Posted on Tuesday, July 3 2012 at 8am
Knit seamless garments and accessories with circular needles and double-pointed needles – Rosee Woodland explains how.
Knitters seem to be divided into two groups - those who knit in the round and those who don’t. There are many reasons why a knitter may not work in the round, but the most common reason I come across is that people aren’t aware of its benefits.
WHY KNIT IN THE ROUND?
Knitting in the round is usually faster. There is no turning your work, and no purling if you are working in stocking stitch - you simply knit every round. Because of this you should not experience ‘rowing out’ (unevenness caused by alternating knit and purl rows). Fair Isle knitting should be easier, with no wrangling with yarn ends at the back of the work as you change between RS and WS rows. Lace and cables can also be more intuitive, because the RS is always facing.
Best of all, knitting seamless garments means, of course, little to no sewing-up when you’ve finished your knitting!
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
You can knit in the round using sets of four or five double-pointed needles, two short circular needles, or one long circular (this can also be used for small diameters using the Magic Loop method.
While DPNs are often used for socks and gloves, some people do find them awkward to use. For many people, circular needles feel more intuitive and have some added benefits.
First, if you are knitting a garment in the round on a long circular needle, you can try it on as you go without having to transfer it to waste yarn.
Second, the wire in the circular needle takes the weight of your knitting, rather than it being held on straight needles. This reduces the risk of repetitive strain injury.
What’s more, with circulars you will never drop a needle, and can transport your knitting without the risk of it slipping off the needles – simply push your work to the centre of the wires.
When knitting in the round, you will need a stitch marker to indicate where the round ends and begins. You can use a safety pin, paper clip, fixed or hinged marker, or a piece of waste yarn knotted around the needle.
When you come to the end/beginning of your round, simply slip your marker from your left to your right-hand needle (as shown below) - don’t attach it to the stitches unless the pattern tells you to do so. Hinged markers are also useful when you spot a dropped stitch a way into the work. Just attach the marker to the loose loop and then sew it in later.
I tend to use hinged markers, waste yarn or fine plastic elastic hair ties (cheap to buy from accessories shops). These are particularly useful with laceweight yarn as they are so fine they won’t pull the yarn around - I also use these for marking repeats when knitting lace shawls.
WHAT TO KNIT IN THE ROUND
Some projects are ideal for knitting in the round. Socks, gloves and hats can be made more comfortable and attractive when they are knitted without seams.
In Shetland and Scandinavian traditions, raglan and yoked sweaters are traditionally knitted in the round. And now a new generation of designers are creating seamless ‘set in’ sleeve sweaters, using clever shaping, such as ‘Langdale’ by Lily France (shown at the top of this post), from Issue 35.
Many ‘standard’ garments, knitted from the bottom up, can also be converted so they are worked in the round to the beginning of the armhole shaping, after which the garment is ‘split’ and worked back and forth. Simply combine the instructions for the front and back, adding stitch markers to denote the start of the round and where the front and back meet (which will identify where to work any waist shaping). You can remove selvedge stitches (used for seaming) from the counts for the front and back, but watch out for any impact on lace or cable patterns.
Do also bear in mind that the wrong sides of lace and cables will need to be worked back to front - start at the end of the written row and work backwards, reversing all stitches (knits for purls and so on) to achieve the same end result. This sounds more complicated than it is, because the patterning is usually done on the right-side rows, with wrong-side rows either purled, or worked as the stitches present themselves (working knit over knit and purl over purl, and so on).
Next time we will look at yarn choice, and when NOT to knit in the round.
In the other posts in this Knitting In The Round masterclass, we will look at cast-on methods and joining to knit in the round, plus using double-pointed needles and two short circulars.
About our expert
Rosee Woodland is commissioning editor of The Knitter and is a knitwear designer with a special interest in construction. She teaches classes on knitting in the round.
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