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Circular knitting
or knitting in the round, is a form of knitting that creates a seamless tube. Originally, circular knitting was done using a set of four or five double pointed needles. Later a circular needle was invented; the circular needle looks like two standard knitting needles connected by a cable between them. Machines also do circular knitting; these use individual latch-hook needles to make each stitch in a round frame.

Many types of sweaters are traditionally knit in the round; Norwegian ski sweaters are knit this way. Even cardigans--the knitter makes a Nowegian-style pullover and then the knitting is stitched with a machine to prevent unravelling. The sweater is then cut down the front to open the cardigan up. A band for buttons is added by knitting or sewing on a tightly knitted band, often embellished with woven braid. Icelandic sweaters are also done in the round, typically. Socks are the garments most often knit in the round; double-pointed needles, with their ability to hold a smaller circumference of stitches, are still typically used.

When knitting on circular needles or double points, the knitting is cast on and the circle of stitches is joined. Knitting is worked in rounds in a spiral.

How to knit on four or five double pointed needles:

1. Cast on stitches on THREE or FOUR needles. Three supports your knitting on a triangle, four makes a square "tube" as you work. The knitting will be round, however, when you are finished.

2. Divide the stitches equally over the needles and knit a round. To close the circle, knit the first stitch with the working yarn from the last stitch--and a nice trick is to use the tail of the cast on, and knit it with the first stitch. This pulls the knittng in tighter to avoid causing a gap. Keep the last and first needle as close together as possible. Make sure the knitted stitch is tight, by keeping it close to the last needle. This also avoids a gap, though any gap can be closed by a discreet stitch after you finish the article. Again, the tail of the cast on is helpful; stitch one or two small stitches with it through the gap and tighten.

3. Continue to work rounds, using the one empty needles to knit off and keeping the stitches evenly divided. Hold the two working needles as usual, and drop the other needles to the back of the work when not in use. Believe it or not, the stitches won't fall off the needles.

How to knit with a circular needle:

1. Choose a circular length that is appropriate for the project you are knitting. If the needles is too short, the knitting will bunch up. If too long, the ends of the knitting will not meet. Generall, a hat or turtleneck is worked on a 16" circular. A sweater body is normally worked on a 29" long circular, until decreasing for the yoke or neck, when a shorter (22" or 16") needle is required. For some small work, such as cuffs, there are 11" needles but most knitters resort to a set of double points (4 or 5 needles.)

2. Cast on the required number of stitches. Place a marker on the right needle, next to the last cast-on stitch. This is important to mark the beginning of a round. Use a stitch marker, a circle of yarn, a coil-less safety pin or a rubber o-ring for a marker. It should slide easily over the needle.

3. Make sure all the bottoms of the cast-on stitches are facing downwards. If you have a twist, you end up with a real problem. This is the trickiest part of circular knitting, for the cast-on stitches want to rotate around the needle cable. Before you join, run your hand around and orient the stitches so that the loops are up and the knot-like cast-on is downwards. Then carefully knit your first stitch and check again. This cannot be corrected without ripping all the way down later on, so check and check again.

4. Stick the right needle into the first cast-on stitch on the left needle. Knit a stitch. Pull yarn after the first stitch (or two) to tighten the inevitable gap in the join.

5. Continue to knit around (right needle goes into stitch on left needle) until you reach the marker. Now, one round is completed. Slip the marker back to the right needle and continue on to the second round, just as you worked the first. Each round is equivalent to one row in flat knitting.

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  • Zimmermann, Elizabeth. (1972). Knitting Without Tears. Simon and Schuster, New York. (Reprint Edition ISBN 0-68-413505-1)
  • Rutt, Richard (2003). A history of handknitting. Interweave Press, Loveland, CO. (Reprint Edition ISBN 1-931-49937-3)
  • Hiatt, June Hemmons. (1988). The principles of knitting: Methods and techniques of hand knitting. Simon and Schuster, New York
  • Knitting for Dummies
  • The Complete Idiots Guide to Knitting and Crochet


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