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6 Helpful Tips For Knitting in the Round

This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

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Knitting in the round can seem daunting, but with a bit of practice, it's no more difficult than knitting on straight needles. Here are some tips that I hope will make it a bit easier!

1. Circulars and Length

The appropriate circular needle length is the same size or slightly shorter than the circumference of the piece you are knitting. If it's too short you'll have trouble keeping all the stitches on the needle; if it's too long, the fabric will be stretched too taut (this is why you need to switch to double points when decreasing the crown of a hat).

2. A Neater Join

For some people, the usual way of knitting the first stitch of the round can be loose and therefore sloppy. You can tighten it up with the tail when weaving in the end later.

A better way to join it the round can be to cast on one extra stitch. Slip this stitch to the left (the first needle if casting on to double points); this is the beginning of the round and next to the first stitch you cast on. Then knit the two stitches together.

Still better, slip the first stitch you cast on to the right, next to the last cast on stitch. Pass the last cast on stitch (which is now the second stitch on the right) over the slipped stitch, give the yarn a tug and begin your round.

3. Which Double-Pointed Needles to Buy

Aluminum needles can be slippery and your stitches will always want to slide off. Try bamboo or plastic.

Double points come in different lengths. Longer ones can be a bit more awkward but for larger number of stitches, you’ll need them so your stitches don't fall off.

They come in sets of 4 or 5. If you have the option, always buy 5; then you'll have it if you need it (and if one disappears you'll have a spare!).

4. Ladders

"Ladders" are the visible loose "rungs" or "bars" between knit and crochet stitches, which run up the piece where the needles join. sometimes they become exaggerated when knitting in the round; sometimes you see them when knitting on circular needles but they are much more common while knitting with double points. Take special care to knit the first and last stitch of each needle tightly. If you still have trouble with ladders, knit all the stitches from one needle plus one from the next needle on the spare needle. This way, the spot where the needles join will not be consistent.

5. Change from Circulars to Double Points

Sometimes you decrease, as with the crown of a hat, and need to change from circulars to double points because the number of stitches will no longer fit on circulars without stretching. You could just knit the entire hat on double points but most people find circulars a bit easier since you aren't juggling multiple needles.

To switch, just work the next round with your double points. You can either determine before hand how many stitches should be on each needle by dividing the number of stitches worked by 3 or 4 (number of needles) or just knit and adjust afterward by slipping stitches to various needles.

6. The Beginning of the Round on Double Points

Although some people can tell which which needle is the beginning of the round because it's the point where the length is even or because of the yarn tail at the beginning of the piece, it's easier to mark the beginning or end of the round for quick reference. Place your marker one stitch in on the last needle (the end of round) or the first needle (the beginning of the round) so it won't fall off. It doesn't matter which as long as you know if it's the first or last needle.

If you are decreasing, you may need to move the marker depending upon where your decreases fall. You can place it anywhere along the needle so as you continue to decrease, you won't need to move it every time.

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