Intro to Circular Knitting

I had been putting off trying knitting in the round since I learned the basics in January last year, so when I was asked to make hats for Apostleship of the Sea and managed to find the perfect pattern for free, I decided to give it a go.  Here is my tips for starting circular knitting using that same pattern.

You will need:

  1. A copy of the 1×1 Ribbed Hat pattern
  2. A 4.5mm 16-24inch long circular needle (I used a 16 for pure aran and 24 for the heavy, because I use the Knitpro system and they have nothing between 16 and 24″.  The length of circular needles is measured from point to point; ig you use an interchangeable system, cable lengths will usually refer to the total length of the needle when using a standard-length tip.)
  3. 1 set of 4.5mm double-pointed needles (5 is best, because the maths is easier and 4 makes a triangular piece that is harder to see taking shape and can create a more pointed top that goes out of shape a bit when worn.  Bamboo is also the most tactile and smooth material to work with.  These needles are just for the decreases, as they are too short for the main body of the hat.)
  4. 41 grams or more of worsted weight  100% acrylic yarn (Robin Chunky is the only one I know produced in this country, I used aran with wool and knit quite tight to stick to the tension)
  5. A closed stitch marker (you don’t have to buy ready-made markers, a scrap of yarn tied onto the needle will do it)
  6. A private room (having time in quiet makes learning any new skill that much easier)


Do a gauge swatch before starting, and use a different size needle if necessary.  I was able to use standard aran by casting on and knitting tightly, but had to use 4 mms when working with a slightly thicker yarn.  Most knitters are taught to wrap the yarn from right to left, but I found that wrapping from left to right makes tighter stitches.  I am naturally a loose worker, often needing to use needles a mm thinner than suggested for patterns.

Cast on as normal on the circular needle, then spread the stitches out around the entire length, making sure that they all face inwards as usual.  If the stitches reach easily from point to point without stretching too much or being in danger of falling off, you have the right length needle for you. If the stitches are stretched, go for one slightly shorter. If they’re too crowded, go for one a little longer.

Now it’s time to join the stitches.  The usual way is just to knit the first stitch on the left tighter than you usually would, and you know that you’ve done this successfully when there’s a short length of yarn in the gap between that stitch and the last that you cast on.  If you have to look carefully to notice it, it’s the right length, but if it’s quite obvious or there’s no length at all, undo the stitch and try again.  If you have tried unsuccessfully at least 5 times and your patience is wearing thin, there is another way, but it is a bit of a cheat and learning the other method sets you up nicely for learning other things later.

ONLY READ THIS IF YOU CAN’T JOIN YOUR STITCHES SUCCESSFULLY   Slide the right point into the first stitch on the left (the last one you cast on) and slip in onto the right end of the needle, then take the second stitch there (the first one you cast on) and pop it on the left end.  Knit the first stitch tightly, then continue in pattern.  Don’t forget to put a stitch marker on the right tip after you have done the first round, as this makes it easier to tell when you’ve finished each one, and just slip it onto the correct tip as you go round.

If you  aren’t doing the stripe and don’t want to keep reaching for the tape measure, knit 10 rounds and then measure 1 vertical inch of you knitted fabric, starting at the bottom of a stitch.  Count how many stitches are in that inch, and multiply by 6.  I had 6 stitches per inch with aran, so did 36 rounds before decreasing, and 4 per inch in heavy aran.


It makes it so much easier for you to switch to the double-pointed needles as you start the decrease, and I will tell you how I made sense of working with them for the first time.  With double-pointed needles, the work is held on 3 or 4 needles and you are constantly working from one of these to the last needle.  To keep your work from sliding off the needles, try to keep the other needle free of stitches when you stop work and slide the held stitches to the middle of each needle.  If you find any part of my explanation difficult, it’s time for a break.

First, divide the total number of stitches by 3 or 4.  In this instance, 80 divided by 4 for a set of 5 needles is 20 which means that you will start working with 20 stitches per needle; divided by 3 for a set of 4 is messier, 26.6 per needle so that you will have extra stitches on the last of these needles.  I will be giving instructions for 20 stitches per needle, as I haven’t yet tried it with 26 (I will edit to include that way when I do).

With the left point of the circular needle in your left hand and the first empty double-point in your right, knit 7 stitches in pattern (knit, purl, knit, purl, knit, purl, knit) from the left-hand needle to the right.  Yep, that’s just how you knit all the time so far.  I had to break it down a bit so that it made sense to me, and it really isn’t too scary when you do so.  Knit the next 2 stitches together, then purl 1.  You should now have a total of 9 stitches on the right needle; if not, retrace the steps.  Knit 7 more stitches in pattern, knit 2 together, purl 1.  You should now have 18 stitches on your needle, including 2 stitches 2 decreases.  For each needle, repeat this process twice: knit 7 in pattern, knit 2 together, purl 1.  When you have transferred all the stitches from circular needle to the double-points and have 1 empty double-point, you have just done a great first bit of knitting in the round.

Once you have got to this point, the hard part is behind you and it will start to feel more natural and comfortable.  Repeat the process that you used for each needle above, changing the 7 to a 6 for this round, then a 5, 4, 3, 2, and finally 1.  You have just 2 more rounds to go when you get to this point.  You will have 2 stitches on each needle, and will knit them together to make 1 as you go round.  It’s pretty tricky to balance 2 needles with 1 stitch on them while trying to knit those stitches together, so slip the stitch from the next left needle onto the right as you go, ending up with 4 stitches on 1 needle and the others empty.  You have just completed a hat, and done knitting in the round with a circular and double-pointed needles for the first time.  I bet you feel pretty amazing!

At this point, I was glad that Liz had posted a picture of the top of her hat as I was sure that mine wasn’t neat enough.  The reassurance of my friends and looking at that photo told me that I was being overly critical.


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