4 Important Tips for Knitting on Circular Needles

Article by Emma Lane

Using circular knitting needles goes beyond simple knits and purls. Find out tips for knitting on circular needles and how they can help you knit better.

The amazing thing about circular needles is they find their way into knitting bags all over the world. They are convenient, versatile, and can be a great needle for new knitters.

However, despite the worldwide love, there’s still some confusion about how to use circular knitting needles.

4 Tips for Knitting on Circular Needles

Circular needles can be used to knit everything you would knit on single pointed needles, and many things single points can’t knit.

The extent to which you can use circular knitting needles, and the variety of projects they adapt to, has a lot to do with how you use them. As you might imagine, a circular needle used to knit a hat is going to be used differently than a circular needle used for knitting a shawl.

Tip 1: Removing the Cable Kink

Many circular needles use nylon for the cable – even the best knitting needles use it. But the problem with nylon is that it takes on the shape it’s stored in. As you open your new needles from the package, the nylon cable will be tightly kinked and curled. It won’t want to straighten.

You can easily fix this by placing your circular needle in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes. Tap water is fine! The heat from the water will remove the cable kink, allowing you to straighten the needle out.

Tip 2: Sizing Up Your Circular Needles

Not all circular needles have the size marked on them. Companies like addi print the size on the cable, but in your years of knitting, you’re most likely going to find needles without markings. This can be solved with a needle size checker. Size checkers are inexpensive tools that allow you to insert a needle tip into a hole to determine its size.

Tip 3: Refining Your Gauge

When you knit in the round, you’ll probably find that your gauge is different than when you knit flat. That’s why it’s always important to make a gauge swatch according to how you’re going to knit – a flat swatch for knitting flat and a “round” swatch for when you knit in the round. And if your project requires both flat and round knitting, make sure to make a swatch for each.

Circular swatches are frequently small tubes measuring at least 8” in circumference and at least 5” long. If you don’t want to make a tube, you can also make a hat, a sleeve, or a sweater neck.

Tip 4: Size Matters

When knitting in the round, it’s important that your circular needle is the correct size. The needle length should be equal to or smaller than the circumference of your fabric.

If the length is too long, it will be hard to stretch the stitches around the length when knitting in the round. This can cause your yarn to stretch and the fabric to be larger than you want or need. The first time I knit a sweater, the needle I used for the sleeves was slightly too large. The yarn never recovered, even after blocking. Sleeves that I intended to hug my arm and wrist, now bell out quite loosely.

If the length is too short, it can be hard to join your knitting in the round without twisting it. It can also be difficult to knit if you have to many stitches on the needle. And if you’re knitting flat, it’s very easy for stitches to fall off when switching sides or putting your work down.

knitting on circular needles

4 thoughts on “4 Important Tips for Knitting on Circular Needles”

  1. I am knitting a sock pattern and am now decreasing the toe. As I get to the last 4 or 5 rows(less stitches of course) the needle doesnott move properly. the cable in the middle wont move so I cannot knit properly it’s all tight?!Why please?

  2. Thank you for your reply. I took the advice to finish on double pointed needles and it worked! I would never have thought of that and I have absolutely no idea why that should work but it did and thank you again. I always say – you can learn something new every day!!

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