Knitting in the Round With Two Circular Needles

Woman knitting with two circular needles

 Esra Karakose / Getty Images

Overview
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Knitting in the round is the only way to make a seamless knitted tube, be it a hat, pair of socks, mittens, even the body or sleeves of a sweater. When knitting small circular projects like socks and the tops of hats, most knitters learn to work on four or five double-pointed needles. But another method of knitting in the round to make a small circumference uses two circular needles. Some prefer it because they dislike using double-pointed needles, others because it allows them to try on whatever they are making. Regardless, it is a great tool to have in your knitting toolbox.

For learning purposes it is best if the circulars you use do not match. It makes it easier to tell which needle tips to use as well as know when you are done with a round. The needles could be different colors, made from different materials, or be different lengths (16 to 24 inch lengths work best for this technique).

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 2 16 to 24 inch circular needles in size appropriate for yarn

Materials

  • Smooth yarn in light or bright color

Instructions

  1. Casting On

    Using your favorite cast-on and one of the circular needles (needle A), cast on the desired number of stitches. In this tutorial there are 18 stitches, created using the long-tail cast-on.

    Casting on stitches to work in the round on two circular needles.
    © Sarah E. White, About.com, Inc.
  2. Arranging Stitches on the Needles

    As when working in the round on double-pointed needles, you need to distribute the stitches onto the two circular needles.

    • Beginning with the first stitch cast on, slip approximately half the stitches from needle A (metal needle tips) to needle B (wooden needle tips).

    When slipping stitches, slipping them "purlwise" (as if to purl) ensures they stay properly mounted on the needles. Slipping knitwise (as if to knit) turns the stitches to face the other way.

    • With the stitches on the cables, arrange the needles so needle A (metal) is in back and needle B (wood) is in front. The working yarn should be attached to the stitch at the right end of needle A, as in the photo; the next stitch to be worked (the first one cast on) is at the right end of needle B.
    Stitches divided for knitting in the round with two circulars.
    Sarah E. White
  3. Joining and Working the First Half Round

    The trick to knitting with two circular needles is that you work in two half-rounds. When working across the stitches on needle B, you use the needle tips from needle B; when working across the stitches on needle A, you use the needle tips from needle A. That's why it's easier to learn if you have two needles that don't look the same: you're always knitting with the pair that matches.

    • Leave the stitches on the back needle (A) on the cable; push the stitches of needle B onto the end of B at right. Bring the other end of B around, and prepare to knit with it.
    • With the working yarn attached at needle A and using your favorite method, join to work in the round, being careful not to twist the stitches. Check that your working yarn is not inside the circle of stitches.

    Knit across all the stitches on needle B. These stitches will now be on the opposite end of the same needle. Slide them onto the cable of needle B; turn the work.

    Knitting in the round with two circular needles.
    Sarah E. White
  4. Working the Second Half Round

    Needle B's stitches should now be in back, with the working yarn attached to the last stitch on the right.

    • Leave the stitches on the back needle (B) on the cable; push the stitches of needle A onto the end of A at right. Bring the other end of A around, and prepare to knit with it.
    • With the working yarn attached to the back needle, knit off needle A, onto needle A.
    Working on the second needle when knitting in the round on two circulars.
    Sarah E. White
  5. Continue Working Around

    Having worked two half rounds, you have now worked one full round. It feels strange at first, but if you continue practicing it will become second nature.

    • *Leave the stitches where the working yarn is attached to the last stitch on the cable, and to the back; push the stitches holding the next stitch to be worked onto the needle tip, in front.
    • Bring the other end of that same needle around, and work the stitches of the needle. Turn the work. Repeat from * for second half of round.

    Continue working in the round, following your pattern or just practicing, until the process of slide, knit, turn, is second nature and working with the correct needle ends is automatic.

    Tip

    To ensure you work full rounds and don't accidentally stop at the halfway point, place a stitch marker at the beginning of the round.

    A swatch worked in the round with two circular knitting needles.
    Sarah E. White