How to Use Double-Pointed Knitting Needles

Ready to take things to the next level?

Photo: Bryan Gardner

Ready to expand your knitting repertoire? Take on double-pointed needles (DPNs), which are a practical choice for knitting in the round. These needles are distinguished by having points on either end-that means no stopper for your stitches-and are often used for knitting in the round.

While single-pointed needles are packaged in pairs, double-pointed needles come in sets of four or five. Although most knitters will use four double pointed needles for a project, you can opt for a fifth needle when you need extra circumference. They come in a range of sizes from 4 inches (for knitting gloves and mittens) to 5 or 6 inches (for knitting socks) and 8 inches (for knitting hats, sweaters, and larger items).

Double-pointed needles are used to knit in the round for items that are too small for circular needles. For instance, when you knit a glove on circular needles, the stitches comprising of the glove's fingers become so tight that they cannot be worked around the circular needles. At that stage, it's best to switch to double-pointed needles.

How to Knit with Double-Pointed Needles

Cast on the stitches onto the first needle, plus one extra. Slip this extra stitch to the second needle and continue by casting on the stitches onto your last needle. With the remaining needle, knit the first cast-on stitch. Place a stitch marker at the first stitch in order to keep track of the beginning of the round. Continue knitting in the round, slipping the marker before beginning each round.

When working with double-pointed needles, divide the stitches evenly over three or four needles. The last needle is used to knit the stitches. When your knitting is joined on three needles, they form a triangle. When your knitting is joined on four needles, they form a square. Be sure to keep an even tension when working from one needle to the next in order to avoid ladders. A ladder is a gaping column of stretched stitches that usually forms when your tension is looser at the point where you switch from one needle to the next than for stitches in the rest of the round. (You can avoid ladders by tightening the first and second stitch when you switch needles.) What's more, if you find that your stitches slip off the needles as you work, switch to longer double-pointed needles or circular needles.

When knitting on double-pointed needles, the right side of the work always faces you. As a result, stitch patterns appear different when knit in the round than knit flat. But for projects that are designed with this tool-socks, sweaters, and hats-the backside is unseen and, therefore, isn't of consequence.

This type of knitting needle-and the technique of knitting in the round-can be intimidating at first practice. But with time and trial, you will develop consistency in your knitting and your confidence in working with double-pointed needles will grow strong.

Feeling inspired? Watch how to knit a pair of cozy mittens:

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