If you have already mastered knitting a flat piece by going back and forth, then the next natural step to “level up” your knitting skills would be learning to knit in the round.
Knitting in the round allows you to create one seamless loop by joining the end of one row with the beginning of the next row.
This technique allows you to make socks, hats, and sweaters in various sizes with little to no sewing required. Mastering knitting in the round will allow you to work on a wider range of projects and expand your knitting collection.
In this article, we will provide you with the ultimate guide to knitting in the round to help you get started on your first project using this technique.
Knitting in the Round – What to Know First
Knitting in the round may seem confusing at first, especially when you first learn how to join the round – it can be difficult to keep the stitches straight without twisting the row.
However, when you master the skills, you will probably prefer knitting in the round over knitting a flat garment. This is simply because you don’t have to switch needles or adjust your stitches so much compared to knitting a flat piece.
Knitting in the round is usually achieved with circular knitting needles or double-pointed needles. Whether you are knitting with circular needles or double-pointed needles, the process of establishing the round is quite similar.
You will knit in one continuous loop, starting by connecting the end of the last row with the beginning of the next row without turning to the other side. After establishing the first row, you don’t have to worry too much about twisting or adjusting your needles since the transition between the last row and a new row is quite seamless.
Avoiding Gaps When Knitting in the Round
When establishing the loop in the first round, if the transition is not smooth enough, you may see a noticeable gap between the end of the last row and the beginning of the next row.
There is a way to minimize this gap when you first establish the loop. Note that you can use these methods whether you are using DPNs or circular needles.
Here’s how to do it:
- Using your preferred cast-on method, cast on one more stitch than what your pattern calls for. (E.g. If your pattern calls for 70 stitches, cast on 71). This won’t affect your pattern later.
- After the cast-on row, join the beginning and end of the cast-on row by knitting the last stitch of the cast-on row, making sure that the loop isn’t twisted.
- Then, using your left needle, insert it into the second-to-last stitch on the right needle, and pass it over to the stitch you just knitted (one stitch has been decreased; you are back to the number of stitches called for in the pattern).
This method will allow you to combine two stitches while establishing a link between the end of the last row and the beginning of the new row so that no noticeable gap can be detected as you knit in the round.
How To Join in the Round on Circular Needles
Circular needles are knitting needles that have two straight needles at two ends, joined by a metal or plastic cord in the middle.
Circular needles are measured from tip to tip, and the most common lengths are 16 inches, 24 inches, and 32 inches, although you can find circular needles as long as 60 inches. Knitting in the round using circular needles is suitable for making garments like hats and sweaters.
When joining the round with circular needles, you will first need to make sure that you have enough stitches to cover the entire length of the circular needle cord, at a minimum. This means that the smallest loop that you can make with circular needles is often around 16 inches. But you can always purchase smaller cords from many manufacturers.
If you need to make smaller loops, you will need to use double-pointed needles or use the magic loop method, which we will cover below.
Here’s how to join in the round on circular needles:
- Using circular needles of the right length, begin casting on your stitches, adding one additional stitch to what the pattern requires. Before joining the round, make sure that all of your stitches are facing inwards so that the round is not twisted.
- Then, using the method described above to join the round without gaps, decreasing the last cast-on stitch and establishing a seamless loop. You can use a stitch marker to mark the beginning of the round here since it can be difficult to identify the beginning of the round after knitting for a while.
- Continue knitting in your established pattern. When you finish your project, don’t forget to weave in the loose ends at the cast-on edge.
How to Knit in the Round With Double-Pointed Needles
Double-pointed needles (DPNs) come in sets of four or five straight needles, each with two pointy ends. DPNs allow you to pick up stitches and knit with both ends of the needle.
Each set of DPNs allows you to knit in the round by dividing the stitches evenly among three or four needles, and with the leftover needle, you knit in the round. When you finish all the stitches in one needle, you can use the new empty needle to move on to the stitches on the next needle.
DPNs are perfect for knitting small loops, too small to fit in the shortest circular needles. You can use DPNs to knit socks, mittens, or similarly small garments.
Troubleshooting With DPNs
Here are a few tips to help you knit in the round with DPNs.
1. Avoiding Ladders
One issue you can have with using DPNs is the appearance of “ladders.”
Ladders are gaps that can happen between the stitches of two DPNs. When you transition from one DPN to another, you will need to pull the yarn tightly to reduce the appearance of ladders. You can also move stitches from one needle to the next one to minimize this effect.
2. Casting On
Setting up the round with DPNs can seem daunting at first since there are so many needles that you have to figure out.
We suggest casting on using one “regular” straight needle first. This helps you make sure that you have the right number of stitches and an even distance between each stitch. You’ll also want to cast one additional stitch to establish a link between the beginning and end of the loop.
Then, divide the number of stitches evenly among three or four DPNs (make sure to leave one empty DPN to knit with). For example, if you have 60 stitches and a set of four DPN, you would have 20 stitches on three DPNs with one empty DPN to knit with.
Transfer your stitches from the straight needle to the DPNs.
Insert the DPN purlwise and slip the stitch off the straight needle. When you have the right number of stitches on one DPN (in the previous example, 20 stitches), use another DPN to pick up the next 20 stitches, and so on.
When all of your stitches are transferred onto the DPNs, make sure that the stitches are not twisted. This is especially important on the end stitches on any DPN.
Then, start joining the round. Using the empty DPN that you have, knit the beginning of the round, making sure to pull the live yarn tightly so that the end of the cast-on row is tightly linked to the new row.
If you have cast on one extra stitch, you can pull the last stitch of the cast-on row over the stitch you just knitted in the new row to create a seamless link.
Then, you can continue knitting in the round, making sure to pull your yarn tightly when you switch needles to reduce the appearance of ladders.
Transfering Projects From Circular Needles to DPNs
When you have already established the round but need to reduce the circumference of the loop – like when you knit the crown of a hat or make decreases (reducing the number of stitches) to a sweater’s sleeve – you can transfer your stitches from circular needles to DPNs.
First, divide the number of stitches you have by the number of DPNs. Make sure to leave out one empty DPN to knit with. If you have 60 stitches and a set of four DPNs, for example, divide 60 stitches by 3 to get 20 stitches on each DPN.
If you have an uneven number of stitches, that’s okay. 1 or 2 extra stitches on one needle versus another isn’t dire; just make sure the stitches are as equal as possible across your needles.
How to Transfer Stitches From Circular Needles to DPNs:
There are two ways to transfer stitches from circular needles to DPNs:
1. If you are a beginner, you can divide the stitches first without knitting. Start at the beginning of the round and use a DPN to pick up your stitches. (Insert the needle purlwise and slip your stitch off the needle without knitting.)
When you have the right number of stitches on one DPN, move on to the next DPN. Pick up the same number of stitches. When you have successfully moved all of your stitches from the circular needle to your DPNs, you can start knitting in the round as usual.
2. If you are a more advanced knitter, you can knit as you transfer stitches from circular needles to DPNs.
Using a DPN on your right hand, knit in your established pattern until you have the right number of stitches on one DPN. Then, switch to the next DPN, continue knitting in your established pattern until you have the right number of stitches.
Repeat this step until you have successfully knitted all of the stitches from your circular needles. Then, you can start knitting in the round using your DPNs.
What is the Magic Loop Method in Knitting?
The magic loop method is an advanced knitting method that allows you to knit in the round to make circles of any length using a set of long circular needles.
So even when knitting socks or mittens, you can still use your circular needles to knit these small loops.
The magic loop method will relieve you of the constraints of small circular needles and DPNs. You’ll easily avoid the look of ladders because the transition from one needle to the other is quite seamless.
Making a Magic Loop
To knit using the magic loop method, you will need a set of long circular needles, at least 16 inches or so in length. This length will allow you to knit comfortably while not leaving a long cord hanging outside of the working area.
Here’s how to knit with a magic loop:
- Cast on the required number of stitches.
- Then, push your stitches to the middle of the cord. Find the middle point that divides your stitches into two even portions.
- Bend the cord in half with this point in the middle. Pull the cord outward through the middle of the stitches so that your circular needle is divided into a “back” and a “front” portion with even stitches on each half. Make sure that the stitches are all turned inwards and that they are not twisted.
- Hold your work so that the first half of the cast-on row is facing you (front), and the second half of the cast-on row is in the back. Both of the needles should now be hanging on your right side.
- Pull the front portion of the cord so that the front stitches are scooted up onto the front needles while the back stitches are still on the cord.
- Knit with the empty back needle in your right hand and the front needle in your left hand. (Do this for every row.)
- When you first establish the loop, make sure to pull the yarn tightly so that there’s no gap at the joint. Then, you can knit following your pattern across all of the stitches on the front needle.
- When you have knitted all of the stitches on the front needle, flip the work to the other side – your back needle has now become the front. Pull the cord from the left side so that the front needle is now holding the stitches you are about to knit. Pull the back needle towards the right side so that the back stitches are now placed on the cord portion.
- You can now knit the stitches on the front needle using the empty back needle and adjust the cord following similar steps when you have finished all the stitches on the front needle.
Here’s a helpful video from Very Pink Knits demonstrates how to get started on your project using a magic loop:
This method allows you to knit in one continuous loop with minimal effort. This is especially useful when you need to make small loops for socks and mittens. When you have mastered the magic loop method, you can be as creative as you like. You can make anything you can think of using just a set of circular needles.
How Do You Knit a Circle With Straight Needles?
Straight needles have a lot of limitations, mainly because you can only knit a flat piece on them. You cannot knit a loop using only straight needles. However, there is a way to knit a flat circle using straight needles.
You can knit a circle with straight needles using the short row technique, which allows you to shape the circle by only knitting the stitches on the outer portion of the circle while maintaining the stitches in the center of the circle.
If you are interested in finding out more, there are a lot of free patterns out there that show you to knit a perfect circle using only straight needles.
This free Seamless Circular & Hexagonal Cloth pattern, for example, gives you detailed instructions to knit a perfect circle using straight needles.
When you knit a circle using straight needles, you will need to sew the cast-on edge and the cast-off edge together to close the circle.
Some knitters do not prefer this method because of this very reason. However, if you only have straight needles and want to make a simple circle, you can explore this pattern to test your skills.