How to Use Circular Needles for Knitting

By Pat Olsen

Circular needles are two knitting needles joined by a flexible cable of several different lengths. They can be used like regular needles, and are best designed for knitting in the round. Once you learn the technique, you will be open to endless new design possibilities. The method used to knit leg warmers translates to hats, sweaters, decorative yolks and tube tops.

Measure the width of your calf and then from your ankle to your knee. This will tell you how wide and long your leg warmer will be.

Find the gauge of your yarn. Cast on 36 stitches. At the end of the first row, move all of the stitches to the other side of the circular needle taking care not to twist them. Connect the first row to the second by tightly knitting the first stitch. Slip on a stitch marker so you can keep track of the beginning of each of the rows. Continue to knit around and around until you have a 6-inch tube of material. You don’t need to bind off because you are only taking gauge. Steam the fabric and measure the stitches-per-inch and rows-per-inch. Translate your original leg measurement into a pattern of stitches and rows.

Cast on the correct number of stitches-per-inch to fit your calf. At the end of the row, push the stitches to the other end and knit the first stitch tightly. Slip on a stitch marker so you know where the beginning of each row is. For the second row, knit once, then purl once, repeating to form a ribbon. Continue for 3 inches.

Switch to a stockinet stitch: knit one row, purl the next, continuing up the length of the leg warmer until the desired number of rows (inches) is reached. Switch to the ribbing stitch for the next 3 inches. Bind off by knitting a stitch and slipping it over the next to the end of the row. Pull the last stitch through the loop. Hide the tag ends by weaving through the knitted fabric. When completed, lightly steam the leg warmer.

About the Author

Pat Olsen has over 35 years of experience as a professional journalist in California. She attended San Francisco State and Pacific College. Olsen has several published books, is a staff writer for Mill Creek Living Magazine, and currently writes for Demand Studio. She is a retired educator who still teaches twice a week.