How to knit in-the-round with Double Pointed Needles: my best tips

Jun 27, 2016 | Knitting Tutorial |

To many new knitters (and even to experts in the tried and true traditional straight needle) knitting with double pointed needles (DPNs) can be intimidating. They seem like a lot to hold and coordinate in just two hands. However, as I design and knit more and more toys, I’m finding myself working with my DPNs more often than any other tool. I’ve really come to love how wonderfully DPNs work to create a whole range of 3D shapes.

 

If you’re scared of DPNs, I want to encourage you to give them a try. They are really the most magical tool, and they’ll open up a whole new world of knitting to your hands! To that end, here are some of my best tips for knitting with DPNs.

Generally, DPNs come from the yarn store as a set of five. Although you will occasionally have cause to use all five at once (really not any harder than using two, I promise!) in most cases, using two, three or four at a time is what you’ll need.

 

2 Double Pointed Needles: The I-cord

An i-cord is a narrow rope of knitting that works great for things like apron ties, skinny frog legs, an angel halo, things like that… They are also really fun and quick to make.

  1. Cast on 2, 3 or 4 stitches onto your first DPN.
  2. Slide the stitches to the opposite end of the needle.
  3. Pull the working yarn around the back of your stitches, and use a second DPN to knit your row, starting with the stitch the farthest away from your working yarn.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 over and over again until you have an icord of the desired length.

As your i-cord grows, you can wiggle the stitches a bit between your fingers, so that they all kind of shake into even sizes (instead of one being looser than the rest).

icord knitting

4 Double Pointed Needles: The classic round

This is the most classic way to use your DPNs. You knit tubes of fabric, but you can also make bends and waves in those tubes. They’re great for the bodies of toys. DPNs have the advantage over circulars that they can knit a wider variety of circumferences (although if you want to knit a really big circumference, you may be better off grabbing your circulars… or using 5 DPNs).

  1. Cast on the required number of stitches onto DPN #1
  2. Slide one third of these stitches off your cast-on needle and onto DPN #2, and slide the next third of your stitches onto a DPN #3. You now have your stitches evenly divided around.
  3. Swing your DPNs around into a triangle shape. Make sure that the stitches all face the same direction, i.e. that the thicker side of the cast on faces inward into the triangle on all 3 needles).
  4. Stick the tip of DPN #4 into the first stitch on DPN #1 to knit it, and pick up your working yarn, which is hanging from the last stitch on DPN #2.
  5. Knit across all the stitches on DPN #1 until they’re on DPN #4 and #1 is free. Then use #1 to knit the stitches on the next needle. Around and around and around.

 

For the first round, DPNs can feel a little slippery, your stitches a bit uneven. The many needles clack together a bit. But as soon as you have a couple rounds knit, the fabric holds the DPNs steady and it gets much easier. The stitches even out and you won’t notice the tiny imperfections of the beginning.

knit in the round

3 Double Pointed Needles: the in-between technique

Even if you’ve already knit i-cords or rounds using 4 DPNs you may not have tried knitting with just 3 DPNs, but it’s a really handy technique for knitting a tube too wide to be an i-cord and too narrow to pleasantly divide over 3 needles. Generally, we’re talking about something 4 to 8 stitches around. It’s also the perfect technique if you’re knitting something around a pipe cleaner for stability (as my #2 pencil pattern or my candy cane pattern do).

  1. Cast on the required number of stitches onto DPN #1
  2. Slide one half of these stitches off your cast-on needle and onto DPN #2
  3. Swing your DPNs around so that they sit parallel to each other
  4. Stick the tip of DPN #3 into the first stitch on DPN #1 to knit it and pick up your working yarn, which is hanging from the last stitch on DPN #2
  5. Knit across the stitches on DPN #1 until they’re all on DPN #3 and #1 is free. Then use #1 to knit the stitches of the next needle. Around and around and around.

Bonus: 5 Double Pointed Needles:

You will want to use all 5 DPNS (4 needles holding stitches, and working the stitches with your 5th) either when you have such a large number of stitches that they don’t fit well on divided over 3 DPNs. It can also be handy when the increase/decrease pattern happens in multiples of 4. An example of what I mean: let’s say your pattern calls for [k2tog, k5] 4 times or something like that. It’s easier to keep track of the decreases if you’ve got your stitches divided over 4 DPNs, because you just decrease once every needle.

The technique is the same as when using 4 DPNs, just with the stitches divided over more needles.

So what questions do you still have? I’d love to help you get comfortable using DPNs any way I can.

pencil knitting pattern

Some easy free Yarn Birdy patterns to knit on DPNs:

#2 Pencil

Candy Cane

Crocuses

Doggy Baby Rattle

Friendly Frog

Little Angel

Little Friendly Lion

Little Ghosts

Little Rainbow Fish

Little Witch

Peacock Finger Puppet

Simple Ball

And the more complicated but very adorable Piet the Walrus is also knit mostly on DPNs.

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