Choosing Needles for Circular Knitting

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Circular and double-pointed needles are designed for knitting in the round and, as Chapter 2 explains, come in the same sizes as regular knitting needles. When you select circular or double-pointed needles for your projects, keep these things in mind:

1 Circular needle: The needle length you choose for your project must be a smaller circumference than the tube you plan to knit; otherwise, you won't be able to comfortably stretch your stitches around the needle. For example, to knit a hat that measures 21 inches around, you need a 16-inch needle because 21 inches worth of stitches won't stretch around 24 inches of needle (which is the next size up from a 16-inch needle). We know it sounds counterintuitive to need a needle smaller in circumference than the knitted project, but the problem is that, because there's no break — no first stitch or last stitch (after all you're knitting a tube) — you can only stretch the fabric as far as you can stretch any two stitches. A 21-inch circular project won't knit comfortably on a 24-inch circular needle because you can't easily stretch 2 stitches 3 inches apart.

ëWhen you first take a circular needle from its package, it will be tightly coiled. Run the coil under hot water or immerse it in a sink of hot water for a few moments to relax the kinks. You can even hang it around the back of your neck while you get your yarn ready; your body heat will help unkink the needle.

1 Double-pointed needles: Lengths vary from 5 to 10 inches. The shorter ones are great for socks and mittens, and the longer ones work well for hats and sleeves. Aim for 1 inch or so of empty needle at each end. If you leave more than 1 inch, you'll spend too much time sliding stitches down to the tip so that you can knit them; if you leave less than 1 inch, you'll lose stitches off the ends.

If you've never used double-pointed needles before, choose wooden or bamboo ones. Their slight grip on the stitches will keep the ones on the waiting needles from sliding off into oblivion when you're not looking.

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