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November 25, 2021

Double pointed needles can be intimidating - how do you knit with so many needles? Knitting in the round on double pointed needles creates a seamless tube of fabric, and allows you to work small circumferences such as socks and mitts that don't have enough stitches to fit around a circular needle. 

a rainbow striped sock and a small pink swatch both on double pointed needles

Working in the round on DPNs is similar to working on a circular needle, except that the stitches are distributed over 3 or 4 rigid needles rather than one flexible cable. You are still knitting with just two needles at a time - the other needles are simply holders for the stitches you haven’t worked yet.

Although your first time with double pointed needles (DPNs) might feel a bit like wrestling a porcupine, with a little practice you will be sailing along and impressing everyone with your skills. You might also find that, like many knitters, you prefer to work small circumferences using the magic loop technique.

a gold swatch on a long circular needle and a pink one on double pointed needles

What are double pointed needles?

Double pointed needles, as the name suggests, have points on both ends of the needle (rather than one, as for straight needles), and come in sets of 4 or 5. One needle is always empty as your right-hand needle, and the remaining 3 or 4 needles hold the worked stitches.

a variety of double pointed needles in different lengths and materials

DPNs come in all sizes and materials, including wood, metal, plastic, and bamboo. They also come in a few different lengths. Short DPNs are 4–5” long, and won’t hold very many stitches each, so are best suited for small projects with few stitches. Medium length DPNs are 6–7” long, and are useful for most projects, including sleeves and slippers. 

the sleeve of a colourwork sweater on double pointed needles

Long DPNs also exist, and are sometimes used for knitting whole colourwork sweaters without circular needles!

Knitting in the Round on DPNs

The steps are similar to knitting in the round on one circular.

Cast on all the stitches 

Use your favourite cast on method to cast on all the stitches to one needle.

pink yarn being cast on onto one needle

the cast on with more stitches

the needle filled with cast on stitches

Distribute stitches

Working from the first cast-on stitch, slip about 1/3 or 1/4 of the stitches to one double pointed needle, being careful not to drop or twist the stitches.

3 stitches slipped to the right needle

8 stitches on one needle on the right and the rest of the cast on stitches on the original needle in the left hand

Then take up another needle and slip more stitches to this second needle. Repeat for a third needle if necessary. Then leave the last 1/3 or 1/4 of the stitches on the cast on needle. 

the previous right needle hangs to the right while a 3rd needle is poised to have stitches slipped to it

some stitches on the third needle in the middle of the other 2

Some patterns include directions for how many stitches to arrange on each needle. For example, many sock patterns will distribute the heel stitches on one needle. 

Whether you distribute your stitches over 3 or 4 stitches is personal preference. You might prefer to use 3 needles for smaller projects, and 4 for larger.

Join, being careful not to twist

the cast on stitches arranged over 3 needles, forming a triangular shape with the tips crossed at each corner, a 4th needle is at the side

the cast on stitches arranged over 4 needles, forming a square shape with the tips crossed at each corner, a 5th needle is at the side

Arrange your 3 or 4 needles with stitches on them into a triangle or square - this is the outline of your knitted tube. Work your way around the stitches and make sure that none of them are twisted around the needle, or twisted between the needles. The working yarn should be attached to the last cast-on stitch, and this needle should be on the right-hand side of the triangle or square.

the first stitch knit onto the spare needle

The one empty DPN is your right needle. Insert it into the first cast-on stitch, then wrap the working yarn around it to complete the stitch. Your work should now be joined into a tube.

a blue heart shaped locking marker is added to the cast on edge below the first stitch

Mark the beginning of the round between two needles by inserting a locking stitch marker into the edge of the fabric.

Knit in the round 

half the first needle of stitches have been knit

Continue to work across the stitches on the first needle.

the first needle of stitches have been worked and the now empty needle they were on is held in the left hand

When you reach the end of the first DPN, you will have a new empty needle to use as your right needle.

it's clear that the working yarn is attached to the needle on the right of the square

Rotate the work to the right by one needle. Now use the empty needle to knit across the second DPN. Rotate the work again and continue knitting across the third needle. Repeat for the fourth needle. You’ve completed one round!

knitting into the first stitch on the next needle

As you finish each DPN, make sure to push the stitches to the centre of the needle so they don’t slip off the ends.

the stitches are being slid back into the centre of the needle

Continue in this manner, working each double pointed needle and then rotating to work the next one, around and around.

after working the first round the original square shape can be seen

You may encounter patterns that are written specifically for double points, and use “needle 1” and “needle 2”, etc to provide pattern instructions.

the swatch after a couple of inches have been knit

Tips and Tricks

    • You can rearrange stitches so that the beginning of the round is in the middle of a needle (with a stitch marker) rather than between needles.
    • If you find you are dropping stitches off the ends of your non-working needles, you can try double pointed needle stoppers (or elastic bands) on the ends. You can also try different needle materials, such as wood, that are less slippery than metal.
    • If you find that suddenly your work is inside out, with the right side on the inside of the tube, you’ve probably picked it up and started knitting in the opposite direction! You should knit with the needles closest to you, with the tube of fabric growing below the needles.
    • Laddering refers to a slight gap in the stitches where you have changed needles; keep it in check by making sure the first and last two stitches on each needle are tightened a little extra. You can also slip stitches between needles at each needle junction so that the needle changes aren’t all in the same stitch column. Some knitters also find that using 4 needles (plus a 5th to knit onto) helps to prevent ladders of loose yarn between the needles. 

Looking for an alternative to double pointed needles? Learn to knit in the round on one circular or Magic Loopwith our other knitting in the round tutorials!


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