Try it today! Knitting in the round
As part of our New Year, new skill series, Elizabeth Bagwell talks you through knitting in the round.
Knitting in the round lets you make a seamless tube from your knitting. It’s ideal for socks, great for hats and gloves even used for sweaters.
How does knitting in the round work?
When knitting back and forth, you reach the end of the row, turn, and start the next. Knitting in the round, you join the two ends of the cast on together, to make a circle, and then knit in a spiral without ever turning your work.
Do I have to use DPNs or other special needles?
Yes. To knit in the round, you need to be able to keep going once you get to the end of the row so standard straight needles don’t work. The two most common options are DPNs (double-pointed needles) and circular needles. Amy has talked about DPNs at length, and Anjuli wrote a good introduction to circular needles.
It is possible to knit a tube on straight needles. For very narrow tubes, you can use the i-cord technique and for wider tubes (like a hat) you can use a technique that’s similar to double knitting or mosaic knitting. Shaping and stitch patterns are very different in this technique, so I think it’s worth separating it from standard knitting in the round.
How many DPNs do I need?
DPNs come in sets of 4 or 5. You need at least 4 to work comfortably. Needles 1, 2, and 3 hold the work in a triangle shape. You pick up the fourth and start knitting with it, using it as your right-hand needle with needle #1 as your left-hand needle. After a few dozen stitches, you’ve freed your left-hand needle, which you can now use to work the next batch of stitches held by needle #2.
How long should a circular needle cable be?
A circular needle cable should be shorter than the project you’re working on, ideally by about 4-8 inches (10-20cm). If the needle is longer (a 28in cable in a hat for a 24in head) the stitches will be stretched far apart and hard to work and if the needle is too much smaller (a 16in cable for a 40in sweater, for example) the stitches may get too crowded and start to fall off every time you let go. There’s a fair amount of wiggle room though, so you can knit a 32in sweater and a 40in sweater on the same needle.
The exception to this is magic loop. If you’re using this technique, you want a really long cable – the longest you can get. It should be at least 100cm (38in) even for socks or a hat.
What’s magic loop?
Magic loop is a neat way to use a long circular to make a small project. It lets you knit projects of all sizes, from a baby sock to a sweater on the same cable. It looks like nothing on earth, and the first time you see it you’ll probably swear it’s impossible to learn, but once you’ve knit a round, you’ll find it’s easy. Amy wrote a comprehensive introduction to the magic loop. It’s worth a look even if you already know the technique, as she took all her photos at an ice hockey game. That’s the sort of dedication we LoveKnitting bloggers aspire to.
Casting on in the round
You can use any cast on you like. For many tubular projects, like socks and hats, a really stretchy cast on is a good choice.
Once you’ve cast on your stitches, join the work in the round as shown here. Make sure you don’t have a twist in the line and you’re good to go. Some knitters like to cast on an extra stitch and knit the first and last stitches of the round together, to create a secure join, but this isn’t necessary: you can just line the stitches up, and knit away.
If you’re using DPNs, I find it easier to start a round mid-row, as I explained in my post about knitting your first sock.
Rib, garter and stocking stitch are different – you need to know this!
One quirk of knitting in the round is that knitting every single stitch in every single round will get you stockinette (stocking stitch) not garter stitch, as it would knitting back and forth. To knit garter stitch, you need to alternate rounds of knit and purl.
Knitting a rib is also slightly different as you need to have an even number of ribs (i.e. knit-purl-knit-purl not knit-purl-knit). This is because the last stitch is joined to the first stitch, so the knit-purl-knit combination will, from a different angle, look like purl-knit-knit. On the plus side, every single round is the same: if the first round started K2, P3, K2, P3… then every following rib round will be identical.
Try knitting in the round today! This FREE pattern for the Basic Cowl from Lion Brand is a simple introduction to knitting a cowl on circular needles.
For this super chunky project, you will need some 10mm circular needles like these Knit Pro Symphonie Fixed Circular needles, and one ball of Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick – we love, from left to right, Denim Twist (194), Rasperry (112) and Snapdragon (176). The original pattern, above, is knitted in Eggplant (147).
How to download the pattern: click on the image above to download the free pattern – this requires you to create an account with LoveKnitting. If you’ve already shopped with us, then you will already have an account and can simply sign in. Many of you may receive our newsletter but have not yet created an account on our site. It only takes a few moments and once you have your free account, you can access all patterns that you download in your very own library! Learn more here.
Last updated: February 2nd, 2015.