After many, many false starts, I’ve just finished my first knitting project (a hat for John) using circular needles and double-pointed needles. The circular needles were a dream – as soon as I realised you have to have the right needle gauge AND the right length for the job – but as I’m making his matching mittens, the DPNs continue to be a nightmare.
Here are some things I’ve learned/figured out along with way to make things easier – probably really obvious or even wrong for a more experienced knitter but it’s stuff that’s helped me:
- Circular needles: I cast on and do the first row (until the last few stitches) on straight needles. I tend to cast on quite tightly (too tightly) so the first row is always a pain for me and trying to stretch it round the needles too is just annoying. After the first row, there is a lot more give so things stretch around the loop a lot easier.
- Double-pointed needles: The first DPN video tutorial I watched showed me how to hold all the needles at all times, using my redundant fingers and whatnot. This confused me. The second DPN video tutorial I watch told me to ignore all the needles bar the two I was using at that very moment. The other two/three can just flail around by themselves. This confused me less.
- Double-pointed needles: I kept getting ladders of loose stitches near my first stitch of each round because I couldn’t pull the thread tight enough. Now I knit the first stitch onto the existing working needle (my third needle) then once it’s on there all nice and tight, slip it onto the fourth needle (the new working needle) and continue from there. It’s a chore slipping it back and forth all the time but it’s a way to avoid ladders for now.
- Double-pointed needles: You’re supposed to divide the stitches up equally between the needles but while I do that roughly, I always make sure each needle starts at the start of the stitch sequence: ie, with a basic 2x2rib, each needle starts with the first knit stitch. I keep getting lost/distracted/forgetting where I am and this makes it far easier to quickly work things out.
- Double-pointed needles: Following on from that, because of the yarn placement or something, I find it considerably easier to start each new needle with a knit stitch rather than a purl.
- Both circular needles and DPNs: Up until now, I’ve tended to put place markers in the stitches (because I have a problem remembering whether a place on a needle means the stitch before or after – I’m a bit scatty when it comes to knitting). (And everything.) But, when it comes to reducing the stitch count with two-togethers, I put the place marker after the stitches to be knitted together so I don’t have to move it between rows or do anything like complicated like counting any higher than 2. I suspect this is generally a best practice thing anyway but it was new to me.
- Double-pointed needles: I can’t remember how many times I knitted the same bit of yarn trying to get DPNs. The theory of them just did not compute to start with, then when I got my head around that, I had (and still have) the ladder problems, or the problem of accidentally pulling all the stitches off the working needles, or the cat problem (which is, admittedly, not limited to DPNs and is closely linked to the latter). Anyway, what I’m saying is that it was tough. But it was fair easier to master when I transferred a nice tube of fabric from circular needles onto DPNs – perhaps because the tension of the fabric was already there or something – rather than starting on the DPNs from scratch. A great learning aid.