Circular Knitting Needles – An Essential Tool For Any Knitter

Circular knitting needles are the most versatile and useful needles I’ve come across. You can use them for many projects. I use fixed circulars with bamboo tips to do my knitting.

Circulars as they are fondly known as, make tackling complicated knitting much easier! What’s not to love? For all their benefits, they can be challenging to master at first.

In this post, I share all you need to know about Circular Knitting Needles.

Circular Needles - Everything You Need To Know

Table Of Contents

What Are Circular Needles?
Choosing The Best Circular Knitting Needles
Best Circular Knitting Needles
Guide To Cord Lengths
How To Knit With Circular Knitting Needles
How To Knit Flat With Circular Needles
Knitting In The Round
How To Use Circular Knitting Needles For A Blanket

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What Are Circular Needles?

How are they different from straight or double-pointed needles? They are attached at one end by plastic or nylon cord. The tips are made from the same materials as straight ones.

Bamboo, wood, metal, carbon fiber, and acrylic. Bamboo circular needles are great because they’re easy to knit with. Two kinds of tips – pointed for lace knitting and rounded for bulky projects.

You can make challenging projects, like socks and hats. You can also make clothing and bags without seams, much easier!

For projects that need double-pointed needles, you can use circulars with the “Magic Loop.” I’ve knitted socks like this, a handy technique!

When you’re knitting, the cord holds the bulk of your project. It prevents strain on your hands and shoulders. Beneficial when you’re knitting massive projects like sweaters!

They make knitting while traveling easier, no more losing the needle down the seat.

Can you use straight needles instead of circular? Yes! Though they’re a handy tool to have in your knitting toolbox.

Knitting hats made simple using circular needles. Photo credit: Thanks to @MoKnits on Instagram. (used with permission)

Choosing The Best Circular Knitting Needles

There are two types, fixed circular knitting needles, and interchangeable circular knitting needles.

Fixed come as they are and are a set needle and cord size. Interchangeables have many sizes, able to be swapped and changed.

Things to remember when choosing the best circular knitting needles:

  • Make sure the joins are smooth. Roughness can catch your stitches and tear your yarn.
  • Cords should be strong and flexible. (If the cables become too tightly coiled, soak in warm water. This will relax the coils.)
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Best Circular Knitting Needles

Here are some of my favorite top picks for the contenders of the best circular knitting needles.

ChiaoGoo Red Lace Circular 32 inch (81cm) Stainless Steel Knitting Needle Size 3 (3.25mm)ChiaoGoo Red Lace Circular 32 inch (81cm) Stainless Steel Knitting Needle Size 3 (3.25mm)

Materials: Needle tips are made of high grade stainless steel. The bright red is made of highly flexible, multi-strand, nylon-coated, steel cable.

Useful For: Medium projects, baby blankets or cardigans, knitted flat or in the round. Also for the body of a sweater.

ChiaoGoo Red Lace Circular 16 inch (40cm) Stainless Steel Knitting Needle, Size 6 (4mm)ChiaoGoo Red Lace Circular 16 inch (40cm) Stainless Steel Knitting Needle, Size 6 (4mm)

Materials: Needle tips are made of high grade stainless steel. The bright red is made of highly flexible, multi-strand, nylon-coated, steel cable.

Useful For: The brim portion of hats or the body of baby sweaters that are knit in the round.

addi Knitting Needle Circular Turbo Rocket Lace 32 inch (80cm) Size US 05 (3.75mm)addi Knitting Needle Circular Turbo Rocket Lace 32 inch (80cm) Size US 05 (3.75mm)

Materials: Needle Metal tips are coated with white bronze. The process to produce the bronze-coated needles uses less electricity and water, and is more environmentally-friendly; the new finish is also great news for knitters who are allergic to nickel! Flexible plastic cord.

Useful For: Baby sweaters and cardigans and blankets.

CLOVER Takumi Bamboo Circular 29-Inch Knitting Needles, Size 7CLOVER Takumi Bamboo Circular 29-Inch Knitting Needles, Size 7

Materials: Needle tips are made from smooth Japanese Bamboo. The cord is made from flexible plastic.

Useful For: Children’s sweaters, smaller sized women’s sweaters, baby blankets.

HiyaHiya Circular 32 inch (81cm) Sharp Steel Knitting Needle Size US 6 (4mm)HiyaHiya Circular 32 inch (81cm) Sharp Steel Knitting Needle Size US 6 (4mm)

Materials: Needle tips are hollow and made of high quality stainless steel. The cables are flexible plastic.

Useful for: Children’s sweaters, smaller sized women’s sweaters, baby blankets.

addi Knitting Needle Circular Turbo Rocket Lace Cord 40 inch (100cm) Size US 10 (6.0mm)addi Knitting Needle Circular Turbo Rocket Lace Cord 40 inch (100cm) Size US 10 (6.0mm)

Materials: Bronze coated metal needle tips and flexible plastic cord.

Useful for: Generally used for flat-knitting, it’s a common size used for adult cardigans as well as shawls or blankets.

Knitter's Pride US 4/3.5mm Dreamz Fixed Circular Needles, 16 inchKnitter's Pride US 4/3.5mm Dreamz Fixed Circular Needles, 16 inch

Materials: Needles tips are of densified laminated birch and black cords in plastic.

Useful for: Cowls, the brim portion of hats or the body of baby sweaters that are knit in the round.

Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.

The beginning of cowl. Circular knitting needles make knitting in the round a breeze! Photo credit: Anna @aktricot on Instagram (used with permission)

Interchangeable Circular Knitting Needles

If you knit a lot, you can collect circular needles quickly! An interchangeable circular knitting needle set solves that problem.

The needles can be attached to many cable lengths. Make sure the length of your circulars are smaller than the diameter of the tube you’re knitting. If not, the stitches will stretch, and you’ll lose your tension.

You can find circular knitting needles set with many needle and cable sizes.

Things to remember when choosing Interchangeable Circular Knitting Needles:

  • Needles should stay fastened to the cord. It shouldn’t unscrew or come loose.
  • Sets that have connectors are useful if you knit items like blankets or afghans.

If this sounds good, you need to read my article on the best interchangeable knitting needles.

Circular needles can be used for chunky knits. Photo credit: Thanks to @knotty.medley on Instagram (used with permission)

Guide To Cord Lengths

Cords are available in several lengths, each for different usage. The needle cables including the needle tips ranges from 9″ to over 40″. It’s essential to choose the right one.

All stitches need to sit on the cord without being stretched or bunched together. If you’re not sure which length to use, the pattern you’re knitting will tell you.

Circular needles sizes are confusing if you’ve never seen it before. They have 2 numbers. For example, Size 10 24″ needles. This means the needles are size 10, and 24″ (24 inches) is the measurement from tip to tip, which includes the needle lengths and the cable together.

What lengths do circular knitting needles come in? Here’s a list.

9″ – Useful For: Super-narrow projects, socks, baby hats, sleeves, clothing for dolls.

16″ – Useful For: Small projects, baby sweaters and booties, collars and sleeves for adult sweaters. Also for knitting in the round and hats for kids and adults.

24″ – Useful For: Sweaters, vests, cardigans, and other garments.

29″ – Useful For: Medium projects, baby blankets or cardigans, knitted flat or in the round. Also for the body of a sweater.

36″ – Useful For: Heavy or large projects knitted flat, like a shawl. Or small circumference projects knitted with magic loop.

40″ and Over – Useful For: Great circular needles for socks or sleeves two at a time. Also blankets and afghans. These the biggest size you’ll find.

Does length of circular needle matter? Yes. Use a too small cord and the stitches bunch up, lose tension, and become twisted. Use a too big cable and stitches stretch and become loose.

Beautiful cable pattern hats by designer Melinda Goodfellow. Photo credit: Thanks to @yankeeknitterdesigns on Instagram (used with permission)

How To Knit With Circular Knitting Needles

There are two knitting methods. Knitting in the round, and knitting flat.

Knitting in the round is where the cast on row is joined and you keep going until you’ve finished.

Knitting flat using circular needles is where just like on straight needles you work back and forth. You create each piece and sew them together at the end.

Straight needles are designed for knitting flat. Circular needles for knitting in the round, but you can use both methods.

How do you knit on a circular needle?

Cast on your stitches, and distribute across the cord. The last stitch you cast on is the last one of the round. Make sure you put a stitch marker here. It keeps them even.

If you twist them, the entire project becomes twisted. You have to undo your work and start again. No one wants that!

Knit a row until you reach the stitch marker. You’ve done your first round. Put the marker on the right needle and knit the next row. Continue and repeat.

Say your knitting requires double pointed needles. You can do the project using two circulars.

To knit in the round with this method, cast on stitches needed on one set of circular needles and slip half to the second set of circular needles. Slide the stitches to the other ends of your needles and join them.

For more on how to do this, read Bluprint’s tutorial.

How to Knit on Circular Needles in 5 Easy Steps

For visual learners, Studio Knit has an enjoyable and quick video on how to Knit on Circular Needles. With Kristen’s help, you’ll be creating your first project in no time!

How To Knit Flat With Circular Needles

Knitting flat is excellent when you’re working on massive projects. For example, blankets, throws, and afghans.

The cables hold the bulk of the project. No aching limbs after a long day of knitting!

This method is the same as when you knit on straight needles. No need to join the round only cast on and knit. Work from the left to right needle as usual, and switch hands when you reach the end of the row.

Continue and repeat as many times as needed.

Fun colors and pattern for this chunky hat. Photo credit: Thanks to @TheKnitologist on Instagram (used with permission)

Knitting In The Round

With this method, you knit on the right side of the fabric at all times. You’ll need to change your basic stitches slightly for it to turn out correctly.

Most circular knitting is done in Stockinette Stitch. You knit every row normally.

For Garter Stitch, you knit one row, purl one row. For Reverse Stockinette, purl every row.

These are common stitches you’ll see in knitting in the round patterns. Patterns will explain how to do others.

Knitting in the Round for Beginners

Davina from Sheep & Stitch has an excellent tutorial about knitting in the round for beginners.

How To Use Circular Knitting Needles For A Blanket

Blankets are a massive labor of love. Large circular knitting needles make it easier! Might be confusing, but once you learn, it’ll be a joy.

Ryan from RJ Knits has a great video you can learn from.

An essential tool for making knitting easier. Circular knitting needles are my favorite!

Let me know what you plan to make with circular knitting needles down in the comments! I’d love to hear about your knitted goodness 🙂

About Jodie - Editor Knit Like Granny

Hi. I’m Jodie Morgan, owner and creator of Knit Like Granny. (Yes, I’m a real person :) ) Thanks for being here. I am an Australian, currently traveling in Europe with my family. I love knitting and have met so many other fabulous knitters through this site. I love learning and helping others discover the joys of working with yarn. Please say hello!

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