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The Ultimate Guide to Circular Knitting Needles

Circular knitting needles have a huge fan base. In fact, for many knitters, they’re the everyday needles for all projects whether it's a pair of socks or a wide blanket. And, for many, it is the reason they took up knitting. The ergonomic design has made it possible to carry your projects for a regular commute or even holidays and even a stroll in the park! If you have not yet discovered the joys of circular knitting needles, here is everything you need to know, so you can love them as much as we do.

What is a Circular Knitting Needle? 

A circular needle is a pair of needle tips with two ends joined together by a flexible cable. All knitting needles, regardless of type are known by the size of the needle’s diameter. But, circular needles have another factor the needle length - the length from one needle tip to the other including the cable. To add extra length, interchangeable needles have cable connectors that help to further extend the length.

The diameter of the needle - It is the same for circulars as it is for single-pointed and double-pointed needles. The needle diameter determines the size of the stitches you make, bigger sizes for bigger stitches and smaller sizes for smaller stitches. The needle sizes are available in metric units in millimeters in UK patterns and numbers such as US 0 to US 17 in the US patterns. Most yarn labels and knitting patterns instruct on the needle size.

The length of the needle - Straight needles such as STNs and DPNs also come in different lengths. The single-pointed knitting needles come in a length usually somewhere between 25 (10") and 40 cm (16") and double points in lengths of 15 (6") and 20 cm (8"). The longer needles have more room for higher stitch counts but they have a restriction. But, circular needles have lengths from 25 (10") to 150 cm (60"). However, the needle tips are only 10 cm (4 inches) and 12 to 13 cm (5 inches) which makes it easy to knit while the cable lies in your lap.

The key factor of circular knitting needles is, it comes in two options: fixed and interchangeable. The name itself makes it clear that one has a fixed cable while the other has the option of changing the cables.

Fixed Circulars VS Interchangeable Circulars

Fixed Circulars VS Interchangeable Circulars 

Knitters are always in a fix on the topic of fixed vs interchangeable circular needles. With needle tips and the cables permanently joined together, FC has the advantage of a smooth join. The joint has been manufactured to not snag and smoothly flow through stitches. Interchangeable needles are a system of needle tips and cable lengths made with reusable joining mechanisms, like a screw. Their flexibility is an advantage as it allows you to combine different needles and cables in configurations of your choice.

If you have 3 different pairs of interchangeable needles and 3 different cables, you can combine that to make 9 different combinations. But, to get the same options in fixed circulars, you would need 9 individual pairs!

Besides this difference, they are both versatile options that work for many different projects and knitting styles.

Knitting with Circular Needles 

Circular knitting needles are loved by knitters as they offer the option of knitting in the round as well as back and forth. Given the range of lengths of the needles, you can knit a pair of socks to the widest blankets.

Knitting Round with Circular Needles

The needles were invented for knitting in the round so they are the best option to knit seamlessly. Simply cast on stitches on one needle tip and join the round. Then you need to continue to knit seamlessly. Put a stitch marker at the beginning of the round. Make sure to choose a circular needle smaller in circumference than the diameter of the project. Say for a 50 cm hat, choose a 40 cm needle length. This way the stitches won’t be stretched and the knitter can work comfortably. Our previous blog on knitting in the round with circular needles will assist you.

Knitting Back and Forth (Flat) 

Knitting back and forth with circular needles creates a piece of fabric with two sides - the right side (RS) the outer side of the project and the wrong side (WS) the interior side of the project. All you need to do is knit edge-to-edge turning at the end of each row. One row will be on the RS and the next row will be on the WS.

Many knitters still stick to circular needles to knit in the round. So, why would you use circular needles for knitting flat? There are so many reasons. Say, for instance, if you are knitting something with a lot of stitches, for example, a 300-stitch baby blanket or shawl only circulars over a cable of almost 150cm would be able to hold all the stitches. Also, the weight of your work stays in your lap and reduces strain on the shoulders and wrists. Also, the make of the needles is such that you can easily carry them on your regular commute or a walk in the park. For a beginner-friendly project that will get you lots of practice, refer to our guide on knitting a blanket on circular needles. You can also try out dishcloths, a chunky scarf and more for your first projects.

Circular needles aren’t just a specialty tool they work for nearly any knitting project. Discover the wonders of circular needles with the Mindful Collection. The range of stainless steel knitting needles comes with smooth teal cables. A special feature of the interchangeable circular needles are they come with a lifeline hole that is a blessing for lace patterns, colourwork and other complicated stitch patterns. Besides the range of circular needles, the knitting needle sets over a combination of steel tips, cables and accessories. Give them a try with your next project! We bet you’ll love them even more than we do.

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