It all began when I saw those luscious cake yarns that looked like big, juicy, colorful sweet rolls made of yarn. I found myself thinking, “I wish I could knit something that preserved those lovely swirls of color.”
After knitting “flat” since my girlhood days, I recently made the big switch to knitting in the round. And I’ll have to admit, I’m enjoying my knitting and making higher quality garments after making the big switch to circular knitting.
What makes it better? First of all, it’s easier. If you’d rather knit than purl, circular knitting is for you. In top-down knitting of sweaters, once you make your increases at the neckline, you pretty much flat-out knit until you’re done. You also don’t have to play “yarn chicken” as much, wondering if you you’ll have enough yarn to bind off that neckline or finish off those sleeves. By starting at the top with circular needles, you make the crucial parts of the sweater first. If you run out of yarn, your sweater will be a bit shorter than you planned, but you’ll still have a completed garment.
And did I mention no sewing up seams and very little tying off loose ends? I’ll admit, I love the process of knitting but often procrastinate for days (if not weeks) in putting a flat-knitted sweater together after finishing the knitting. With top-down, circular knitting, you make the sweater in ONE piece, with only a slight amount of tying up loose ends that even I can handle within a couple of minutes.
The downsides? For very small circular knitting projects, you still have to use the old double pointed needles, which tend to poke out in all directions and tie your brain in knots. But once you get your project up to a certain circumference, you can switch to small length circular needles, and you’re on your way down the path of quick and easy again. For most sweaters, you can use a set of interchangeable circular needles, and you don’t have to fool with the dreaded double pointed needles at all.
You do need a few new tools if you’re making the switch to circular needles. Here’s what I’ve needed to add to my knitting tool kit:
- Interchangeable Circular Needles. Personally, I love my bamboo needles. They feel better in my hands, and I like the natural wood look. When I made the switch to circular knitting, my gift to myself was a set of nicely organized Clover interchangeables. No more searching through the knitting supply bin to find the right size, and I can switch between cable lengths as the project progresses. The big box stores may or may not have them in stock for $170; Amazon sells them for a mere $69. Many folks on the online knitting forums also favor the Chiagoo interchangeables for $112, and Knit Picks offers an affordable set for $56.
- Stitch holders. You need at least one for any circular knitting project. For a raglan sweater, you’ll need at least four. I’m using some lovely handmade stitch holders by Jill’s Beaded Knit Bits. She makes a nice variety of lovely and useful products. Her markers come in sets in all kinds of useful combinations. Some cheaper ones are offered by ChiaGoo and Heirtronic.
- Pattern Books. I’ve needed to round up new patterns for my new yarns and needles. Two books I’ve used recently are One-Piece Knits: Essential Designs in Multiple Sizes and Gauges for Sweaters Knit Top Down, Side Over, and Back to Front by Margaret Huber and Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes and Gauges by Ann Budd.
Is Circular knitting worth the time, effort, and expense to make the big switch? I vote yes! Making any change in your life involves new tools, new skills, and taking advantage of new resources and wisdom. But like most life changes, you’ll eventually be glad you made the switch.
Happy Knitting, Cindy