For devotees of seamless and circular knitting, it is inevitable that at some stage you're going to come across the term small circumference knitting. Small circumference knitting is all about how you knit those narrower pieces of circular knitting, like sleeves, socks or even mitts and gloves without having to worry about seaming at the end, because we all like to avoid seams as much as possible, right?
So what I thought I'd do in this post is look at the different options for small circumference knitting, what I like, what are the pros and cons of each technique, as well as post a couple of links to some good online tutes to help you out.
Teeny tiny circulars
If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I'm a big fan of teeny tiny circular needles. These are my go to for the majority of my small circumference knitting; sleeves, mitts and socks are all mostly churned out on these babies. I have three different sizes of these: 12"/30cm, 9"23cm and 8"/20cm in both nickel and bamboo.
Generally, I use my 12"/30cm circs for adult and children's sleeves. For baby sizes you really need the teeny 9"/23cm or 8"/20cm circulars. These are also the lengths I also use for knitting socks and mitts. Honestly, socks really just fly off the needles using these little needles.
The smaller needles in particular are perhaps a little fiddly when you're getting used to them, but they sure are a time saver. There is no stopping and starting to slide needles or stitches and no ladders; one of the more frustrating aspects of other small circumference knitting options.
My 12"/30cm needles come from Addi and ChiaoGoo, the 9"/23cm from ChiaoGoo and Hiya Hiya and the 8"/20cm from Addi (note these only go up to a US/3.75mm size)
These really are no different from knitting on say a 16"/40cm circular, although I'd probably suggest holding the needles closer to the tip than you perhaps usually do.
Double pointed needles (dpns)
Knitters tend to have either a love or hate relationship with dons and these were my first introduction to circular knitting. I still have a hat that I knit in my early twenties with fair isle work knit on dpns.
Double pointed knitting involves knitting with four or five needles at the same time. The needles are double ended which allows the work to slide off either end of the needle.
If you knit with dpns in public you do look incredibly clever, which does give them a terrific smug value. The downside is that if you drop one, there's a high probability it will roll out of sight. I'd hate to think how many of these suckers I've lost down the gaps in our back deck!
Those who don't like dpns, say that it can be hard to get the transition from needle to needle at the correct tension, be it too tight or too loose, which can result in a ladder. Frustrating!
Some tips for avoiding the ladders:
1. Use five needles instead of four. It seems illogical but the shallower angle between the needles when you're using five rather than four makes those transition stitches easier to knit.
2. Change the starting point on each needle periodically so that the transition spots are spread out through your knitting rather than stacked on top of each other.
3. Pull the second stitch, not the first, a bit tighter on each needle.
This is probably the most common method used for small circumference knitting. It involves using a longer length circular needle and doubling it back on itself to create a loop that sits to the side of the work in progress. The work is divided in half and sits either side of the loop.
Magic loop does involve shoving the cable in and out to rearrange the needle and the knitting. This does mean that there is a constant interruption to your knitting and if you're working on something quite small this can be a little frustrating as you never get that meditative zen flow going. When they talk about knitting being the new yoga, they're not thinking into account Magic Loop.
Some knitters also find they get ladders while magic looping. Again, this is due the the change in tension at the transition stitches. If this occurs, try the same tips as for DPNS.
I tend to use this method for those really small circular pieces that are even too small for my teen circulars, such as mitten thumbs or glove fingers.
Two circular needles
This is quite an easy method. Don't feel daunted by the use of two needles, I find this an easier and less fiddly option than magic loop. I tend to use shorter circulars than most people for this, and find that two 16"/40cms circulars work well for me. The second needle basically replaces the loop and the knitting is again divided in half with each half on a separate needle. You knit each half onto the same needle.
There is the usual pitfalls with the possibilities of ladders. Sometimes I have been known to knit onto the wrong needle and end up with the stitches all on the one needle. This can be avoided by using different colour needles or cable cord. If you look at the photo above, you'll see that I'm using a blue cable and a red cable to help differentiate between the two.
Travelling or Single Loop
This is a lesser known option but it's a goodie. It's ideal for those situations where you want to work something seamlessly but don't have a small enough cord, for example if you're knitting a hat but only have a 32"/80cm circular. The advantage of Travelling Loop is that the loop moves with your knitting, so it eliminates that stop and start knitting that comes with some of the other techniques. I really quite like this one and have used it in emergency situations when I haven't had my full kit of needles with me.
The downside is that due to the angle of the needles while working this technique and the length of the needle tips you can't really use it for really small circumferences such as socks.
I'm hoping to teach some classes around the traps this year on small circumference knitting, showing knitters the different techniques and giving them the opportunity to try out the different needles (particularly the teeny circulars without the outlay). If you're interested, keep your eye out for details.
If you'd like to try out a few of the different methods to see what suits you best, my pattern Chained is perfect for this. Give it a go!
So what's your favourite method?
Do you have any great tips for avoiding ladders?
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Who am I?
Craftin' Mummy about the house to the always gorgeous and very silly Miss Lily Rainbow and very snuggly and smiley Toby Milo, wife of the adventurous Andy, underwater man extraordinaire.
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