Round And Round We Go January 10, 2013 – Posted in: How to, Thursday This and That

I’m sure you, just as myself, have those moments when we feel we’re running in circles. No matter how hard we try, at the end of the day we seem to be just where we started.

That is NOT what I mean to talk about. Instead, I’m going to tell you a little bit about knitting in small circumferences, i.e. socks, mitts, gloves etc. In this case, going in circles is good. You just have to figure out which method is to your liking and most comfortable for your style of knitting.


I just finished my “Blocks of Color Scarf” knit with 6 skeins of  ‘Road to China light’ in the round  on 16″ circular needles – I keep wearing it inside because it is soo soft. Going round and round can indeed be good!!

During my teaching experience I have come across a lot of fear of double pointed needles. They seem to be especially intimidating in smaller sizes, like 2.25 mm which I like to use for knitting socks. Granted, they look thin and pointy, slightly dangerous, but once you know how to use them there is really nothing to it. Or so I think. Other knitters vehemently disagree. It might have to do with the fact that I am knitting in the Continental Style (meaning I carry the yarn on my left hand) as opposed to knitting English Style, where you carry, or rather throw, the yarn with the right hand.

The larger percentage of my students are using double pointed needles quite happily after practicing their use. Then again, there are some who never come to terms with them and, lo and behold, there are solutions to that problem, too.

Double pointed needles come in various lengths. When I started knitting socks I just used what was already in my Mom’s needle stash, which would be a set of five needles, 20 cm (8″) long and 2.5 mm in size. This worked for me for years. Until I moved to the US and discovered US size 1 needles, which are just slightly smaller at 2.25 mm and gave my a bit tighter tension on my socks – which I think is PERFECT. The only problem was that the sets arrived in FOUR needles instead of five and I had to buy two packages. (I’m sure there is a reason for that, historically speaking, nowadays most sets come with five needles – most modern patterns are written for five.)

My new needles were also shorter than my old ones, which I found I liked. I had never really thought about it, but them being shorter did make a difference, and I do like using 15 cm (6″) long needles for knitting socks also, though my favourite needles to use are 7″.

You can find even shorter double pointed needles on the market: 12 cm (5″) and 10 cm (4″). Those are meant for really tiny circumferences, like fingers on a glove, or if you will, smaller socks for babies and kids. I found them quite helpful before Christmas when I knit a lot of doll clothes. I will admit, however, that I mainly use 5″ since I have big hands and the ends of the 4″ needles poke me in the heel of the hand which is quite uncomfortable.


From the top down: 7″ metal dpns, 6″ lacquered wood dpns, 5″ birch dpns. They are all the same size, 2.25 mm.

I am a staunch believer in double pointed needles, I think knitters should at least know how to work with them to make an educated decision about using them or not. In my opinion nothing beats the formation of a sock on double pointed needles,  to me there is a rhythm and certain symmetry to it that cannot be achieved with any other method.

Of course I do not insist on you using dpns if you ABSOLUTELY do not want to. Thankfully there are other options. Needle producers have come up with really short circulars, as short as 23 cm (9″). There are also 30 cm (12″) circulars to be had, which (I will happily admit to that) I sometimes like to use for knitting sleeves. I do not use the 9″ circs, they are too small for my style of knitting, I cannot arrange my hands to knit in my usual style, and my fingers cramp up when using them. Having said all that, I know a few knitters who swear by them and use them happily ever after.


Short circular needles: 23 cm (9″) on top, 30 cm (12″) below. Both size 2.25 mm.

Some inventive knitters (I do not know who came up with them first) have even found methods to not have to buy any dpns or short circulars at all – instead they use two regular circulars or use the “magic loop” method, for which any needle 80 cm (32″) or longer is suitable. (I cannot help myself but tell you that I do not like using either, having said as  much I have to clarify that these methods are NOT worse methods of knitting, but a personal preference!) You can find great instructional videos on if you are interested in learning them.

Round and Round

Top left: 5 double pointed needles – the stitches are evenly distributed on four needles and you knit with the fifth. 

Top right: 23 cm (9″) circular needle – knitting the leg and the foot on the small circulars you still need double pointed needles for the heel and the toe

Bottom left: two circular needles – the stitches are distributed on two circular needles and are knit in turns on each, the system is similar to the method of the double pointed needles

Bottom right: magic loop method – you need a long needle, 80 cm (32″) or longer; I find the success of this method relies heavily on a very supple/flexible cable on your needle (mine was a bit thick and inelastic)

Whatever you decide your preferred method of knitting small circumferences in the round is or will be, all necessary tools are available at the store!

– Mona