How to Use Circular Knitting Needles

We explain in detail how to knit round and flat with circular needles, give some general knitting steps, and explain how to finish knitting.
Jean Chaney
Jean Chaney
Research Writer
Jean is the brains behind her fashion label. She's a whiz with a needle and thread, and has been sewing since she was old enough to hold a pair of scissors. Jean has always read more
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Isabel Misner
Isabel Misner
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Last updated: August 08, 2023
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Are you new to the world of knitting? If you are a beginner, you may be wondering how to use circular knitting needles. Circular needles are easier to work with and more versatile compared to straight needles.

Circular knitting needles are usually made of bamboo, resin, metal, or plastic and have a special design where two hard tips are joined by a flexible cord which is able to hold stitches.

You can also pick the size of the cord according to the requirements of your knitting project. While knitting can be a fun hobby it’s important to learn more about the knitting equipment so you can hone your skills and make amazing creations.

Circular knitting needles actually simplify knitting Trusted Source Knitting needle - Wikipedia Using circular needles has some advantages, for example, the weight of the fabric is more evenly distributed, therefore less taxing, on the arms and wrists of the knitter and, the length of the cable may be longer than would be practical with rigid needles since the cable and fabric rest in the lap of the knitter rather than extending straight out past the arms. and eliminate complicated steps you would have to go through with more typical knitting methods.

In this article, we will be covering circular knitting needles in great detail. From how to use circular needles to how you can pick the right size! We will be covering everything!

When and Why Do You Need Circular Knitting Needles?

How to Use Circular Knitting NeedlesIn Case you aren’t entirely new to the world of knitting and have some experience, you may be wondering; why and when do I need a circular knitting needle? Why can’t a straight needle do the job?

Well first and foremost, circular knitting needles are simply more comfortable to use. Since they allow you to place your knit work on your lap instead of the needles, they remove the strain from your hands, wrists and shoulders.

This can feel like a blessing when you are working on heavier knitting projects. They are also convenient as they allow you to easily carry around your knit work. Since they are sturdier, you are less likely to lose the needle in case you decide to knit while travelling.

Circular knitting needles are also a good option since they are highly customizable. You can choose to buy a circular needle that comes with a detachable cord and then attach a cord that fits your requirements.

You can also pick and attach needles of different sizes. You can also find circular needles that work without cords. You will not enjoy such convenience and ease of customization with straight needles. Now that you know when and why to use circular knitting needles, let’s go more in depth into how they work and how you can pick a good option.

Choose the Right Size

How to Use Circular Knitting NeedlesGetting the size of your circular knitting needle right can be instrumental for the success of your knitting project. Circular knitting needles come in a variety of different sizes ranging from 20cm (7.9 inches) to 150cm (59 inches). Some of the most popular lengths for circular needles are 40cm, 60cm and 80cm (15.7, 23.6, and 31.5 inches respectively).

One guiding principle when choosing the length is that your needle should be shorter than the diameter of the knitting cord. It is especially important to follow this rule when you are knitting in the round method.

In case you are working on smaller projects such as socks, cuffs or mittens, it’s best to use a needle of 22cm or 30cm (8.7 or 11.8 inches). However, you should also consider your comfort. Shorter needles will have shorter needle points which some people find cumbersome to knit with, especially if your hands are small.

40cm (15.7-inch) needles are generally great for sewing sleeves, hats and smaller-seized jumpers. In case you want to knit an adult-sized cardigan or sweater, you should opt for a needle that is 60–80cm (23.6–31.5 inches) in length. In case you are working on an even bigger project such as a blanket or throw, you should opt for an even larger needle of size 100cm to 150cm (39.4 to 59 inches).

How to Knit with Circular Needles

How to Use Circular Knitting NeedlesIf you are new to knitting or are accustomed to straight needles, using a circular needle will require some practice. Here are some simple steps through which you can perfect knitting with circular needles.

The first step is to pick the right needle for your project. Make sure you follow the guide we have detailed above.

  1. You need to hold the tips of your circular needle the same way you hold it for a straight needle.
  2. Casting on is also easy, simply do it the way you would for a straight needle. Let the stitches slide to the left needle and keep casting until the stitches have covered the entire cable and till the tip of the right needle.
  3. In order to join your stitches in the round, you need to turn your knit work over and so your yarn is not on the right side.
  4. Continue to knit round and round. Make sure you mark a point in your knit work so you can see where to begin a new round.

This is a basic guide to knitting with circular needles. While there is a lot more you can do with circular needles, once you have mastered the basics you can move onto more advanced methods.

We will also help you understand the difference between knitting flat and knitting round with circular needles.

Knitting Flat

Knitting flat basically refers to knitting back and forth like you typically do with straight needles. You have to knit along one side and then flip the work to knit the other side. You do not have to join in the round which is normal practice for knitting with circular needles.

Knitting flat with a circular needle is convenient and much easier than knitting with a straight needle even!

Circular needles end up being great for knitting flat as the long cable can accommodate a lot of stitches on the needle since the stitches can move along the cable. Knitting flat is a great option for knitting sweaters, blankets and other larger projects.

Knitting Round

Knitting round with a circular needle is actually how you traditionally use circular needles. When knitting round, you have to cast the stitches on one circular, make sure they are cast evenly and then slide them along the cable. You eventually end up working in a continuous spiral.

This is a straightforward method and makes knitting a comfortable experience. However, make sure that the cast runs smoothly and does not loop or tangle with the needle.

How to Finish the Knitting

Finishing the knitting is something beginners often struggle with. When it comes to circular needles, finishing can be a little complicated. While there are different methods based on what project you are doing, there are some basic tips you should follow.

If you are knitting round a hat then in order to finish, cut your yarn but leave behind around 10-inches, thread this tail into your needle and then pull it through the next 8-10 stitches. After this remove your needles gently.

When it comes to finishing knitting, it is not enough to simply reach the final row. If you leave it at that, your project might actually unravel. You need to carefully cast off/bind off your stitches. This essentially means you have to slip stitches over each other as a way of securing them.

After you reach the end weave in the loose tail and then you have successfully finished the knitting for that particular project!

Final Thoughts

If you have experience in knitting, you will find it easy to use circular knitting needles. There are also many circular knitting kits available online that have everything you need to switch to circular knitting. Knitting with circular needles is great as it is less tedious than knitting with straight needles.

It is also less of a strain on your hands and wrists. This means knitting will tire you out less. You can also safely knit on your commutes without worrying about dropping and losing your needles.

Having read this article, you now know how to use circular knitting needles, how you can pick the right size and then use it for different methods. We wish you luck for your knitting journey!


Knitting needle - Wikipedia
Using circular needles has some advantages, for example, the weight of the fabric is more evenly distributed, therefore less taxing, on the arms and wrists of the knitter and, the length of the cable may be longer than would be practical with rigid needles since the cable and fabric rest in the lap of the knitter rather than extending straight out past the arms.
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