A step-by-step tutorial on joining knitting in the round with double-pointed needles or circular needles – without a gap or jog
So, you want to knit a tubular project but you have no clue how to start? Or did you finished your first hat or sock only to notice there’s a weird jog right at the beginning? Well, then you came to the right place because in this tutorial I will show you exactly how to join knitting in the round without a gap the easy way.
I will be showing you a simple technique for double-pointed needles first, and later on a method with similar results for those using circular needles and the magic loop method. Further down, you will also find a super simple way to fix past projects, so definitely scroll all the way to the bottom.
I will not address knitting in the round in general. If you need to catch up, kindly read my tutorial on how to knit with double-pointed knitting needles first. And maybe check out my list of 10 tips for better results when knitting with dpns.
Anyway, let’s dive right into it, eh?
Note: I earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this article.
- Start with a simple backward loop around your needle.
When knitting in the round, I don't start with the usual slipknot as this very knot will be somewhat visible in your final project.
- Cast on the remaining number of stitches using a standard longtail cast-on using one needle only.
You need to cast on altogether one more stitch than your pattern requires. E.g. If it says 'cast on 40 stitches', cast on 41 including the simple loop at the beginning.
- Distribute the stitches evenly to 3 or 4 needles by slipping them over one at a time.
If you are working with an odd number of stitches, then distribute them as evenly as possible (e.g. 8/9/8/9 or so).
Note: I personally always knit in the round on 4 needles (+1 working needle) since you don't end up stressing the gaps as much as when you knit with only 3 needles.
- Place the needles on the table in front of you with the gap pointing towards the top. Make sure that you did not accidentally twist your needles. The cast-on edge should form one continuous line on the inside of your needles.
If you notice a twist, carefully untwist your cast-on first before you continue.
- Pick up the working yarn the usual way and then all four needles using both hands.
The cast-on tail and the working yarn should both come from the needle in your right hand. This will be your fourth (or third) needle. The needle you hold in your left hand is the first needle and marks the beginning of your round.
- Carefully slip the first stitch on the first needle back to the last needle. This should be the simple loop you started your cast-on with.
- Pass the (new) second stitch on the last needle over the one you just slipped and drop it off the needles.
Tighten up the remaining stitch by giving the tail a gentle tug.
- Pick up your fifth needle and start knitting across the first needle as normal and according to your pattern.
- Once you are finished with the first needle, you should have one free needle again. Turn your project around by 90 degrees clockwise, bring the second needle to the top, and use the free needle to knit across the next set of stitches.
- Continue knitting across all four (or three) needles in this manner until there is only one stitch left. You may consider placing a stitch marker here to mark the beginning of your round. As an alternative, you can also slip the stitch back to the first needle and use the cast-on tail as orientation.
- Once you finished your project, the cast-on tail will peak out in front. Use a tapestry needle to pull it to the back, and then weave the end on the backside. I typically go diagonally using a sharp tapestry needle.
The first round will feel like juggling with raw eggs. That's quite normal and nothing that should discourage you. Once you knitted across three or for rows, the knitting will stabilize the needles considerably and your project will be so much easier to handle.
Also, this method won't work for cast-on techniques that do not create a row of stitches in the same breath (like the single cast-on or so). For further suggestions, please see below.
Please also keep in mind that you should consider casting on around two needles for a stretchier edge. Typically, hems, brims, and cuffs require a bit more stretchiness.
How to join in the round with circular needles
Now, I know a lot of knitters want to knit in the round on circular needles. While I personally think it’s a bit more difficult and has a higher risk to create ladders, it’s totally fine to prefer one method over another. And the good news, you can easily adapt the instructions from above to join knitting in the round on circular needles as well.
Step 1: Start your cast-on with a simple loop around your needle.
Step 2: Cast-on the required number of stitches around one end of your circular needles. Again, you need to cast on one additional stitch.
Step 3: Slide the stitches to the middle of the cable.
Step 4: Carefully pull the cable through the exact center of cast-on. There should be an equal number of stitches on both sides (or as close as possible).
Step 5: Slide the stitches back to the very tip of the needles on both sides. Make sure that you don’t accidentally twist the stitches as you do that.
Step 6: Using either your fingers or a spare needle, pass the loop you started your cast-on back to the other needle. Make sure you bring it all the way around so the stitch doesn’t end up being twisted.
Step 7: Pass the new second stitch over the one you just slipped.
Step 8: Start knitting according to your regular magic loop technique. So pull out the needle where you passed the stitch over, and start knitting on the opposing needle.
There is no special technique needed once you come across the join. Later on, you will have to bring the tail to the back again and weave in the rest the normal way.
Tip: If you are knitting in the round using small diameter circular needles, you can use the exact same method I showed you first. There is literally no difference – at least in terms of the joining method as it only concerns your first and last needle (and these will be the start and end of your circular needles).
Fixing the gap by grafting a stitch
If all this slipping business sounds too difficult for you, you can also join in the round without any special technique. So, you cast on the required number of stitches, and simply start knitting by closing the circle. Later on, you can use the tail to bridge the gap by grafting one stitch.
Step 1: Thread the tail on a tapestry needle.
Step 2: Find the last V on the opposing side of the cast-on edge and pull the tail underneath it coming from the front.
Step 3: Find the V on the other side of the gap and pull the tail underneath that as well coming from the back.
Step 4: Pull tight gently and hide the tail on the wrong side.
This method will work for your bind-off edge as well. I know grafting always sounds scary, but in reality, it’s quite simple and only takes 30 seconds.
Join in the round after knitting flat
You can even take the concept further and join in the round after you knitted a couple of rows flat. A lot of knitters end up twisting their cast-on edge when joining in the round – only to notice it rounds and rounds later.
To solve this problem, you can also knit 3 or 5 rows flat. So you cast on the required number of stitches the normal way, and then you knit flat. Make sure to translate your pattern for these rows and leave a sizeable tail of around 10 inches or so.
E.g. Stockinette stitch requires you to alternate between knit and purl rows when knitting flat, but when knitting it in the round, you knit across all rows. Garter stitch in the round works exactly the opposite way.
And after those 3 rows, you distribute your stitches evenly to your 4 double-pointed knitting needles and join in the round by simply knitting across in a full circle. No special technique is needed here. Just make sure that you tighten up after the second stitch.
And later on, you close the gap by using mattress stitch. I find this technique works best for garter stitch as you can seam it in a pretty invisible way.
This will also be the preferred method if you are using a tubular cast-on. In this case, you will need to graft stitches a bit differently (read the tutorial I linked for more details.
Why is there are gap or a jog when joining knitting in the round?
Now, you might wonder why you end up with that big gap when you join your work in the round no matter how tight you pull these stitches. Setting aside that pulling tight is often NOT a solution to fix problems when knitting with double-pointed needles, there are two important technique reasons for this issue:
- A longtail cast-on or the popular German twisted cast-on creates a row of knit stitches in the same breath. Think of what you do for a second. You create a loop around your thumb, and then you “knit” a stitch through that loop (and pull tight). As a result, you create one row of stitches you practically cannot join in the round anymore.
- And the second reason has to do with the fact that you are knitting in an upward spiral. You don’t knit one round, then another round, and another one. No, once you finished one round, you carry the working yarn to one row above. And this always creates a jog (something you may have observed when knitting stripes).
So, when you start your tubular project with a longtail cast-on, you end up with a gap and a jog.
The method for joining in the round I showed you above fixes this by passing the last stitch over the first one (this creates a connection between the first row). From there, you start knitting the second stitch. So, you effectively slipped the first stitch, and this is actually one of many ways to knit jogless stripes in the round.