.
  4. Use your right hand to wrap the yarn around the needle in a clockwise direction, forming a loop.
  5. Insert the empty needle tip into the loop from front to back, making sure to keep the yarn under the needle.
  6. Use the right needle to pull the loop through the stitch, creating a new stitch on the left needle.
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 until you have cast on the desired number of stitches.
  8. Once you have cast on all your stitches, you can start knitting in the round.

Remember to keep a loose tension while casting on with circular needles, as a tight tension may make it difficult to knit the first round. Practice these steps and experiment with different projects to enhance your knitting skills with circular needles. Happy knitting!

Exploring Advanced Techniques with Circular Needles

Once you’ve mastered the basic skills of knitting with circular needles, you can move on to exploring more advanced techniques. These techniques allow you to create unique patterns and designs in your knitting projects.

1. Magic Loop Technique: The magic loop technique is used to knit small circumference projects, such as socks or sleeves, using a long circular needle. It involves splitting the knit stitches onto two cable loops, allowing you to work on one loop at a time while the rest of the stitches are held on the second loop.

2. Two-Color Stranded Knitting: With circular needles, you can easily try your hand at two-color stranded knitting, also known as Fair Isle knitting. This technique involves working with two different yarn colors at the same time to create intricate color patterns.

3. Lace Knitting: Circular needles are perfect for lace knitting projects that require intricate stitch patterns and delicacy. The flexible cable and smooth join allow for efficient knitting of lace motifs.

4. Cabling: Circular needles make it easy to create stunning cable patterns in your knitting. Whether you’re knitting simple cables or complex cable designs, the cable length of circular needles allows for smooth movement of the stitches.

5. Short Rows: Short rows are used to create unique shaping in knitting, such as adding curves to shawls or sleeves. Circular needles provide the flexibility needed to work short rows seamlessly.

6. Brioche Stitch: Brioche stitch is a reversible knitting technique that creates a lovely, squishy fabric. Circular needles are ideal for working brioche stitch, as they make it easier to manage the multiple yarn overs and decreases involved.

7. Circular Ribbing: Circular needles allow for easy knitting of ribbing patterns, such as 2×2 or 1×1 ribbing. The continuous loop of the needles makes it simple to maintain the pattern without having to switch needles.

With these advanced techniques, you can take your knitting to the next level and create beautiful, intricate projects. Experiment with different patterns and designs to add a unique touch to your knitting projects using circular needles!


What are circular needles used for in knitting?

Circular needles are used for knitting projects that require a continuous loop of stitches, such as hats, socks, and sweaters. They are also helpful for larger projects, as they distribute the weight of the work more evenly.

How do I cast on using circular needles?

To cast on using circular needles, you can use the long tail cast on method or any other cast on method that you prefer. Simply make a slip knot on one needle, then start casting on stitches using the desired method. Make sure to distribute the stitches evenly around the needles if the pattern calls for it.

Do I need to use circular needles for every knitting project?

No, circular needles are not necessary for every knitting project. They are particularly useful for projects that require a large number of stitches, or for projects that need to be knitted in the round. However, you can use straight needles or double-pointed needles for smaller projects or projects that are knitted flat.

Are circular needles more difficult to use than straight needles?

Using circular needles may feel unfamiliar at first, but they are not necessarily more difficult to use than straight needles. In fact, many knitters find circular needles easier to handle, especially for larger projects. The key is to practice and get comfortable with them, just like with any other knitting technique.


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