Topics on this page:

How to knit with a circular needle: in the round

Why does my stockinette stitch now look like garter stitch?

How to knit with a circular needle: flat

How to knit a faux in-the-round swatch

Knitting inside-out: how to prevent & fix it


How to knit with a circular needle: in the round

scroll down for instructions on knitting flat with a circular needle

1) Select a circular length that is appropriate for the project you are knitting. The circular length should not exceed the circumference of the knit object.

For example, a hat with a 22" circumference should be worked on a 16" circular instead of a 29" circular. (At some point you will probably start decreasing for the top of the hat. When the stitches no longer fit around your 16" needle then you will have to switch to two circulars or double-pointed needles to finish it in the round.)

There's an exception to almost every rule: You can use a single 40" circular to knit a small circumference but don't concern yourself with that technique until you feel comfortable using a circular to knit a regular size item.

2) Cast on the required number of stitches.

3) In the photo above you can see the first cast-on stitch is on the left needle and the last cast-on stitch is on the right needle. The working yarn that leads to the skein of yarn is on the right needle.

To start the first round:

• Place a stitch marker on the right needle, next to the last cast-on stitch. This is so you'll always know when a new round starts.

• Make sure all the "bumps" of the cast-on stitches are facing down (or in) so the stitches are not twisted after you make the join.

• Insert the right needle into the first cast-on stitch on the left needle. (See photo below.) Knit one stitch. Tug the yarn after the first stitch (or two) to help prevent a gap in the join. (Note: Reference books may contain other tips for joining the circle. For example you can cast on one extra stitch and K2tog the first and last cast-on stitches. I like to have the first and last cast-on stitches swap needles, pulling one through the other with a crochet hook in the process. Experiment to see what looks the best to you.)

• Work around in this manner (right needle goes into stitch on left needle) until you reach the marker. One round is completed. Slip the marker back to the right needle and continue on to the second round, just as you worked the first.

In the photo below the right needle has been inserted into the first stitch on the left needle. The yarn is wrapped around the right needle and the first stitch is just about to be pulled through.


Why does my stockinette stitch now look like garter stitch?

If you're accustomed to knitting flat on straight needles then you're already familar with three basic stitches:

flat knitting:

  • garter: knit every row
  • stockinette: knit 1 row, purl 1 row
  • reverse stockinette: purl 1 row, knit 1 row

You must do all three differently when you're knitting in the round. This is because you're knitting in a spiral rather than back and forth.

in the round knitting:

  • garter: knit 1 round, purl 1 round
  • stockinette: knit every round
  • reverse stockinette: purl every round

Most of the time the pattern you're using will have already taken this into consideration. However some designers just write "Work 20 rounds of stockinette stitch" and you'll end up with garter stitch instead of stockinette if you knit 1 round, purl 1 round.



How to knit with a circular needle: flat (not in the round)

Q. Hello, I am trying to knit an afghan using circular needles. I am quite used to using straight knitting needles but thought since my project is a large one, I would try using circular needles. I cannot seem to figure out what to do once I am finished with one row as I do not want to connect the sides together.

A. Pretend the two ends of your circular needle are not connected at all, like you snipped the cord in the middle. It's exactly like knitting with two straight needles, the needles swap hands at the end of the row.

If that still doesn't make sense then read on, I'll break it down:

After the stitches are cast on hold the full needle (with all the cast-on sts on it) in your left hand and put the empty needle in your right hand. Knit one row. Now you're going to change hands, as if you were knitting with two straight needles. Put the full needle in your left hand and the empty needle in your right hand, and knit (or purl) another row.

At the end of every row just have the needles change hands so the empty needle is in your right hand.

If you put your knitting down at the end of a row and come back to it later remember to put the full needle in your left hand and the empty needle in your right.



How to knit a faux in-the-round swatch

Q. Is it true that the gauge (sts/inch) will change if I knit my gauge swatch flat and then knit my sock or hat in the round?

A. It's certainly possible, due to differences in your knit and purl tension.

Quick reminder: When you knit stockinette flat you are knitting a row and then purling a row. When you knit stockinette in the round you are knitting every round, you never purl to achieve stockinette in the round.

Knitting a gauge swatch in the round can be a pain. You have to work on it twice as long to end up with the same width to measure as a flat swatch: an 8" circular swatch is 4" when flattened to be measured. There are two ways around this:

1) Knit a 5" circumference circular swatch (make it a good 3" - 4" tall) and then cut it once down the side so it's 5" wide flattened. You can't rip out the swatch to use the yarn in a shortage emergency (without a ton of ends to weave in!), but it works.

2) Make a flat no purl stockinette swatch (aka faux in-the-round swatch) with circular needles or double-pointed needles.

Instructions: Cast on a likely number of sts to equal approx 5" and knit a few rows of garter stitch to prevent curling. Now you're going to switch to faux in-the-round stockinette. Knit a complete right side row. Slide the sts to the opposite end of the circular/dpn and place that needle in your left hand. Strand the yarn very loosely behind the swatch and knit another row. Repeat until you swatch is at least 3" - 4" tall and finish off with a few more rows of garter stitch. Look ma, no purls!

This is a lot like making i-cord but you don't pull that stranded yarn tight, it has to be VERY loose to avoid distorting the swatch when it's being measured. The edge stitches are sloppy and must be avoided when measuring for gauge but that's OK, this is a swatch and not a work of art.

Optional: You can cut the yarn at the end of every row to avoid stranding it behind the swatch but that renders the yarn almost useless for shortage emergencies.

Q. How do I know the number of sts to cast on for a 5" swatch?

A. Guesstimate. If you're aiming for 8 sts/in then multiply 8 x 5 = 40. Cast on 40 sts and if your gauge is close then your swatch will be approx 5". Due to edge stitch distortion you should measure over 4" to determine gauge (instead of measuring the entire width of the swatch and adjusting your needle size based on whether or not it hits 5" exactly, that won't be accurate).



Knitting Inside-Out: How to prevent and fix it
(Some people prefer to knit inside-out, do whatever works for you.)

The following pictures apply to all knitting in the round, whether you're using dpns, a single circular needle, two circulars at once, or the Magic Loop.

Hold your needles so the working stitches are closest to you and the stitches-in-waiting are in the background. Work as usual, knitting stitches off the left needle onto the right needle.

The photo below shows the working stitches in the background and I'm knitting into the center of the tube, which causes the item to be knit inside-out.

If you're knitting inside-out it's easy to fix: push the fabric through the circle formed by the needles so the knit stitches are on the outside. Pick up the needles with the working stitches closest to you and you're back on track. In the photo below I paused in the middle of pushing the sock down through the needles.

Ready for more circular knitting?
Learn how to knit small circumferences on two circulars or on one long circular. The two techniques are nearly identical, which you use will likely depend on the circulars you have on hand or your budget for buying new circs.

If you have knitting questions please refer to the message forums on Knitter's Review or or the Livejournal Knitting community. All three sites offer free accounts.

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