Circular knitting guide

Knitting in the round/Circular knitting - Tips and techniques

Knitting in the round isn't as scary as it looks and once you can do it it gives you a whole host of options for things that you can knit and means less seaming and more knitting! Like me, you may find that you prefer knitting in the round because everything is attached and you have no chance of putting one needle down and not being able to find it again!

I personally prefer knitting in the round using circular needles and so my tutorials will involve using circular needles.

Knitting in the round - The bog standard way!

The standard way of knitting in the round involves spreading your stitches all the way round your circular needle so you have stitches sitting on both needles and around the cable. To do this you need to have cast on enough stitches to fit around your circular needle so if you're knitting something small you need to have a short circular needle and if you're knitting something big you need one with a longer length. Another way round this (and the way I do things) is to always use a long needle and adopt the magic loop method for when you're knitting something small and that method is described below. For the time being we're going to assume that you've got enough stitches to fit all the way round your needle and will be knitting in the round in the 'bog standard' way!

  • Cast on as you normally would and then once you've cast on your desired number of stitches then spread them round the cable so there are some on both needles. If your stitches won't fit onto both needles then you will need to use the magic loop method which is a bit confusing at first but easy once you get used to it!
  • Your right knitting needle should be the one with the tail of wool on and those are the last stitches that you cast on.
  • Make sure that all your stitches are facing the same way otherwise you will get a twist when you join your work and make it into 'a round' and that'll make all of your knitting twisted!
  • Put a stitch marker in front of your stitches on the left hand needle (so in front of the first stitch you're going to knit). I just tie a small piece of different colour wool on. This is so you know when you've knitted all of the stitches in one row because otherwise as you're working in a circle you won't know where it starts and where it ends!
  • To join your work all you need to do is knit into the first stitch on your left hand needle and use the yarn which will be on the right hand needle to knit with. Always make sure that your stitches are still facing the right way otherwise you'll get a twist! You will need to have good tension to make sure that you're not left with a gap in your work, but don't knit so tightly that the first stitch is so tight that you can't get it back on the needle!
  • Knit all of the stitches until you get back to the stitch marker and you've completed your first round! If at this point you have a 'gap' between your last and first stitch, don't worry because this will close once you've done a few rows. Then just slip your stitch marker over and keep knitting as the pattern dictates, after a couple of rows you don't need to worry about your work twisting because it should start to hang down from your needles and it'll be obvious if it has twisted. 
  • An important point to note about circular knitting is that when you knit every stitch it is actually purling and if you're purling it looks like garter stitch. This is because when you're knitting in the round the 'inside' of the work is actually the outside and you're not turning your work like in regular knitting.

    Magic Loop - A cool sounding way of avoiding buying a million different circular needles

    Magic loop is a knitting method which I found a bit tricky to get my head round at first but once I'd cracked it I realised how simple it was! This technique means that you can knit really small things on long needles and once you've cracked this technique it means that you can use 80cm circular needles for everything rather than having to buy different length needles to fit whatever you're knitting. I find it slightly more time consuming than normal knitting in the round but once you've got into the swing of it then you can still knit at a fair pace!

    This technique basically involved knitting half of your stitches at a time and sliding the stitches around your circular needle in order to be able to do that! Here's a more detailed guide for you:

    • To start, cast on your stitches as you would in regular knitting and as you did above for normal knitting in the round. Even amounts of stitches are recommended for this one!
    • Once you've cast on all your stitches slide them all onto the cable and find the halfway point. So if you've cast on 64 stitches, count 32 and then hold the cable at the point between the 32nd and 33rd stitch.
    • Pull the cable through so that your stitches are split in half. So using the example of 64 stitches in total, you should have 32 stitches on the right side of your cable, and 32 on the left side of your cable. Slide each set of stitches onto their retrospective needles.
    • As with normal circular knitting, the stitches with the wool attached should be on the right hand needle. It is especially important in magic loop that your stitches aren't twisted as it's easy to do! On the left needle your stitches should be aligned as they are for normal knitting with the cast on edge facing into the centre like in this picture:
    So if you had two needles (as you do for magic loop) the left needle would look like the one above and the right needle would look like that picture flipped the other way up, so the cast on edge would be facing upwards instead of downwards like in that picture and that piece of yarn that you can see dangling down would be joining the two sets of stitches. So basically your cast on edges are both facing each other with a piece of yarn joining them together.(I will take a picture when I can)
    • From there, you then slide the stitches on the right needle (the stitches with the yarn attached) down onto the cable, making sure that they stay up the right way and are not twisted! Put a stitch marker in front of the stitches on the left hand needle.
    • You will then go to knit your first stitch and this is exactly like in normal circular knitting but instead of the stitches being on the right needle they are on the cable instead. So you knit into the first stitch on the left needle and use the wool from the stitches on the cable to join the work. I will remind you again to make sure your stitches aren't twisted! Another very important factor to consider is that the cable is thinner than your needles so when you're knitting your stitches don't pull the wool too tight otherwise when you need to slide your stitches back onto the needle you won't be able to get them back on (believe me I've been there)! I know you'll be worrying about your knitting not joining properly, but as with normal circular knitting, any gaps will close once you've done a few rows.
    • Once you've knitted all of the stitches from the left hand needle onto the right hand needle you then slide the stitches on the cable onto the (now vacant) left hand needle. Make sure your stitches are facing the same way as they were before you even started knitting, with the cast on/knitted edge facing into the middle and facing each other.
    • You then slide the stitches from the right hand needle onto the cable as you did before and repeat what you did before, so making sure the stitches haven't twisted you then knit the stitches on the left hand needle using the wool which is attached to the stitches on the cable. 
    • Once you've knitted all of those stitches, slide the stitches on the cable onto the vacant left needle. You've now knitted one round and your stitch marker should now be at the top of your left needle ready for a new round. Well done!
    • You then keep going by always having the stitches that you're knitting on the left hand needle and the stitches that you're not knitting sitting on the cable. When you've knitted half of your stitches you then slide the stitches on the cable onto the left hand needle and slide the stitches on the right hand needle onto the cable.
    I will be back with pictures and videos soon to make this page a bit more user friendly but for the time being I hope this technique guide has been some help!