When we need to work in the round with a small number of stitches, we have a few options – we can use double-pointed needles, one short circular needle or one long circular needle with the magic loop technique.
Alternatively, we can use two circular needles of any length to make socks, mittens, hats, cowls, baby sweaters or any other projects with a small diameter. There is only one condition – both circular needles should be of the same needle size.
Let’s see how we can work in the round with two circular needles in two different ways. If you prefer to watch a video tutorial, click here.
This is the most common way to knit in the round with two circular needles. It works great on any occasion when we don’t have enough stitches to comfortably spread them on one circular needle. You can use this way to make any project, no matter how small – socks, mittens or even small toys.
The general idea is to divide stitches into two equal groups and to assign one circular needle to each group. It is similar to the logic behind the magic loop technique, but instead of keeping two groups of stitches on the same long circular needle, we’ll host each group on a separate needle (think condo living vs semi-detached houses :-))
Cast on all stitches to one circular needle. The type of cast on does not matter, use any cast on you like. To get the initial set of stitches shown in the photo, I used the long-tail cast on.
Slip half of the stitches to the other circular needle.
Align the needles and move both groups of stitches to the cables of the circular needles.
Rotate the needles so that one needle is at the front (let’s call it “front needle”) and the other needle is at the back (“back needle”). The working yarn should be at the right side of the back needle.
Make sure the stitches are not twisted around any of the needles.
Now we are ready to start knitting.
Pull the front needle to the left to bring the first group of stitches to the tip of the needle.
Pick the other tip of the same circular needle and work the stitches of the first group according to the pattern you follow.
After you work all stitches of this group, pull the needle to the left to move the stitches to the cable of the needle.
Turn the work. Now the working yarn is at the right side of the back needle.
Repeat these four steps to work stitches of one group with the needle assigned to this group, and then work stitches of the other group using the other needle.
Because each needle is dedicated to a certain group of stitches, it helps to use circular needles with tips in different colours or with tips made with different material. For example, you could use one set of needles with metal tips and one set with bamboo tips. This way, you won’t accidentally mix up the needles.
This technique is very similar to using one short circular needle. Because we don’t rearrange stitches two times in each round, this way of working with two circular needles is faster and more pleasant than way #1.
The only downside is that we need to have enough stitches to form a circle on the needle – at least 100 stitches if you use medium weight yarn and needles with standard tips. We can’t use this way to knit socks and mittens (unless we make them two-at-a-time), but it is perfect for making adult hats, cowls and small sweaters.
Cast on all stitches to one circular needle.
Slide the stitches to the other tip of the same circular needle.
Spread the stitches on the needle forming a circle so that the needle tip with the stitches is at the front and the working yarn is at the right side of the work. Make sure the stitches are not twisted around the needle.
Take one tip of the other circular needle in your right hand, pull the working yarn closer to the first stitch and work stitches in the round as you would do when you use a short circular needle.
At the end of the round, take the empty circular needle in your right hand and use the same process to work the next round, and the round after that, and the one after that until you finish the project.
I stumbled upon this way when I was knitting Everyday Tee for my 3-year-old grandniece. Because the circumference of the tee is small, I didn’t have enough stitches to fill the length of my 60 cm / 24″ circular needle. So I divided the stitches in half and started working in the round using the classic way of knitting with two circular needles described as way #1 above.
A few rounds into the project I started to wonder what will happen if I keep all stitches on one needle and knit them from one circular needle to the other. I gave it a try, it worked and I used this new (at least to me :-)) way to finish the body of the tee.
No matter which of these two ways you decide to use to make your project, your knitting will be accompanied by a soothing sound of clicking – a perfect soundtrack for relaxing pastime.
If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:
“Neat Side Edges” Book
Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.
Dealing with Unfinished Projects
Dictionary of Knitting Symbols and Abbreviations – E-Book
Eastern (Russian) Knitting Simplified
How to Shape Neckline Without Binding Off Stitches – E-Book