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Circular Knitting Needle Tips

Here are some "tips" (get the pun?) on how to tame some of those annoying needle problems we all seem to have at one time or another.


Do your circular needles stay curly when you're using them?  I'm talking about those needles with plastic cables between the needle tips - which can turn into pesky curlicues when you try to use them.  These hints probably won't work if you are using some of the old needles with metal cables, but it usually works with any needle with plastic cables, regardless of what the tips are made of (even wood or bamboo):

  • Soak the needle for a 2-3 minutes in hot tap water and watch it uncoil.  Here's what I usually do

    • put a couple of inches of hot tap water (boiling water might be too hot for the plastic) in my kitchen or bathroom sink

    • drop in the needle so it is totally covered with the water

    • watch it unwind

      • if it doesn't unwind immediately, let it soak for a few minutes longer

    • when you take it out of the sink, hold it straight and taut until it cools and/or run it under cold water (I hold one end in one hand, one end in my teeth, and one hand turns on the faucet)

  • Blow hot air from a blow-dryer on it.

  • Run it through the steam of a boiling tea kettle.

  • Hang it over the hood of a lit goose-neck lamp.

  • Hang it over the shower head when you take a hot & steamy shower.


Ever knit a tablecloth, doily, or other knitted-from-the-center-out project that calls for two or more different lengths of the same-sized circular needle as well as a set of double-point needles (DPs) of the same size?  You can use this same technique if knitting a tubular project that is too small for the circular needle you have  -- for instance, the body of a child's sweater or sweater sleeves or cuffs on any size sweater.  Well, I can't eliminate the use of DPs, but I can help you avoid buying extra circular needles.  Buy the longest size necessary for the project, then use one of the DPs to shorten the needed length.  Here's the alternative I use (see the picture) -- it works easily, but it's hard to describe -- so here goes:

  1. Knit on the DPs as directed until you have so many stitches that you think they'll fall off the needles

  2. Pick up your too-long circular needle (same size as DPs, remember?) and begin to knit with it -- work around until all of the stitches are on the circular needle (be sure you have added any necessary stitch markers).

  3. Slide a few of the just-worked stitches back onto one of the DPs (necessary to keep the stitch size accurate), then use this DP as your working needle (i.e., right hand needle).

  4. Now (and this is more difficult to visualize than to do), pull on the right-hand end of the circular needle until it's hanging out of your work and most of the stitches are bunched up on the left-hand end of the circular needle (do NOT pull the left end out of your work).

  5. Work about 3-5 inches along the row with the DP (that is, work whatever number of stitches will stay comfortably on the needle).

  6. Stop working with the DP and begin working with the dangling circular needle tip -- leave a loose loop of the cable jutting out of the work as shown in the picture.

  7. Knit with the circular needle until all stitches are on it, INCLUDING those from the DP.

  8. Now keep endlessly repeating steps 3 - 7.  NOTE -- you may or may not reach a point where you have so many stitches that you no longer need the DP to short-circuit the needle.

By the way, you may be asking why I don't use the "magic loop" single-very-long-circular-needle method that has become so popular lately.  I use both methods depending on the circumstances.  I use (and love) the "magic loop" method when I'm using needles US size 3 (about 3 mm) or below, especially for socks, but not when the needle size is larger than size 3.  That's because I think that the magic loop method could distort the stitch size of the project because the cable diameter is so much smaller than the needle diameter - so I use the double point needle short circuiting method and never have to worry about that being a potential problem.

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 Last update:  December 31, 2007

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