Helpful tips: How to knit with double-pointed needles like a pro

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

A swatch where laddering occurs when knitting in the round on double pointed needles
This happens when you don’t keep an even tension as you change needles: 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.

keeping a high tension for the second stitch on dpns
The second stitch is where you need to pull on tightly to close the gap between the two needles

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.

invisble join in the round on double-pointed needles

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

Starting knitting on the second double pointed needle in the round
That’s the way your working needle should rest on top of the other needles

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

two knitting projects in the round - one with 3 dpns and one knitted on 4dpns

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.

folding the project on dpns
Folding your project for easy storage

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

A folder with different double pointed needle sets

Note: I earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this article.

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

the fair-isle section of my love socks

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

placing a stitch marker for the gusset decreases

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

A knitting project in the round on 4 double pointed needles secured with 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.
*affiliate link.

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.

Anyway, those were my 10 tips for knitting with double-pointed needles the right way. Make sure to comment below with your tips and experiences!

How to knit on double-pointed needles like a pro

49 thoughts on “Helpful tips: How to knit with double-pointed needles like a pro”

  1. Truly the best tutorial I have ever watched w regards to dpns, especially about ladders and adding color. Thank you so much

  2. I will definitely save this for reference! Can’t wait to try the laddering trick. I’ve knit for over 45 years and am still learning. 😉

  3. Thank you, an excellent tutorial and just in the nick of time! I was struggling managing all the needles so ‘placement’ helps keeping them square.

  4. All good tips! Some I already do and some I will definitely start doing.

    Here is a tip: I use one rubber stopper on the end of my working needle when I start the round. When I come to the end of the round the stopper is there to tell me I’m starting a new round. I again move it to the working needle. If I have to put my work down I always know if I was in the middle of a row by where the stopper is. A marker in the first row and/or the yarn tail are always there in case I lose my place.

  5. Hi Norman:

    I appreciate the fine tutorials. Just wanted to add that Americans might be knitting with 4 dpns instead of 5 because many of the sets only come with 4, which is very frustrating. I have been known, in a pinch, to add a needle from an adjacent size to make up the 5th needle. With smaller sizes it doesn’t really show since it moves around the item, but it’s a bit riskier on larger sizes.

  6. You have the most well designed website and patterns I think I’ve ever seen. They are so easy on the eyes with large, clear images. Truly a joy to read. Thank you.

    Above under item number 2, you say “Next, I’m slipping the second stitch of the last needle of the (slipped) first stitch as if to bind off and drop it off the needle.” Did you mean to say “over” the (slipped) first stitch?” I kept reading the sentence over and over and looking at the image. I think that’s what you meant. Just thought I’d mention it in case there are others who were thrown off by that brain teaser.

    No need to post my comments. I mostly wanted to say hello and thank you for your great website and free patterns. I can’t wait to knit the pumpkin and the gorgeous Bavarian socks. They are fantastic!

    • Thank you so much for these kind words. I put a lot of work into this site and it means a lot to me! And yes, you are absolutely right. It should have been “over”. Thank you for your time and sharing your feedback with me!

  7. I just found you through the adorable pumpkin pattern on Ravelry. I’ve been knitting for 50 years and have developed arthritis and carpal tunnel in both hands. I can’t “tug” the yarn enough to avoid laddering. I wound up using a stitch marker for the beginning of the row and making the first stitch on the left needle the last stitch on the right needle. Your beginning stitch slowly moves around the needles (hence the marker) but I don’t get any noticeable ladders. Maybe this can help someone else.

    • Hey Kim,

      thank you so much for sharing this tip with me/us. I’m sure others with similar problems will find it really helpful!

  8. I am saving all of your tutorials. I’ve already learned to fix so many mistakes, well maybe not mistakes, but things I was able to improve with my knitting. So now maybe it won’t quite intimidate me as much to do things I stayed away from. Thanks for all your helpful tips & tricks.

  9. I finished reading your tips for knitting on dpn. How I wish I would have had this information years ago. Whatever improvements I made in my knitting was trial and error over years. But still, there was something to learn from your tutorial. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I really enjoyed this article, I love knitting on DPN and I always appreciate new tips. Looking forward to checking out the jogless stripe article.

  11. Hi! What helpful tips….tips that are useful. Additionally, you have clearly articulated these concepts so they are easily understood. Please consider writing an article regarding using DPN when starting the project with only a few cast on stitches IE CO 6 stitches for knitting a ball….Thank you for sharing your knowledge & expertise.

    • Hey Lana,
      happy to hear I was able to help you. Hm..not sure, though what you would expect from such an article.
      Usually, I start with 3 needles only if the cast on is below 12 and only join in the 4th later on.

  12. You are simply said: amazing. What wonderful tips that will make a world of difference to my frustration level as well as my finished garment. Thank you SO much!!

  13. I just finished reading your DPN tips, and although I’ve been knitting for 70 years, I learned quite a bit. I prefer using DPNs to the newer style of magic loop etc. I’ve tried that new method but find it awkward and always go back to my DPNs lol. I guess old dogs can’t always learn new tricks. Thanks for your stunning patterns, I know several will be gifts this year.

    • Hey Jan,

      very happy to hear that. I do learn new stuff almost every day as well!
      ANd like you, I prefer dpns over magic loop. I find it leads to much better results and is actually easier in the long run.

  14. Hello Norman, thankyou for all the excellent information on your blog. I have really learnt so much that I didnt know about knitting just from the first few pages. Great tips.

  15. Hey Norman, It’s me your new friend Diana from the state of Ohio in the USA! It’s nice to meet you! I was surfing this weekend and found you on YouTube and I checked out your website. You are a fantastic knitter and a great teacher. I truly appreciate all the time and effort you put into sharing your craft. To show my appreciation I’d love to buy you a “cup of coffee or tea”! I’m sure there are others in your audience who would like to say “Thanks” as well. Just something to think about. I plan to put your videos and patterns to good use. Thanks again friend!

    • Hey Diana,

      i currently don’t have a way to “buy me a cup of tea” other than buying one of my patterns. BUt a thank you is always appreciated! 🙂

  16. I’m so glad I subscribed! I’ve been knitting for 40 years or so (after having to learn how 5 times), and I still learned something new from this post and the one on your top 25 gadgets for knitting (9/3/21). Looking forward to the next post.

  17. Thank you, Norman~very kind. My gimpy style has become much more refined since watching you. No questions yet, but I will surely ask when I do have..your new friend from central Canada!!

  18. Hi Norman,

    This is such a helpful list, thank you! I’ve been knitting for years and I find so much useful stuff here that I either didn’t know before or had to figure on my own, often with frustration and lots of frogging.

    I really appreciate that you get very technical and explain the how and the why of things. And you explain things in such a clear and concise way that is helpful for beginners and experienced knitters.

    The only advice I would add for beginners is: loosen up in between. Not your work, of course, your muscles. Since holding the dpns can be tricky at first, it’s easy to get all cramped up in the hands, shoulders and neck. So taking breaks in between and gently stretching the hands, arms and shoulders/neck really helps. And once you have the hang of working with the dpns try to find the most relaxed way in which you can work with them.
    Of course a good massage at the end of the day can also be great if someone’s around to give one 😉

    Thanks a lot!! I’m looking forward to discovering more on your page and channel <3

  19. Hi Norman,
    I appreciate all your good tips for knitting on double pointed needles. I have been knitting socks for about 15 years, and so enjoy using my DPN’s.
    I have learned that “floating” my stitches at every needle change keeps the ladders from appearing in stockinett stitch. By “floating” I mean that I knit at least two more stitches from the next needle onto the working needle at the end of every needle. That closes up possible gaps for me.
    I knit Contential style with the yarn flowing from my left hand. And the needle I am working off of is stationary. I cannot knit with my work in mid air. That’s how I taught my self from a booklet over 50 plus years ago–I will be age 81 in April.
    Thanks for all your expert knitting help. Just discovered your site last week. I shared with my sock knitting sister and she likes it very much too. Arizona USA Knitter

  20. I so much appreciate the beanie pattern. Our church ladies have been making large mittens, which are big enough to fit over gloves the homeless Veterans have to wear. we give all the mittens we make over the 8 full days of sewing to a lady who works with homeless vets in our area. We sew mittens Friday and Saturday for a month in the spring and send all the mittens on to be given to our homeless veterans. ND gets very cold in the winter, so the mitts are very much appreciated. I make a tagboard sign to be pinned to each pair of mitts thanking them for their service. I got an idea when I found your pattern, shortly after I was going through some totes in my sewing room. With my mother and both grandmothers being avid knitters and crochet specialists, I have a large collection of yarn available to me. I decided that I will keep this pattern and a few skeins of yarn by my chair when I take time to sit a bit. I plan to make beenies and add these to the mittens which are sent to the lady who works with the homeless vets. The mittens are made with donated wool fabric, sweaters, thrift store finds, anywhere we can find things, which can be repurposed for mittens. We have some creative people cutting these sweaters apart, often taking time to stitch a little pocket harvested of a sweater to the outside pattern piece, fussy cutting a sweater to have a particular “cute” pattern, as we know we have lady vets who are also recipients of our mittens. A gentleman in our congregation came across a large box of heavy fleece at Menard’s one day and bought the whole box to bring to us to use. Two of our knitters are using up their scraps making cuffs to be used on the mittens. Several people watch sales when wandering through a store and have brought us several stretch ribbed T-shirts also to be used as cuffs. (They just scooped up all on the sale pile) I look forward to have a bunch of beenies to add to the mittens when we gather again next spring. Thank you for your pattern

    • oh how wonderful you are supporting the veterans with your beautiful knitting! Thank you for sharing your story with me!

  21. Norman, I’m so glad I came across your site! Thank you so much for all your tips. And even more, thank you for your kind-hearted manner. It makes such a wonderful difference to feel love and not just technique. You’re adept at both!

  22. I’ve only ever seen DPNs sold in 4 packs. I’m guessing that’s why so many people use 1 working needle and 3 not 4 needles to hold the work.

  23. Hello Norman, I see I’m late to the party but so enjoying your tutorials. It’s wonderful to see not only how but WHY a certain technique works. Although I’ve knit many pairs of utilitarian socks for my husband in the past I had set aside sock knitting because I wasn’t satisfied with the product. I look forward to refining my knitting with your expert advice.
    British Columbia, Canada

  24. When I began knitting and knew ZERO, I almost immediately decided I wanted to learn to knit socks. So the tutorial I found used DPNs. Looking back, OMG how dumb. But in fact, I’m so glad. I learned socks *and *DPNs right off the bat, because knitting in general after that was easy! Also glad my first foray into knitting presented tutorials of Continental knitting, because it really works for me.

    BTW, I learned to tighten the 2nd stitch years ago, and I never see it mentioned (till this article). It makes a huge difference.

  25. I started to learn to knit and crochet only a few months ago. I just finished my first knitting-in-the-round project using 3 dpns and ended up with horrible laddering and dropped stitches. After a few rounds, I had to use a needle stopper on my working needle so I wouldn’t accidentally push off stitches. I found your tips and tricks so helpful for the next in-the-round project. Thank you so much for your detailed explanations! I have watched some of your other videos and find your voice very relaxing. You inspire and encourage beginners like me. Hope your holidays are going well and that you have a happy and healthy new year. Keep up the great work!

  26. Quick little question, would bunching the stitches on the left needle make the work more prone to laddering? I tried tightening up on the second stitch but not much improvement happened.

    • There are many ways to prevent laddering. Not sure if bunching up will have any meaningful effect. I have a tutorial on my patreon account that takes an deep dive into the reason behind laddering and ways to prevent that.

  27. Thank you Norman. I enjoyed this post, even though I don’t knit socks or even use DPNs. I like the way you think, and I learn so much from your posts because you explain your reasoning.


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