How To... 5 ways to make using DPNs easier - LoveKnitting blog

Published on December 1st, 2014 | by Elizabeth Bagwell


5 ways to make using DPNs easier

Knitting with double-pointed needles can be fiddly. Constant sock-knitter, Elizabeth Bagwell, describes 5 ways to make wrangling DPNs simple…

The first time you try knitting with DPNs (double-pointed needles) it can feel like juggling sticks to make a sock or wrestling with a porcupine. There are pointy ends everywhere, and maybe a bit of swearing – and that’s before you drop a stitch. Here are 5 of my hard-won tips for dealing with the pointy beasts!

5 ways to make using DPNs easier - LoveKnitting blog

Useful steps to follow

1. Cast on all stitches onto one needle
Once you’ve got the right number, spread them out appropriately.

Pro tip: Cast on an extra stitch and knit the first and last stitch of the first round together, for a secure, gapless join.  (This is genius! – Ed.)

5 ways to make using DPNs easier - LoveKnitting blog

2. Start your round mid-needle
It’s tempting (and tidy) to start your round at the end of a needle, but this just means you’re dealing with all the problems (joining, new needle, closing the gap, twisted join, etc) at once. Start mid-needle and you’ve halved your worries.

Pro tip: Spot the cast on tail to find the start of the round.

5 ways to make using DPNs easier - LoveKnitting blog

3. Use 4 DPNs, not 5
In engineering terms, a triangle is a more stable shape than a square. You can test this at home – tape 4 bits of card into a square, and it can bend or collapse, while a triangle can’t. When you knit with 4 DPNs, 3 needles hold the stitches in a triangle, and you knit with the fourth. With 5 DPNs, you make a square, which can flop about more. It’s a matter of preference though, so if 5 works for you, keep going.

Pro tip: Stash the 5th needle somewhere safe, and you’ll have a spare for when you lose one on the train.

4. Stop mid-needle
It’s tidier to stop at the end of a needle, but try to resist! Stopping mid-needle means that all your needles are engaged in the work, so you’re less likely to lose one down the sofa cushions, and also turns your stable triangle into a foldable square, letting you put your knitting away properly.

5. Use grippy needles
If you find your stitches sliding off the needles, it’s easier to switch needles than to teach yourself to knit more tightly. Bamboo or wooden needles grip stitches better than slick metal ones, and square needles are supposed to be particularly good grippers, while also being surprisingly comfortable to knit with.

Try it out!

Why not test your DPN skills and knit yourself a pair of socks?  If you’re a beginner – why not try these Sirdar DK socks, knitted in Sirdar Click DK, on some double pointed needles!.

Sirdar socks - Loveknitting blog

For very experienced knitters, we love these Dilly Dally socks from independent designer Ann Kingstone, knitted up in the fabulous West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply yarn!


Dilly Dally socks - Loveknitting blog

About the Author

Elizabeth is a keen knitter, occasional designer, enthusiastic traveler and a professional freelance writer. She spent three years working for British knitting magazine, Simply Knitting, and has also written for The Knitter and other craft titles.

Last updated: February 5th, 2015.

35 Responses to 5 ways to make using DPNs easier

  1. Madeline says:

    Knitting 2tog to join the round is so clever!!

  2. Margaret says:

    I like the idea of starting mid-needle , it makes joining so much easier. Thank you.

  3. jenna says:

    This is all common sense, but not until someone points it out. Thanks for these hints.

  4. Jackie Bartlett says:

    Genius! Thanks for sharing each of these helpful hints.

  5. Hazel says:

    When I’m working a pattern which requires the use of five needles not four I simply hold two, folded together, in my left hand, this makes the triangle again and stops the flopping about which makes things so difficult.

  6. Yvonne says:

    What absolutely, brilliant, and life changing tips you have given us here. I think you must have been looking over my shoulder while I was working on a piece. I also agree about the triangle as opposed to a square thing. When I first learned to use double pointed needles (in England back in the early 70s) all double pointed needles came in sets of 4, 3 to hold your work and 1 to make your stitches. I still tend to do it this way even though in the USA they give you 5 needles now. Thanks once again.

  7. Barbara Roberts says:

    I have always used 4 needles not 5. I like the idea of starting round in the middle of the needle.
    i am looking forward to trying this way ,seems like it will work better.

  8. Cristy Anzalone Bystry says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Can’t wait to try these ideas out. I’ve been searching for tips to help with multiple dpns, I just knew they were out there! You are an angel!

  9. Judy says:

    Never heard of any of these tips, yet each make perfect sense. Cannot wait to try the all. Thank you so much or sharing.

  10. Judy says:

    Never heard of any of these tips yet each make perfect sense. Cannot wait to try them out. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Leigh says:

    im confused by number 2 but 1 is genius! I am addicted to socks right now so going to try this next time I start one.

  12. I’m definitely going to try these tips. I’ve been struggling with dpn’s for a while, but really want to be able to knit with them. Thanks x

  13. Kathy says:

    Reading your tips took me back to my Housecraft teacher. Who taught me and the others in my class to knit. These were the things she told us to do, only then we only used four needles. My mittens were nearly perfect for a first attempt. Thank you.

  14. Barbara says:

    Thank you so much…..! Invaluable tips. I will get my stash of old needles out and have another go! I have been wanting to make a yoked jumper for a while…..but find circular needles
    even more difficult to work with!! This will solve a lot of problems!!! 🙂

  15. Marlene Jones says:

    I have only used four needles since I taught myself to use dpn’s and I use the square wooden needles too. But I am confused as to how to begin in the middle of a needle. Do I just knit to the middle, it seems like would be messing up the pattern but I will try it. Good advice here. Thank you.

  16. Susan says:

    I use either 4 needles or 5 depending on how repetitions in the pattern space out. I wouldn’t want a cable slit between Two needles, etc. Also, size is critical, top of a sock four needles, body of a baby sweater either five needles or switch to circulars if I have the right size handy.

  17. Martha Rose says:

    Two words: Magic Loop!

  18. Sadie says:

    How exactly would you start in the middle of a needle in step 2?

    • Lynn Spann Bowditch says:

      Once you’ve joined ends, slide stitches around on the needles until the join is in the middle of a needle — or, depending on your pattern, at some other position where it makes sense. Helps avoid ladders. Use a row marker between the first and last stitches if you have difficulty seeing where the round begins.

    • goingincircles says:

      Say you have 60 stitches. Place 10 stitches on needle 1, 20 on needle 2, 20 on needle 3, and 10 on needle 4. Knit the stitches off needle 1 with needle 4. You’ll then have 20 stitches on each of 3 needles and you’ll finish the first row when you get back to the middle of needle 4.
      If you cast on an extra stitch so you could knit two stitches together when you join the round, simply slip the last stitch on needle 4 onto needle 1 and knit the first two stitches together.

  19. What a brilliant list! Normally I use circular needles and magic loop, but your top tips have tempted me to pull out the pointy pins again. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Cynthia Bell says:

    Awesome tips! Thanks so much.

  21. Linda says:

    Another tip I would share is, if you are a continental knitter (needle under the arm) and have despaired of using 4 needles, or circulars, and given up of ever being able to knit in the round, use longer dp needles, I have found 30cm the perfect size (there are even 40cm), so finally after many years of being an experienced knitter, but always felt inadequate, am now getting so much pleasure knitting myself socks with some of the most gorgeous yarns on the market.

  22. wedy says:

    9 inch circular are so worth it. No lost needles, and no ladders.

  23. Betsy says:

    This is great advice! I taught myself to knit on dpn’s and would add one more tip in addition to “use grippy needles”. Employ needle tips on the needles you are not working on. If I can do it, anyone can!

  24. Julie Ellis says:

    I have knit for a number of years but have never managed to knit on Dpns because I knit on long needles, the right needle tucked under my arm. Are there any tips anyone can give or does anyone know of very long Dpns I can buy? If I don’t have the needle under my arm I can’t control my knitting,

    • Sue says:

      Julie – I’d say ‘persevere’. When using straight needles I tuck the right one under my arm, but I knit LOADS on 20cm dpns and find that the knitting supports itseft quite well. Needed a bit of practice at first, but once I got the hang of it I was knitting as fast on dpns as on straight needles. Same with circulars. Shorter dpns are mush easier to manage than long ones and a lot more portable – I nearly always have a plain sock on the go for long car journeys. If you use four dpns, as stated in the article, you make a triangle and that is pretty stable. You can also arrange your needles so that each tip overlaps the next in the same way, as that adds stability. That’s hard to describe – what I mean is that in your triangle of three dpns the next working tip lies on top of the one you’ve finished knitting from, and the tip at the other end of the next needle lies underneath the tip of the one after that. Does that make any kind of sense? I certainly find that if I get my needles out of this arrangement it’s much more difficult to control. Stick with it as the benefits of knitting on short dpns are great…

    • Rosana says:

      Julie- I also knit with my right needle under my arm. I use 30 cm dpn to knit in the round.Prym make longer dpns up to 4 mm and on ebay I bought a set of various sizes going from 2 mm to 10 mm. Hope this helps!!

  25. Julie Ellis says:

    Thank you Sue, I have seen a blanket I like where hexagons are knit on Dpns so I will give it a go. Must admit not tried knitting this way for many years as always lost my temper, I would like to think I am a lot calmer now but we will see.

  26. Lizzy says:

    Thank you. Thank you. I taught myself to use 5 needles and did not know the difference between 4 or 5. Sounds funny huh. But your tips are wonderful I plan to use them on my next sock project. Socks are so addictive my son in-law keeps asking for them.

  27. Prue says:

    I also knit with one needle under my arm, but when I use four needles, I cast on my stitches with a regular, slightly larger size, needle, do two rows and then put the stitches on three needles, then I darn the small gap at the end. I liked the idea of casting on an extra stitch and knitting the first and last stitch of the round together. I love knitting socks on d.p. needles!

  28. Mavis.Beaton says:

    I love knitting on 4 needles no problem but why can’t I manage circular

  29. lynne huggins says:

    Love the tips I am knitting slippers at the moments on dps

  30. anna says:

    I am very surprised to see no mention of knitting belts

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