This tutorial started as several blog posts, now consoladated, and expanded. There will be new videos and links added as time goes by.
Knitting in the Round–Part 1
–the basics tools and process
Knitting in the Round –Part 2
-basic mechanics of knitting in the round
Knitting in the Round–Part 3
using DPN, or circ, and how to change tools.
Shaping the Crown of a Hat–Part 4
–basic rules shaping the crown of a hat
Part 1 Knitting in the Round–the Basics
This is a perennial problem for new knitters—Every knitting board and forum has the same basic questions being asked time and time again.
So lets go over the basics.
Basic tools for knitting in the round are Double Pointed Needles (DPN’s)
These come in size (US sizes/mm sizes) and lengths.
The common sizes are from 000 to size 15.. (about 2mm to 20mm)
The common lengths are 5 inches to 14 inches –with 7 to 8 inch long ones being the most common.
DPN’s commonly come in set of 4 needles and in sets of 5 needles–today, sets of 5 are more common, but there are still companies that sell sets of 4. But DPN’s can be used, in sets of 6 or 7 or 8—by buying 2 or more sets.
Circular needles are (think about it!) another form of a double pointed needle! It is common to abbreviate and use the term Circ’s when referring to circular needles.
Circ’s are labeled by sizes (US sizes/mm sizes) and lengths, (inches or mm). For the most part I refer to US sized, and inches for lengths.
The common sizes are from 00 to 15—but it’s not as hard to find uncommon sizes (like 000 or 35!) as it is with DPN’s
The common lengths are from 16 inches to 40 inches (or about 28mm to 1 meter) but there are lots of places that carry uncommon lengths (12 inches or 47 inches, or even 60 inches).
Both DPN’s and circulars (circ’s) come in a wide range of materials
Aluminum, nickel coated brass, steel, bronze and precious metals, bamboo, birch, ebony, rosewood and other natural materials–nylon, plastic (various sorts of plastics) and glass.
Circulars, also come in INTER CHANGEABLE sets—there are lots, and complete discussions about the various sets on every knitting board. Essays have been written on the subject. I will give a brief over view, but not a detail review.
Interchangeable sets consist of tips (about 6 inches long) that screw or snap on, and cords of various lengths that can be use, as is, or joined together to make any length cord desired.
Most set include connectors (to connect the cords) and ‘buttons” or ‘end caps’ that allow you to use the cord as a stitch holder, by removing the needle tip(s) and replacing one or both with a button/end cap.
Set come in different material, and different ranges of sizes.
Most set can be, (if you find you don’t like something about the set) resold on Ravelry, Ebay or on knitting BB’ds swap forums for about 90 to 95% of what you originally paid for them. (Especially true if you bought them when on sale or if you use a discount coupon for the purchase). So don’t be afraid to try a set–Sometimes, a LYS will have several brands of sets, and you can try out different materials before purchasing.
Circ’s can be used singularly, or 2 at a time to knit in the round.For very large projects, more circular needles can be used.
A single LONG length circ can be used—for any number of stitches –using a method called Magic Loop—Circs that are 40 to 47 inches long are the most common size for Magic Loop knitting, but in some cases, a 32 inch needle is long enough.
—More on using DPN’s and Circ’s in parts 2 and 3
When knitting in the round there are 2 basic styles:
Disks or Tubes.
The disks can be flat (perfectly!) or NOT–Cupped or domed disks are very common, too.
Doily’s, shawls, place-mats, “pinwheel’ blankets and other blankets are some uses for flat disks. Beret’s are make from flat disks, too.
Cupped disks are found at the top of hats, in knit (and felted) bowls, toes of socks, or other shaped items
Both flat and cupped disks often turn into TUBES.
Tubes can be straight, or tapered or even something like an hourglass shape. Tubes can be straight, or bent.
Both methods–Flat disks, and tubes, can easily be combined.
Flat disk can change into tubes, and tubes can change into flat disks
A hat is a Tube with disk (usually a slightly cupped disk) or in the case of a beret, a complete flat disk(s).–The top, of a beret is a flat disk, and the underside is another donut like disk. Socks are shaped (bent) tubes with markedly shaped cupped disks (pointy toes!)
A hat can start at the brim (with a tube) and end with a disk (the crown)
Or it can start with a disk, (crown) and end with a tube (brim)
The same is true for socks(they can start at the toe or at the cuff,), mittens, (tip of the mitten or the cuff) and sweaters.(hem to neck band, or neck band to hem)
In some traditions of knitting, one method is more common than the other, but both work and both are ‘correct’
Sweaters knit in the round can start with a single tube (the neck line)
the tube can expand (rapidly!) and then be divided into 3 tubes (2 smaller ones are the sleeves, the large center tube will be the body)
Or you can knit 3 tubes (2 sleeves and a body) join them into a single tube, (shoulder/yoke) and end at the neckline.)
Part 2 The basic mechanics-Using DPN’s
When knitting flat, the knitting is worked in rows.
Each row is distinct. At the end of each row, the work is turned.
Half the row are worked with the Outside (right side) or publicly viewed work facing the knitter, and half the rows are worked with the inside( wrong side) or non public side of the work facing the knitter.
When knitting in the round the knitting is worked in rounds, which are really spirals.
Disks are knit in flat spirals (Think of the coils of a braided rug—or a snail’s shell.)
Tubes are coils, but stack ones. (Think of slinky toy—or of the spiral cord of a telephone)
Unless marked, it can be difficult to know where the beginning and end of one spiral is—so it is a common practice to place a marker at the point that marks the end of one coil and the beginning of the next. These are called Beginning of Round markers. (BOR marking is shorthand notation most often used.)Some knitters use the tail from the cast on as a beginning of round marker.
When you work in the round, the work is not so much turned, but cranked –the same side is always facing the knitter, but the work is turned (one third or one quarter)to the right.
This video shows one method of casting on (see below) and how to knit on DPN’s.
Closing into a round–Note the butterfly of yarn remaining from cast on.
Tail (from cast on) at 3 O’clock positionè
and the empty needle as 12 O’clock position
Tail of yarn at 6 O’clock position
Empty needle at 12 O’clock position
Tail of yarn at 9 O’clock position
Empty needle at the 12 O’clock position
Round 1 complete, tail is once again at 12 O’clock position.í
Look at these images– see how the tail of yarn from the cast on moves round? Moving from the 12 O’clock positions, to the 3 O’clock position, to 6 O’clock, to 9 o’clock and finally back to noon as the round is finished?
This is what I mean by cranking the work rather than turning the work (as in flat knitting)
The same side of the work is always facing the knitter, and to create stocking knit, you just knit every row.
Occationally (while working short rows, or other special techniques) circular knitting is turned—but 99.9% of the time, it is cranked!
The exception is when working with 2 circs, or with a magic loop,when the work is turned 180°–and ‘feels like’ flat knitting—but the right side or rather the same side of the work is always facing the knitter. What remains the same is: the right (outside) is always facing the knitter.
Each crank with 2 circ or magic loop knitting turns the work 180°–but the outside of the work is always facing the knitter.
Which brings us to a general rule:
When knitting in the round, the Outside (right side/public side) of the knitting faces the knitter –Unless the knitter chooses to work inside out!
Normally, when working in the round, the two needles you are working with are the closest needles in the set. The unused needles hang behind the work out of sight.
When the wrong side/non public side, the working needles are at the back of the work, and unused needles hang in the front of the work. This method is helpful when doing stranded color work in the round. It forces the unused strands to stretched round the work, and helps prevent knitting from being to tight.
The choice is a matter of tradition, both are right. But right side out is more common for knitters from a European heritage. Inside out is more common for Eastern (Asian), and for many South American knitters–who also tend to knit in an Eastern/Asian style
Usually, the knitter works with the working needles to the front of the work
Sometimes, the work will turn its self inside out, and a knitter will find them selves working on the right side, but at the back of the work.–almost every knitter has done this at least once—(and some knitters work this way all the time)
The solution is to turn the work so it’s right side out— that is. if you what you want to!
There is nothing wrong about working inside out, and when doing stranded (color) work there is a slight advantage to working inside out!
There are several techniques for making neat joins when knitting a tube.
And like all knitting, the names for the techniques are numerous.
You’ll find almost every knitter has a different name for the same process!
1—basic join—just join the work into a round
2 – Tail together join—Work the first few stitches of round 1 with both the tail and the working yarn.. be sure to treat these ‘double thread’ stitches a single stitch in the next round —-and also be sure to mark the true beginning of the round, since the tail will no longer mark it.
3 –Cross stitch join—the last stitch cast on is crossed (cable style) over the first stitch cast on—Usually by swapping the stitches from one needle to the other.
4—Plus one join—an extra stitch is cast on, and then repositioned to be the first stitch, on needle 1. Then this extra stitch and the first stitch are knit together (correcting stitch count.
5–Work a round or two, and then join. This method is useful for large cast ons, where it can be hard to be sure the cast on isn’t twisted
All of these methods (and others) are correct.
Sometimes Lapped joins are used, too… Especially on gurnsey type sweaters—With a lap join, at each side (where the side seam would be), stitches are overlapped and knit together. Lap joints are good for mittens and gloves too.
A lapped join is exactly as it sounds, pieces of flat knitting are over lapped, and then the stitches are knit together:
The last stitches, (W X Y Z)are over lapped with first, (A B C D) and knit together.
—Stitch D is knit together with Z
—Stitch C is knit together with Y
—Stitch B is knit together with X
—Stitch A is knit together with W
The total stitch count is reduced by 4—(by 8 if you over lap on both sides of sweater)
Lapped joints are usually made after 6 to 10 rows of knitting –and they can be uneven. The back of the sweater can be 2 inches (or more) a longer than the front when you join with a lapped joint. Deep over laps before the join, can be a nice detail on a casual sweater–and it makes it easier to get your hand into pants pockets. Just be sure to over lap the front onto the back.. Other wise, you’ll be fighting the direction of the lapped edge every time you try to put your hands into your pockets!
All of these methods for joining (and others) are correct. There are subtle, (and in the case of the lap join, not so subtle!) differences. The best way to join is the way that works best for you.
One concern with joining is being sure not to twist the first row of knitting.
If this row is twisted, there is no solution but to unravel and to start again.
(Well, actually you can leave a twist in the first round.. and correct it almost invisible in the second round, but…)
The secret to not twisting? I don’t know it. There are some tricks out there, but I find them as awkward and as time consuming as just paying attention to what I am doing!
A cast on like Long Tail (which looks different on each side), good light, and no distractions (sometimes this last bit is the hardest to arrange!) are the tools I need.
Curiously, I find it easier to join neatly and correctly when working with sets of 4 DPN’s (more than any other style of circular knitting) –but I prefer to work– these days– with 2 Circs (especially for socks) .
I sometimes cast on and join using DPN’s. Then I switch over to circ’s to continue the work. It is what works best for me.
I’ve tried the instructions for casting on half the stitches to one circ, and then casting the second half of the stitches onto a second circ—and the results are so ugly I rip them out. OBVIOUSLY—others have done this successfully. But not me.
An other method that works for me, when working 2 objects (2 socks, or 2 mittens, or 2 hats(I have twin granddaughter)–it to
1–cast on all the stitches for one item on one needle
2–cast on all the stitches for the second item on the second needle
3–As I join, I also repostition the stitches.
See this video, for directions on how to reposition the stitches.
In the end, the best method, as always, is the method that works best for you!
When knitting a TUBE—almost any cast on will work. Most often, a stretch cast on is desired—but there are almost no other limitations.
I like to cast on some stitches to Needle 1, then step stair style, some onto needle 2, and again to needle 3, and to needle 4.
so by the end of the cast on, I am holding all 4 DPN’s in my right hand.
(presuming I am doing a Long Tail or Long Tail variation cast on.
Then I lay them flat, double check to see the stitches aren’t twisted, and start knitting.
When knitting a flat disk, you can start with a conventional cast on, or with an eyelet (aka noose) cast on*, or with a provisional (aka chimney) cast on.
See the Cast on tutorial on this web sight for video directions to these cast on methods.
There are several methods; all look the same in the end. Start at the Eyelet/noose/belly button group.
Some knitters use other cast ons, and sew them closed.
A chimney cast on is a short bit of knitting in an alternate yarn, that is used to support the knitting/needles. After the work is completed, the chimney is unraveled (from the cast on edge) and live stitches of the working yarn are sewn into a drawstring with the tail of the working yarn. The chimney can be a few inches of I-cord.
Again, all the methods are correct, and the choice is yours.
It is slightly more common to knit flat disk from the inside (center point) out, than it is to knit from outside edge to center point. When knitting to a few stitches, a drawstring bind off is often used to create a similar effect to a eyelet cast on.
Are cut portions of knitting in the round–this tutorial is not going to deal with steeks! There are lots of tutorials about steeking—but really the best way to learn? Knit a swatch, (40 stitches is plenty-) by 20 Rounds—and practice making a steek in the swatch. It’s so much easier to cut a swatch than your real knitting for the first time.
Part 3: Switching from DPN’s, to Circ’s–
In the long history of knitting, most knitting in the round was done on DPN’s.
New knitters are often afraid of working with DPN’s—but find, once they try, they are not nearly as hard as they thought they would be.
Convention dictates that DPN’s are sold in sets of 4 needles or 5 needles-
Different countries have different conventions! But knitters are not limited to using these numbers. It is quite possible to use 6 or 7 or more DPN’s in a single project!
Circular needles are a rather new invention—the earliest circ’s had metal cords that resembled piano wire. The cords were stiff—and needed to be used with care, since the wire cords could (and did) break–leaving a rough edge that snagged each stitch.
By the 1960’s, new circ were introduced with nylon cords. These cords were stiff (by today’s standards!) but they were more durable and much easy to use then the wire cords.
Today, circular needles come in a range of materials, and with many different styles/material for the cords. The worst of the cords (Boye brand) are still 100 times more flexible than the old metal ones! Having learned to knit with all metal circulars, I don’t mind the stiff nylon cords of Boye brand needles. But I have to admit, I do like the newer more flexible cords found on many other brands nicer to use and knit with.
Most knitters today will use Circular needles to knit in the round—especially sweater or other garments.. Few knitters still use DPN’s for large items. Especially because it’s not easy to find sets of 14 or 20 inch long DPN’s, since so few knitters use DPN’s for sweaters, or shawls, or other items. But the internet does make it easier to find long DPN’s if you prefer them.
Circ’s are readily availability, at reasonable cost, so most knitters will use circular needles to knit in the round—Some knitter use circ’s almost exclusively—for both circular knitting and flat knitting.
Sock knitters are one of the converts–today, many sock knitters knit socks 2 at a time on 2 circular needles (often called 2 at a time, on 2) and others knit their socks on a single long circular needle using the “Magic Loop” method.
What is hard, for many knitters, is grasping how to convert their knitting/or knitting patterns from one method to the other.
I will attempt to show you the process—(you might want to knit along to increase your understanding.)
I will show you how to work your way from a tube of knitting worked on 5 DPN’s (a box like shape) to a tube worked on 4 DPN’s, (a triangle) to a tube worked on 2 circulars, to a tube worked on 1 circular.. The Tools change, but the knitting process remains the same.
If you’d like to knit along you need:
1 set of 5 DPN’s,
2 sets of circular needles (one should be at east 36 inches long)
(all the needles should be the same “size’ –that is size 8/5mm or some such size)
stitch markers.. 5 will be needed–if you use them. They are optional.
4 of the markers should be numbered (1, 2, 3, 4)—you can buy or make fancy ones (like these) or use something like those paper disks used to mark keys.
These markers, (and this tutorial) will help you understand no matter what number of needles are used, the process is really unchanged—and by using markers, you’ll be able to easily use any method for any pattern. I didn’t mark the stitches/needles as I worked–and you don’t have to either… it’s just an option.
Different methods for knitting in the round–
On a set of 5 DPN’s, Or 4 DPN’s, or on 2 Circulars and finally on a single circular.
Videos :; Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Part 4
Or use the tutorial below.
Step 1–cast on 48 stitches, 12 each on to 4 DPN- (5th needle will be use to work with)—at the mid point of each needle place a marker (# 1 on first needle, #2 on the second needle, and so on)
Step 2—Join into a round, and ‘crank’ out 1 round.
Use a stitch marker to mark the BOR. (I used the butter fly of yarn created from the cast on tail)
With 4 DPN’s holding stitches, the needles form a square that easily collapses into flat shape. (The fifth needle is used to work the stitches.)
Step 3—Change to a set of 4 double pointed needles.
A—Work the stitches on needle 1 (the first needle after the BOR)
B—Work the stitches from needle 2 and needle 3 onto ‘spare needle)
C—Put the now unneeded 5th needle away.
D—Work the stitches on needle 4 onto the spare needle
At this point you have an uneven triangle.The needles form a triangle than can easily be collapsed.
Needle 1 and needle 3 each have 12 stitches, but the third needle (the center needle) has 24 stitches.
(NOTE: this is just one way to divide the stitches, often the stitches will be divide equally, with 16 stitches on each needle.)
The stitches on needle this center needle are the stitch groups 2 and 3
If a pattern called for working on a set of 5 DPN’, and you only had sets of 4, you could easily ‘combine’ 2 stitch groups onto one needle—and either make a mental note when reading the pattern, or mark the stitches groups, to have a visual reminder of which stitches are the needle 2 group and which are the needle 3 group.
Step 4– Next round, start by working stitches on needle 1 with the spare DPN.
Then, using any length of circular needle, work the stitches from needle 2 onto the circular needle. (All 24)
Finish the round working the stitches on the last needle onto the spare DPN.
Only 3 DPN’s are being used now—One DPN has been replaced with a Circular–
If you think about it, a circular needle is a DPN—a long DPN, a DPN with a flexible cord in the center, but still, in all, a DPN!)
On the next round, again, start by working stitches on needle 1 with the spare DPN.
The stitches already on the circular needle can be worked by sliding the stitches to left tip of the needle, and bringing the other end of the needle round to be the right tip.
Work the stitches from this circular needle, onto the this circular needle.
This is easy to do with any length of circular.
Finish round by working the stitches on the last DPN onto the second Circular.
And then begin the next round by knitting the stitches on the remaining DPN (needle 1)onto this circ.
At this point, you can put the DPN’s away. All the DPN’s have been replaced with
2 circular needles.
The beginning of the round is centered of one of the circ’s.
NOTE—the BOR doesn’t have to be in the center—it can be at an edge too—
It is in the center because of the way we first divided the stitches. –
Normally when I switch from DPN’s to 2 circs, I end up with the BOR as the first stitch on one of the circs.
But it doesn’t matter how the stitches are divided—the stitch markers (numbered stitch markers) can be used to label each group of stitches–or you can just use the BOR to ‘keep track’–
In the example above, each Circular needle holds half the stitches. But this isn’t required, YOU can divide the stitches unevenly–a stitch pattern that isn’t even (say 7 repeats of a 12 stitch pattern, (84 stitches) might be easier to work if you divide the stitches UNEVENLY, with 4 repeats on on needle (or side of a magic loop, and 3 repeats on the other needle or size.)
When working, the stitches on the unused needle are moved to the center (cord portion of the Circ.) Always, the stitches are worked from 1 tip of the circular needle ONTO the other tip of the same circular needle.
In the beginning, it is helpful to have 2 different circular needles (either different materials, or different colors, or different lengths)—what ever works to help you keep track.
The stitches on each circular needle are worked from the needle back onto the needle. This style of circular knitting, doesn’t crank the same as work on sets of DPN’s. Instead, it feels like flat knitting—Each turn of the work is a 180°–but each side is knit (if working in stocking knit!)
Step 5—the last step is the easiest. Using the longest of the 2 circ, work all the stitches onto the single circ.
The stitches are kept in 2 group– A loop of the cord pulled to divide the stitches—as they are worked, the loop is continually recreated.
When one group of stitches is being worked, there are 2 loops of cord –one at each side of the work. At the end of a round (or half round, there is a single loop one side of the work, and the 2 tips of the needle at the other side.
This style of working in the round is called Magic loop—and with a magic loop a small number (48!) stitches can be easily worked on a long (36 inch or longer) circular needle.
A knitter could have ONLY 36 or longer circulars, and work any number stitches –from 4 to 400!–on a single circular needle. As the number of stitches increase, the loops will get smaller and smaller until they are no longer there at all!
Keeping track of which stitches are the needle 1 stitch’s, and which stitches are the needle 2 or 3 or 4 stitch’s gets easier with each project. But numbering the groups of stitches to correspond with ‘needles’ allows even a newish knitter to convert any pattern to this style of work.
Once you understand the different methods of working in the round, you can cast on and start knitting in that method–the interum steps here won’t be needed!
One last Note:
If you are working on a single circ, in Magic loop AND increasing, too you might find that you end up with too many stitches to easily work magic loop, but not enough stitches to work in the round comfortable.. There is an “in between” step, called Half Magic Loop or a Traveling loop) A video showing how to knit in the round using the Half Magic loop method–this is on the Golden Apple Face Book Page.
A Final Note on Interchangeable Needle Sets
I don’t intend to discuss the merits of the different sets of interchangeable needles –but…
Circulars are available as single needles,(2 tips and cord) and as sets of interchange able tips and tips.
Each interchangeable set has advantages and disadvantages–starting with the materials, the cords and the connection style. Each knitter has personal preferences! I for one love metal needles (and dislike bamboo)–So for me, the material is an important consideration! Some companies make sets in several material, others just have a single offering.
If I were starting out today, as a new (and in need of equipment) knitter—I think I would be buying some of the new interchangeable sets on the market.. ones with super flexible cords, and strong but easy to connect joints. Sites like Knitter’s Review, or Ravelry often have thread about the various brand, to help you chose the right set for you.
The cost of set of interchangables vary—but the range is from about $50 (US) to $100(US) –Not cheap, but each set is substancelly less than buying the same brand of needle individually. The set come with a range of tips, from size 2 needles, up to size 15, (that is 12 sizes!) and several cords. This allows you to create several different lengths, 36 or more combinations! So interchangeable sets, are a real value.
One knitter, liked the tips from set A (Boye Brand) but the cords from set B (Knit Picks). Unfortuately, the cords didn’t fit on Boye Brand tip. So, she bought a set of cords from Knit Picks, then went to a machinist, and had the machinist re cut the screw thread on the KnitPick set, to fit the Boye Brand tips!–there is no end to what knitters will do to find the set they want!
Most sets, (used) retain about 90% of there value, and can be resold on Ebay or Craig’s list for just a bit less than what you paid for them. So its not a bad investment to buy a set, any set, and see if they suit you. Recouping your investment is not that hard!