Knitting with double-pointed needles (abbreviated DPNs) is a great way to knit small-circumference circular items such as socks and the crowns of hats. Though it is also possible to knit those things with circular needles, it is very handy to know how to knit in the round using double-points.
Juggling multiple needles can be confusing and awkward at first. Here are some tips to make it a little easier.
Casting onto DPNs is probably the most troublesome part for beginners. Typically, you will work with three or four needles and have a spare for doing the actual knitting. Take your time with this part so you set yourself up with a good foundation for your project.
When casting on for knitting that will be worked on double-pointed needles, cast onto just one needle. You can then distribute the stitches onto the other needles as needed.
To move stitches from one needle to another, slide the cast on stitches down the needle so that the first cast-on stitch is close to the end. Use the second needle to slip the stitch (as if to purl) onto the needle.
Patterns will typically tell you how many stitches should be on each needle. If not, get as close as you can to the same number of stitches on each needle.
Join your stitches in the round as you would for circular knitting. Make sure that all of the bumps of the cast-on edge are pointing inward and double-check that you have no twisted stitches before you join. One easy way to do join is to swap the first cast-on stitch with the last cast-on stitch, but there are many other methods.
Once you have your stitches distributed, you may want to slide a stitch marker between the second to last and the last stitch on the last needle. This will mark the end of the round. You can also simply use the cast-on tail as a guide as to which needle is the end of your round.
Knitting With Double-Pointed Needles
The first row or two of knitting in the round with double-pointed needles can feel pretty awkward, but go slowly and it will get easier.
To knit, hold the needle with the first cast-on stitches on it in your left hand and the empty needle in your right hand and knit as normal. When the needle in your left hand is empty, put it in your right hand and knit from the next needle on the left. Let the remaining needles hang as you work.
It's important to knit tightly when you switch between needles. If the yarn is too lose between needles, you will get a gap in your knitting. This is commonly called laddering. To prevent this, be mindful of pulling a little tighter when you make the first stitch on each needle. You can also periodically shift one or two stitches from one needle to the next to move the position of the space between the needles.
Some patterns call for four double-pointed needles, while others call for five. You can really use either as long as you understand how any pattern directions that talk about needle numbers would change if you have more or fewer needles than the pattern calls for.
Instead of making a tube, circular knitting with double-pointed needles is often used to make something that is closed at one end, such as a hat or a sock. Because of this, the traditional method of binding off is not used.
The pattern will tell you how to finish off the remaining stitches. This may be by grafting or simply sliding the stitches off the needle onto a yarn needle and pulling tight.