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The beginner’s guide to using circular knitting needles with ease
Circular knitting needles, does it sound like greek? Are you a beginner on circular knitting needles? Then you have come to the right place!
I love knitting with circular needles (it’s actually the only kind I ever use) and as every person with a passion, I want to shout it out from the rooftops.
So, if you’re willing to spend a couple of minutes I’m going to tell you ALL about it in this guide of circular knitting needles for beginners. Please feel free to scroll to find the parts most valuable for you!
What are circular knitting needles?
Circular knitting needles are two needle tips linked together by a cable. They are available as fixed needles and interchangeable. Interchangeable means that they can be disjointed and put together as you wish, more about that later!
The circular knitting needles can be used for a variety of projects. On a circular needle, you can knit in the round and flat. You can make small projects and big ones.
If you are sore or arthritic in your hands or wrists circular needles can be a good choice. The cable helps take the weight off your hands, wrists, and shoulders and let you rest the project on your lap.
Different sizes and materials
The tips are usually between 4 and 5 inches long and come in a range of materials. There are tips made of stainless steel, bamboo, acryl, carbon and different kinds of wood like rosewood and ebony.
The cables are made of nylon or nylon coated metal, they can be very flexible of a little more stiff. Some cables are swivel, that means that they can rotate in the joint and doesn’t twist. Some are not.
How to use a circular knitting needle
There’s actually not much difference in how you knit on circulars compared with straight needles or double pointed ones. It’s just more comfortable for your body and fewer needles to juggle.
Knitting flat on circular knitting needles
When knitting flat you use the circular knitting needles just as you would use straight needles. Work all the stitches on one row and turn your work over to do the next row.
If you aren’t knitting backward, then you do that instead of turning!
Click here to learn more about knitting backward instead of turning your work over and purl back when doing the stockinette stitch. There’s both a photo + text tutorial and a video tutorial there for you, enjoy!
Knitting in the round on circular needles
When knitting in the round you cast on the stitches, join in the round, and knit just with for double-pointed needles. For smaller projects like socks, the magic loop method is useful.
Fixed circular needles vs interchangeable needles
What are interchangeable knitting needles?
Interchangeable knitting needles are needles that you can take apart and put together as you wish.
You have pairs of tips and separate cables that you assemble to fit your current project. Then you can remodel them for the next.
If you want interchangeable needles, choose one of the sets of tips and cables to get the best value for your money.
The benefits of using interchangeable knitting needles:
- It doesn’t take as many parts to get a whole set of needles. You only need to have one pair of tips of every size and cables in the lengths you like to go with them.
- The price. A set of interchangeable needles are on the more expensive side. But you won’t need as many as if you go with the fixed ones when you need to get several pairs in the same needle size to get all lengths you want. It will be a good deal with time.
- Organization. It’s much easier to keep your tools in order if they come with a practical case with a place for every piece. (And when they aren’t as many. )
- You can take the tips off and change them in the middle of a project if you need to change the size off the needle.
- Need your tips for another project? Just take them off and add stoppers to the cable ends.
- Need a longer cable? Get a connector and put two cables together, creating a longer one.
I always knit on my HiyaHiya interchangeable needles, because I love them and think they are the best needles on the market. You can get a set for yourself at Amazon!
What are fixed circular knitting needles?
Circular knitting needles that aren’t interchangeable are called fixed needles.
The benefits of fixed circular needles:
- The price: If you just want to but a couple of circular needles to try if you like to knit with them. Or for a special project that requires a long cable. The fixed ones are cheaper to buy.
- They can’t come apart. If you are concerned about your knitting needles coming apart while using them maybe the fixed ones are for you. They only come apart if they’re broken. But, I have to say that my HiyaHiyas rarely unscrews and if they do it’s only because I have been too lazy to bring out my needle grip and tighten them correctly.
Circular knitting needles vs straight needles
What are straight needles?
This is the type of knitting needles we recognize from movies and images. The straight needle is pointy at one end and has a stopper in the other.
Straight needles come in a variety of materials like steel, acrylic, wood, carbon, and resin, just as the tips in the circular needles.
When knitting on this type of needles you are limited to knitting flat. For example, a sweater has to be knit in flat pieces and then sew together.
All the weight off the project are resting on the needles which can be tiring for hands, wrists, and shoulders. You need more space to knit with straight needles as they need to be quite long to hold all your stitches.
The benefits of circular needles compared to straight needles
- The circular needles are more versatile, you can knit flat, back and forth, on your circulars. But you can also knit in the round with them. You can do big and small projects on them.
- You can knit sweaters in the round and if your cables are long enough you can try the sweater on during the process.
- The circulars are easier on your body as the weight is on the cable and the bigger projects easily can rest on your lap while you work.
Circular needles vs double pointed needles
Double pointed needles are the ones traditionally used to knit in the round, especially socks. You usually have four needles in your project and knit with the fifth one.
Double pointed needles are pointy in both ends, hence the name.
The benefits of circular needles compared to double pointed needles
- You can knit all projects done on double pointed needles with circulars too.
- It’s easier to keep track of two needles than five, at least for me the sock needles (double pointed needles) will slip out of the stitches if I’m not careful!
- And, as mentioned a couple of times before: The circulars are useful for all kinds of projects. The double-pointed needles are just for those small projects.
What to consider when buying circular knitting needles for beginners
There is a lot to consider when choosing the perfect knitting needles. Here are some tips to help you on the way. But remember, the most important thing is that you find needles that you like!
How long do you prefer the tip to be?
It should fit nicely in your hand, if it’s too short it can feel like you’re not gripping it. If it’s too long it may feel like it’s in the way. It’s common with tips that range between
Do you like sharp tips?
Pay attention to the needle points. Do you like to knit lace or stitch patterns with a lot of increases and decreases or the thinner range of socks? In that case, I guess you need some really sharp tips.
If your more likely to knit with yarn that splits easily, maybe a little more blunt tip is a better choice.
Which material to choose?
Some like the wooden tips because it’s warm to hold and the stitches don’t slip off as easily as for smoother needles.
Others want the smoothness and sturdiness of stainless steel and even others like the lightness of the acrylic tips. Carbon is both light and smooth, but a little more pricey.
Choose a cable that’s flexible, this is always important but even more if you plan to knit magic loop. Look for swivel cables, they rotate in the joint and that mean that they won’t twist and bend as cables can do.
Different lengths of circular needles
This is a hard one because knitters use their circulars in different ways, but here are some tips.
I always choose a long cable over a shorter. That’s because I like to knit both small projects like hats, socks, and mittens and large ones like cardigans, sweaters, and shawls. I need a long cable for those bigger projects. But I want it for the smaller too, I prefer to knit magic loop over knitting with a short cable, I think it gets a bit fiddly!
Other knitters may want to have a short one for socks, a little longer for hats and a really long one for shawls or blankets. And some may use two circulars rather than doing magic loop or knitting on one short. Think of how you like to do!
Have a look at the joints between the tips and the cable. Are they smooth enough? If they aren’t your yarn will get snagged there, and that’s really annoying.
And to wrap it all up:
I think that circular knitting needles outrange the other types of knitting needles for every kind of project. Because they’re so versatile and can be used in several ways.
And I think the interchangeable knitting needles are a better choice than the fixed. They are even more versatile than the fixed ones and you can put them together as you wish. As a result, you won’t need to get as many needles if you go for the interchangeable ones.
This doesn’t mean that I think you have to throw all of your knitting needles in the garbage and head over to Amazon to order some new ones. But I think you should consider trying the interchangeable needles!
If you’re new not only to circular needles but to knitting in general, I certainly think that you shall try the fixed circular needles first. And if you feel that knitting is the “sport” for you and that you like the circulars. Then you should definitely buy a set of interchangeable knitting needles. See the price on Amazon.
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