Wake and Whimsy

Knitting With Circular Needles: A Guide For Beginners



If you have been following my blog, you know that I have only been knitting for a little over a year. I have come a long way in a short time, but have avoided things like circular needles, cable knitting, double pointed needles, and the magic loop (whatever that is!) Straight needles and seams have been my best friends in this journey so far! A lot of people think seams look messy, but I personally have no problem with them. Seams are in everything we wear, so I feel like it’s not a big deal to have them in my knitted items as well. Besides, they are hardly noticeable from the outside.

Well a few nights ago, I was feeling ambitious and decided to try circular needles. I bought a pair of them several months ago in hopes that I would be brave enough to try them one day. Knitting with circulars was a very enlightening experience. I watched several YouTube videos, but only one proved to be helpful. With that being said, I’m going to share with you what I learned my first time around. (get it? ;)) Or in other words, the things that I wish the videos had told me! So if you are still a beginner like I am, and have been putting off knitting in the round with circular needles, here are some things you may want to know when you decide to start.

Let’s start with the good news: Casting on and casting off are the same as with straight needles. Hurray! I was worried it would somehow be more complicated, but it was exactly the same as using straight needles. It doesn’t start to get “weird” until after you cast on. I only saw one video where they told me that the needle you would normally hold in your left hand with straight needles, you hold in your right hand with circular needles. In the picture below is what it looks like working with straight needles. Although your right needle is your working needle, mostly everything is connected to your left needle.

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

When knitting with circular needles you will actually switch your needle (that you used to cast on) to your right hand instead of leaving it in your left hand, and begin working from there. Like I said, only one video told me this, so it makes me wonder if it is absolutely necessary or just a preference. It seems like it would have to be that way for it to work, so that’s what I did and it worked great. You can see in the picture below how everything is connected to the right side.

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

One thing I found to be important are stitch markers. I never really understood the purpose of these before, and I actually didn’t use them for my first circular needle project. I didn’t use them mainly because I do not have any! But, for the project I’m working on now, I am just using a bobby pin. When using these needles, you are working in rounds instead of rows, so it is really easy to lose your place in terms of where the next round begins. This can be a really big issue when you’re trying to follow a pattern, and also knowing where to start binding off. You put the stitch marker on the beginning stitch of each round. When you’re done knitting the round, your marker will be on your left needle. So you just take it off, switch it to the right, and begin again. I got lucky with my first project, and just happened to count it perfectly. It was really confusing though without a stitch marker.

Now, here is something funny about these needles: Knitting = purling. What? I know right? I sat down and just started knitting with my circular needles only to find out that one side of my work ended up looking purled. Apparently, if you want a garter stitch, you have to alternate between knit and purl for every round. If you want a purl stitch, you knit every round. So basically, it is the exact opposite of straight needles! That was a surprise for sure.

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

I turned my first project into a little cowl. I have to say…no seams does look nice.

So although that seems really backwards, some more good news is that ribbing is the same as straight needles. For the project I’m doing now, I wanted ribbing on the bottom. Luckily, you just alternate stitches, knit and purl, continuously — just like straight needles!

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

Lastly, make sure you really pay attention to what size needles you’re buying, because it is a lot more important than straight needles. With straight needles, you can cast on as little or as many stitches as you want, but with circular needles you have to cast on enough stitches to fit all the way around or it isn’t workable. Straight needles come in a large variety of lengths and widths, so just pay attention to what your pattern calls for.

To sum it up, what I have noticed so far is that straight and circular needles are more similar than I realized. There are only a few slight differences, but nothing too crazy. I’m sure I’ll discover more, the more I use them, and the more complicated my projects get. I’ll be sure to keep you updated with everything I learn along the way!

In other news, I just started making these little guys!
Made with Repix (http://repix.it)Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

Aren’t they just adorable? They are quick and easy to knit up, they’re functional, and have lots of personality. I can’t wait to gift them out this coming holiday season.

Happy Knitting!


7 thoughts on “Knitting With Circular Needles: A Guide For Beginners

  1. Thats was a really helpful post. I did the same as you re using utube to teach me. The thing I had trouble with to begin was actually joining the row together and my first attempt I didnt do it as I had just purchased the needles and please dont laugh, I thought it joined automatically…..crazy hey. Thats when I turned to utube. When I did work it out, not twisting the row was a chore but I managed it.
    There did seem to be several ways of joining but I prefer the popping the “first stitch over the last stitch ” but then u r short one stitch so I then add another stitch ..I am sure I made this up Alicia but it wirks for me. I did purchase some gorgeous stitch markers but more often than not I use the piece of wool left from cast on to work out where I started. Naughty arent I.
    After all this I will tell u and everyone that I adore these needles and as I only started knitted again last year after a 35 year hiatus, thanks to the arrival of my gorgeous granddaughter Ava, I am really proud of my achievements. I started with tiny beanies and they look so much better without joins.

    • I’m so glad you are back knitting again, and that I’m not the only one who relies on YouTube for help! 🙂 Thanks for sharing some of your helpful tips!

      • Its a pleasure…..i have so many patterns now and not enough time to do them…I need to become a hermit for a while and just knit knit knit……..I need to find a tshirt with I love to knit on it xxcc

  2. Such good explanations. I might just try my circular needles after all.

  3. Thank you i must try knitting in round .this has given me conferince to try


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