Knitting in the round allows you to knit hats and many other items without having to stitch a seam to create the “tube”.
There are a number of ways to knit in the round: Double Point Needle Method; Magic Loop Method and 2 Circular Needle Method.
The Traditional Method
The traditional method for knitting in the round is to use either 4 or 5 double point needles. The working stitches are divided evenly between all but one needle. The remaining needle is used to work the stitches. When casting on, you simply either cast on all your stitches on one needle and divide them evenly among the needles or cast onto each needle in succession.
When you are ready to begin knitting, be sure that there are no twists in the yarn between the needles.
This is to be certain that all the stitches are oriented in the same direction. The working thread is at the end of the cast on. Bring that needle next to the first stitch you cast on. Here you can do either what is called a crossover stitch, or if you cast on one extra stitch to join the stitches in the round. You then simply knit around in circles rather than turning. The crossover stitch is a nice tidy way to join. You can also simply knit the stitches without doing a specific join. It works. It isn’t quite as neat though. As you finish knitting the stitches on a needle, you move on to knit the stitches on the next needle and so on. (The video I have linked to by Nancy shows another clever way of joining in the round that requires casting on one extra stitch and then binding it off to create the join.)
The Magic Loop Method
The Magic Loop Method requires the use of a circular needle with a very long cable. (I have included a link below to a video that shows how this method works). It’s easier to understand this when it is demonstrated.
To set up your Magic Loop, cast on all your stitches on one needle. Place the stitches at about the middle of the needle cable. Carefully pull the circular needle cable through to create a loop between the stitches at the middle of the work. You should have half the stitches on either side of that loop and a needle tip on either side at the other ends. Slide the stitches onto the needle points. Hold the work so that the working thread is at the right side of the back needle. Make sure there are no twists in the work. Now you can join the work in the round (use a crossover stitch or something similar). Pull the back needle tip out of the back row of stitches enough so that you can comfortably reach that needle tip to begin working the stitches on the front needle. The idea is that you want to have half the work on the centre of the back half of the cable (these are your passive stitches), half the stitches on the working needle (these will be your active stitches) and a big loop of cord on either side. The first loop is to the left of the work. The second loop is formed once you start knitting. The cable on the side of your working needle is the second loop. Knit the stitches off the front (active) needle. When you complete those stitches, you slide the passive stitches onto the empty needle point. Pull the loop of cable to do this. Turn the work so the new active needle is facing you. Your working thread should again be at the right of the back needle. There should be a loop in the cable to the left of the work and your active stitches are on the front needle point. Pull the back needle point out through the stitches so you can use that needle to knit the now active stitches on your front needle. Keep doing this until your work is done. Click on the link below to watch an excellent video demonstration. There is a misconception about this method that you need a short cable on your needle. Without enough slack it is difficult to near impossible to actually work the needles. As you work in the round, you knit half the stitches at a time and then adjust the position of the needle tips relative to the section you need to work next.
Two Circular Needle Method
With the two circular needle method, cast on and divide the stitches evenly onto each of two circular needles. One needle is passive, while you knit on the active needle. The stitches on the passive needle sit on the middle of the cable, away from the tips. The stitches on the active needle sit on the needle tip which will allow you to work the stitches. Making sure that you don’t have a twists in the work, join in the round. Simply use the working thread to knit the stitches on the active needle. Once you knit those stitches off, you move them to the centre of the cable of that needle. It is now the passive needle. Turn the work so the new active needle faces you. Slide the stitches onto the right hand needle point and continue knitting making sure you are using the other point of that same circular needle. You will continue to alternate knitting one needle and then the next. The most important thing to remember is that the two needles are worked independently of each other. Make sure you are always using the points on the same needle when working the stitches or you’ll end up with everything on one needle. The length of the needle cable is not critical in this method, as long as it’s long enough to hold the stitches.
Chances are that you will prefer one method over the others. Whatever method is most comfortable and easiest for you to keep straight in your mind is the one you should use. I encourage you to try out any of these that you haven’t used before. Who knows, you may find that you end up preferring it over what you have been using.
There are many excellent videos on YouTube that demonstrate each of these methods. I have included a few links that I thought demonstrated the concepts well. When you stumble on someone who does a great job of instructional knitting videos, I encourage beginners and novices to subscribe to their channel to receive their latest tips. There are so many helpful tricks and techniques to make your projects more enjoyable.
Whether you knit a toque (beanie/hat), socks, cushion covers, mittens or any number of other projects, knitting in the round is a very efficient technique that allows you to create a tube without having to sew a seam together.