Knitting Small Circumferences with Two Circular Needles

Contributed by Paulette Vickery

I love knitting small circumferences, like the crowns of hats or the thumbs of mittens, with 2 circular needles rather than a set of double-pointed needles. Once you get the hang of it, the technique is much easier, less complicated, and not at all prone to having stitches fall off the needles. Plus you never have a little needle slip into the innards of a couch or roll merrily across the floor, managing to stay just out of reach. I’ll explain how to use two circular needles to knit small circumferences with a simple set of step-by-step instructions that will remove all of the confusion from the learning process.

But first, take time to settle into your favorite knitting chair with a glass of your favorite libation at hand. Being comfortable while learning is just as important as the learning process itself. I know that I learn best when I am relaxed and comfortable. Now, let’s do it!

Learning the Process

So that we are all working on the same project, let’s use a 16-inch (41 cm) circular needle to make a simple hat. It doesn’t matter which one. Cast on the number of stitches your pattern calls for, Join to work in the round, make the brim and the body, then start the decreases for the top. When you get to the part of the hat where you have to use double-pointed needles because the opening is too small to continue on 1 circ, you are ready to start working with the second circular needle. Here is what you need to do in order to use 2 circulars instead of double-pointed needles:

First, divide your stitches onto 2 needles. I like to have 1 needle longer than the other so I can tell where the beginning of the round is. Let’s say that your original needle is the shorter needle and the second one is the longer needle. When you finish putting half of your stitches on the longer needle, the short needle, the one with the working yarn coming out of the first stitch, will be on the right, and the long needle, the one with the other half of the stitches will be on the left.

Now let go of both of the points of the short (right-hand) needle. Just slide those stitches to the middle of the cable so they won’t go anywhere.

next grab both ends of the long needle (the one on your left). First, take hold of the closest tip. This will be your left-hand needle. Then take hold of the other tip, which is probably dangling toward the floor. Pull it toward you around the hat so it is in your right hand. This is now your right-hand needle.

Let’s pause for a moment to think about what we’ve got.
• You have the short needle in the back. The stitches you are not working right now are centered on the cable, and both points are pushed somewhere out of the way. The working yarn is hanging down from the cable on your right side. It’s not near the point of the needle because you pushed your stitches to the center of the cable to keep them safe.
• You also have your long needle. It’s now in front. It’s your current working needle and the needle at the beginning of the round. You have the point with the stitches on it in your left hand, and you have the empty point in your right hand.

It’s time to start knitting. Slip the point of your right hand needle into the first stitch on your left-hand needle like you usually do. To keep things simple, let’s say you’re working a knit stitch. Pretend the yarn coming from the cable of the shorter needle in the back is coming out of the needle that you are using, and just knit the stitch as usual, being sure to give the working yarn a little extra tug afterward to make the stitches nice and snug and to avoid an unwanted gap where the needles meet. Now the yarn really is coming out of the stitch on the needle that you are using, so continue knitting and work all of the stitches on the long needle.

Repeat the process. Only this time the current working needle will be the short one, and you will be working the second half of the round. So the steps are these:

• Drop both points of the long needle and center the stitches in the middle of the cable.
• Pick up both of the points of the new short needle, the one that was In the back, which is now on your left, because you have shifted things around a bit.
• Push the stitches up to the tip of the closest needle, which is now your left-hand needle.
• Pull the other end of the needle around so it is now your right-hand needle.
• Work all of the stitches on the short needle.

And you are ready to do it again. This time, you will have the long needle as the current working needle, and when you begin knitting the stitches on that needle, you will be starting a new round. Simple.

Starting a Project with Two Circs

If you decide to work the entire hat using 2 circular needles, or if you are knitting a miniature hat or some other small project, here is how to begin a project with 2 circular needles. Remember to use 2 different needle lengths to make it easier to recognize the beginning of the round:

Using the shorter needle, cast on the number of stitches you need plus 1 extra stitch. Then slide all of the stitches to the other end of the needle so that the first stitch cast on is nearest the tip.

Beginning with the first stitch you cast on, slip the first half of the stitches onto the longer needle. You will have one half of the stitches on the short needle and the other half of the stitches on the long needle, but they will still not be joined to form a circle.

To close the circle, slide both sets of stitches to the opposite end of the needles. Be sure the stitches are all facing the same direction. You can do this by placing your hands at opposite ends of the work and moving them toward each other to make sure there are no twists. The first stitch cast on and the extra last stitch cast on are beside each other near the needle tips. The tips are lying side-by-side close enough together for you to carefully lift the extra stitch from the short needle across the gap to the long needle.

So now, the first 2 stitches on the long needle are the first stitch you cast on and the extra stitch. Using only the tips of the long needle, knit these 2 stitches together to join the circle and get rid of the extra stitch. For a really smooth join, knit those 2 stitches together using both the working yarn and the tail held together as a single strand of yarn. Then still using both points of the long needle and only the working yarn, continue working across the stitches on that needle to finish the first half of the round.

Next, just like we did before, drop the points of the long needle, sliding the stitches to the middle of the cable to keep them safe. Then pick up both points of the short needle, and work across the other half of the stitches on that needle to finish the first round.

It really isn’t hard. After you do a few rounds, you will probably wonder why you ever used those pesky double-pointed needles in the first place, and you will use your favorite libation to celebrate your new skill!

This article was originally published in Seeing It Our Way, a Braille magazine published by Horizons for the Blind, and has been reprinted with minor editing by permission of the author, who is one of the magazine’s contributors.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Natalie
    Nov 10, 2011 @ 15:27:15


    Do you know who sells extra long circular needles – I’am referencing the needle and not the cord? I looking for a standard 14″ needle with a cord on the end, connecting both needles together.

    Thank you


  2. Judy Brocato
    Nov 29, 2013 @ 13:38:14

    Thanks for this explanation on finishing a hat on 2 circulars. My LYS owner suggested this, but I still needed a good explanation & found it here.


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