10 tips and tricks that help me achieve neater results when knitting in the round on DPNS
So you knitted your first projects with double-pointed needles. Maybe you even knit my free men’s sock pattern? But after your first attempt, you noticed a couple of flaws in your knitting, right? How do you fix it? How do you get better?
Well, in this tutorial, I’m going to share my top 10 tricks to get better results with double-pointed needles (DPNS) with you. These are the exact same techniques and tricks I use to finish all my projects and patterns, and I’m pretty sure they will be able to help you with your knitting as well.
I know, getting started with DPNs can be tough. But this should not be the time to give up and switch to magic loop. Instead, it just means you may need a bit more practice and some guidance. Here’s my tutorial, in case you still need to catch up on the basics of knitting in the round with DPNS.
Anyway, let’s dive right into it!
Note: I also have a post with 10 more general knitting tips you can use for instant results. And a very detailed review of the best double-pointed knitting needles.
1. Tighten up the second stitch on every new needle to avoid laddering
This really is my number one tip for you. Every guide tells you to keep a high tension whenever you switch needles so you don’t produce the feared ladders. But they often don’t tell you that pulling that first stitch tight is quite useless. Most of the yarn will slide back right away. Instead, tighten up the second stitch. Then there is enough friction to hold the yarn you pulled tight in position.
Don’t pull too much, but definitely give it a good tug. Here’s a post that shows you 10 more tips to avoid ladders when knitting in the round.
2. Invisible join by slipping a stitch
The very first round on double-pointed needles is usually the most difficult one. It feels a bit like juggling raw eggs. As a result, you tend to stretch the stitches on that round a bit more than on consecutive rounds. That’s why you need to take extra care at the join.
I always cast on one more stitch. It helps if you start with a simple loop instead of a slipknot. Then I slip the first stitch of the first needle back to the last needle. Next, I slip the (now) second stitch on the last needle over the (slipped) first stitch as if to bind off and drop it off the needle. And then I slip the remaining stitch back to the first needle and tug on the tails to tighten the gap even further (see picture above).
This technique will be quite invisible. But it also creates a very firm join. This is equally important because the more stable your first round, the neater your finished project will be. Check out my tutorial on how to join knitting in the round for more alternatives.
3. Move the needles so the working needle is always on top
What I call “needle management” is probably an equally important factor. If your working needle is trapped under other needles, you’ll end up knitting in an uncomfortable position, overstretching stitches, etc. So, whenever you move to another needle, I always do three things:
- I slide the stitches I just knit to the middle of the needle so they can’t accidentally slip off.
- Then I move the left tip of that needle under the new working needle.
- I bring the other end of the new working needle to the top as well.
- And, in case my working yarn got trapped in between two needles, I untangle it as well.
Your working needle should always rest on top, so you can knit comfortably and without blocking your access to the stitches.
4. Avoid having complicated stitches for the last two stitches on a needle
No matter if it’s a complicated repeat, or decreasing for the toe box of a sock pattern – avoid knitting K2togs, SSKs, and other a bit more complicated stitches that involve 2 or more stitches on those last stitches. Always leave a little “selvage” of at least 1 knit or purl stitch.
Why? Well, most of these stitches tend to “steal” a bit of yarn from the neighboring stitches. But if there’s just a gap on the left, there’s nothing restricting your needles from pulling out too much yarn from the little “float” that connects your row to the next needle. Ultimately, this may potentially result in eyelets or very loose stitches.
A common mistake, for example, is decreasing the gusset of a sock on those last two stitches. It’s quite practical because you won’t need stitch markers that way. But believe me, it’s worth moving these stitches around a bit.
5. Knit with 4 needles
I have no clue why, but especially in the Americas, knitting in the round with 3 needles is very popular. And to be sure, managing 4 (3 + working needle) needles seems easier than 5. You also end up with only three places where you could produce laddering. That, at least, is the theory.
But in reality, these three needles form a very rigid triangle that tends to overstress the seams between the different needles the more stitches you add. So, in reality, it actually increases the risk of laddering. Think of it like that: The closer your knitting in the round comes to knitting flat (i.e. decreasing the angle between the different needles), the less likely you are to stretch the joints.
Four needles can move around freely. With a little practice, this will work to your advantage because it allows them to cushion any stress you put on your needles or stitches. It’s also much easier to store your project during knitting pauses. You can simply fold so it almost lays flat, wrap a bit of working yarn around, and you can store it securely in your project bag.
6. Add further needles to avoid high tension situations
Following that line of thought, you can also add even further needles. For example, when I pick up the stitches for the gusset of a sock, right after I turned the heel, I often add one more needle to accommodate the natural shape of the gusset. So, I’ll have 2 needles for the heels, two-needle for the instep, and one more needle for the left part of the gusset. (I’ll pick the right side up with the second heel needle).
There are probably other examples where this makes sense. Not all projects that are knit in the round end up being round. Some of them are more elliptical or square and then it makes sense to avoid putting stitches on the same needle that point in a different direction. Also consider, the more corners you add, the closer you will approximate a circle (triangle = not very circular, square = fits into a circle, hexagon = begins to look a circle) and thus relieves the individual stitches at the joints.
7. Invest in the right needles
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I have way too many DPNS. I probably own every single size and length at least twice. And most of these I got in different materials. Now, I might be a bit obsessed with knitting and might need a bit more equipment than others (here’s a post about my personal knitting toolkit) but my statement is still true: Invest in good double-pointed needles.
The reason why I have so many different needles has to do with the fact that I really need(ed) them all. See, for projects on very small needles, I came to love Knitters Pride Karbonz. They are about the only small DPNs I know that don’t end up crooked after the first two hours knitting with them.
And likewise, as a beginner, you might invest in a good set of bamboo needles (I like these Addi bamboo needles). They are both light and the wood adds quite a bit of friction so your stitches are less likely to accidentally drop. If you knit your first project in the round on metal DPNs, the chances are really high you’ll end up super frustrated. But for your second or third project, they might increase your knitting speed tremendously.
So, my message here is simple: Try out new needles to find whatever suits you best (find a knitting friend so you can swap needles! no need to buy them all).
Important: Also consider that 8″ DPNS are harder to knit with than their 6″ inches counterparts. The bigger the needles, the more difficult it gets to manage them.
8. Knit jogless stripes with slipped stitches
Stripes are a particularly easy and fun way to spice up your typical sock and hat knitting patterns. But here’s the problem: When you are knitting in the round, you are actually spiraling up. So, when you change colors, this will end up in a little color-ladder at the end/beginning of your round. Not so nice.
But here’s an easy way to avoid that. Knit the first round in the new color as you would normally do. And when you start the second round, slip the right loop of the stitch 2 rows below the first one (this should be the one in the old color) onto the left needle.
If you are familiar with the KRL increase, then it’s the same motion. Then, simply knit that extra loop together with your first stitch and you’ll end up with almost jogless stripes in the round (I call this method K1tog RL and it has sooo many other useful applications).
Here’s my full tutorial on knitting jogless stripes
9. Add the stitch marker the right way
Normally, stitch markers are not really needed when knitting in the round. The little cast-on tail will always help you identify your first needle. Likewise, you can slip the stitches around in a way so important repeats /sections always start with a new needle.
That being said, there are a lot of situations where using a stitch marker still makes sense. If you are knitting fair isle, there’s probably more than one tail hanging around, etc. In this case, slip the last stitch of the last needle onto the first needle, and place your stitch marker between those two stitches.
Why? You can’t possibly place the stitch marker at the end of your needle, it would simply wall off again. And if you’d place the stitch marker between the first and second stitch, then you’ll risk missing the actual start of your round in a moment where you are distracted.
10. Use needle stoppers
Double-pointed needles have one disadvantage. They invite your stitches to slide off the needles on both ends. Dangerous? Well, experienced knitters will tell you there is zero danger if you store your work in progress in a safe spot. But, in houses with kids or when you are traveling around, it still makes sense to invest a dollar or two into needle stoppers. These are little rubber tips you can simply put on either end of your needle to secure the stitches. Here are the ones I am using*.
I wouldn’t use them while knitting, but for the first couple of rounds, they can come in handy if you are a beginner.
Tip: You can also turn any DPN into a short single-pointed needle with a stopper.
And then there’s….Practice
My last tip might not sound like a tip at all, but it comes from the bottom of my heart. I love knitting with DPNs and for me, they always produce superior results. Now, not all knitters are alike and maybe magic loop or circulars work better for you. That’s fine with me and I’d never ever state “DPNs are by far the best way to knit in the round”.
Anyone who claims that certainly knows little about knitting. We all got different shaped hands and longer or shorter arms – but the needles are all the same size. So, of course, we need to accommodate these differences somehow with ever so slightly different techniques.
Still, knitting with DPNS takes quite some practice. And it certainly takes much more practice than knitting your first garter stitch scarf. But even then, when you knit your first scarf or potholder, it probably turned out quite wonky. But you persevered and now you are producing items you can truly be proud of. So, don’t expect your first project on DPNS to be easy. It probably won’t.
But that’s no big deal if you ask me. Your second project will probably look much better (especially after reading this tutorial *smirk*) and from there you can move onwards. Definitely try out other techniques for knitting in the round as well. But always remember, that your cerebellum is probably taking over a lot of your standard knitting motions. If you try out a new technique, it’s always bound to feel awkward because suddenly you need to really focus to get things done – even more so when your muscles aren’t used to the new motions either.
So, if you give up after your first attempt, your brain and muscles never had the chance to actually learn it properly.
Before you go: Make sure to read my guide to the best interchangeable knitting needles.