If you’ve not used circular knitting needles before then they might look a little bit daunting. Two short needles, joined by a length of cable – what’s all that about then? Well, there’s no need to worry – circular needles are easy to use and once you’ve tried them you’ll find they are an indispensable bit of knitting kit! It will come as no surprise to learn that circular needles are used for knitting in the round!

Once you’ve cast on the required number of stitches, all you need to do is to work into the first cast-on stitch to start working in the round – see Knit & Stitch Creative know-how 8 for a reminder of the technique. Circular needles are great for larger in-the-round projects although you can used them on smaller items if the cable is short enough. Take a look at the ribbed leg warmers in issue 7 or the felted vase cover in issue 14 for projects using circular needles.

Circular needles are also invaluable for flat knitting – especially if you are working with a large number of stitches. Say you have to cast on more than 100 stitches, you’ll find it a lot easier to do this on a long circular needle than trying to squeeze all your cast-on stitches onto a straight needle. And if you ever have to pick up a large number of stitches along the edge of a garment or other make then you’ll find the flexibility of a circular needle is invaluable – the tweed sweater in issue 31 of Knit & Stitch Creative is a good example of this.

There are two types of circular needle available  – fixed or interchangeable. With fixed circular needles, the tips are permanently joined by a flexible cable; with interchangeable needles, the tips are separate from the cable – you join the tips whatever length of cable you need. Both types are available with different lengths of cable. This length will depend on your project – simply match the length of cable to the amount of stitches you will be working on. The advantage of interchangeable needles is that you can swap just one set of tips with different lengths of cable as required – you can even join cables together for greater lengths. Interchangeable needles aren’t cheap but because they are so versatile – whether knitting in the round or working flat – they are well worth the investment.

This is only a brief guide to circular needles – look out for future features on techniques using these useful tools.