Saturday, 16 January 2010

Simply knitting round and round

I have had so many people express the opinion to me that knitting in the round is too complicated for them that I feel impelled to prove the opposite. If I, an inexpert knitter, uncoordinated and clumsy, can knit round and round, then I promise you can do so, too.

So I hope the pictures below will be of assistance to you - they are born out of my own incompetence and distressing experience. I am not sure they can really be dignified with the name of knitting in the round tutorial, more advice on knitting with double-pointed needles if you really think you can't possibly attempt it (from one who knows how you feel).

The first time I tried to knit in the round I could not work out how to join it together at all (please don't laugh), and the first socks I tried were cast on at least four times, and caused me great personal grief.

All you need to be able to do in order to knit some simple handwarmers is to be able to cast on, and cast off, and do knit stitch (you don't even have to purl!) - because when knitting stocking stitch in the round, every row is a knit row.

If you don't knit already, I would suggest you first start with a simple scarf in garter stitch in a non-fancy yarn, and once you can do that you are ready to take on double-pointed needles, which are not nearly as scary as they look.

Leslie at A Friend to Knit With posted a pattern for fingerless gloves inspired by the Toast catalogue, which she called Toast and Toasty: Toast is a simple tube, and Toasty has a separate thumb, so if you are a complete beginner start with Toast, but anyone who has knitted before will find Toasty easy enough. Click on the link above to find her pattern.

I have adapted the pattern slightly to take account of the yarn I wanted to use, which was Duchess in Dove, from the Skein Queen. This is a DK alpaca/merino yarn, and beautifully soft and cosy on the hands - a joy to knit with.

I used 3.75mm double-pointed bamboo needles to avoid aching hands (more of this later) - I would normally use 4mm for DK yarn, but wanted a tighter knit for warmth, and to counteract the tendency of gloves to go a bit baggy with use, and cast on 39 stitches to produce a glove to fit an adult medium-sized hand. If you use a number which can be divided by three, you can have the same amount of stitches on each needle, which I find makes things easier.

So I used a thumb (or long tail) cast on - I cast on 39 stitches just onto one needle as normal, then slid them along, 13 from each end onto another two needles. In the picture above you can see the end of the long tail on the left, and the ball end of the yarn on the right.

It is important not to twist the stitches at this stage, but if you look carefully at the cast on stitches, each side of the work looks quite different - when you arrange the needles into a triangle, check that the yarn at the corners looks straight, and that the line of yarn underneath the stitches looks the same all the way round.

We still have the ball end of the yarn on the right, and the leftover piece of the long tail on the left - this will be for sewing in at the end to fasten off, but it also acts as a useful end of round marker, and saves using stitch markers, which can be a bit fiddly. (One round means that you have knitted round all three needles once, and have got back to the long tail marker again.)

Now, what puzzled me for ages was how you joined the stitches into a round. The important thing to remember is that your fourth empty needle is always the one you are knitting onto. When you get to the end of knitting along each needle, you find you have an another empty needle in your hand, and that is the one you use to knit along the next section.

So below, we are going to join the three needles into a circle, or rather triangle, and knit the first row. Remember, always knit onto an empty needle - that is what the fourth one is for.

Now we are going to start knitting! Remember to check that the bottom edge of the knitting looks the same all the way round, and with the ball end of the yarn on the right (if you are right-handed, reverse direction for left-handers), take the fourth empty needle and put it through the first cast-on stitch knitwise - just like normal knitting.

Now we bring the yarn round, under the needles and over the empty needle - just as if you were knitting normally on two needles without the one underneath. This is what joins the knitting into a circle, and joins the first and last cast-on stitches together.

When you knit this first stitch, pull it up really tightly - in fact, always pull the first stitch on any needle really tight - this will prevent you from having a ladder of loose stitches at the joins.

Below I have put another picture of knitting the first stitch on the needle -  here I have just moved the empty fourth needle inwards so you can really see how the yarn comes from the back of the just knitted section and under the empty needle, which has been inserted knitwise into the next needle to be knitted off.

So once you have knitted to the end of a needle, you can forget about it, and act as if you were just knitting on two needles like you always do.


 The first round is always the most awkward and fiddly to do - so don't feel put off if you seem all fingers and thumbs - once you have knitted a few rounds and the tube has started forming it will all seem much easier.


The picture above shows what the knitting will look like in the middle of your first round. Notice how all the bottom edges look the same, the ball end of the yarn is coming from the right, and that empty fourth needle is now half full.

Remember that to make stocking stitch on double-pointed needles, every row is a knit row.

Here is the same first round again - you can see the long tail marking the end, and the working yarn on the right.

Funnily enough, and I have never really worked out why, the tube seems to start coming out of the top, then after a few rows, it comes out of the bottom of your triangle of needles - so don't panic if it seems to be coming towards you at first - you are not knitting upside down!

And the picture above shows what I mean - you can see the bottom loopy end towards you and the inside reverse stocking stitch. At this point I have knitted a round or two - you can see that I am part way round because of the position of the working yarn at the top in relation to the long tail marker at the bottom. The empty needle on the right is about to knit into the top left stitch (at the top end of the top left needle).


And here you have it! About four rounds done, and it is beginning to look like the real thing.

If you are a beginner, you can just stick with this version (Toast) and knit until your handwarmer is the length you prefer - remember that the base and top will roll in as they are not ribbed, so allow 1-2cm  (1/2-1in) extra at each end - then cast off as normal, and you only have the two yarn ends to darn in. No sewing up - bliss!

But if you are more a little more experienced or adventurous (and it really isn't very difficult), then you can go for the Toasty version which has a separate thumb. I have a few pictures of knitting the thumb opening to help you negotiate Leslie's pattern if you are new to this sort of thing.

I changed the measurements to suit my hands, but the beauty of this pattern is that you can adjust the length to suit you, without any complicated maths. So I knitted 16.5cm/6.5in before beginning the thumb.

Here you can see how I have knitted 4 stitches along the needle, put 5 stitches for the thumb on a safety pin (very useful for holding small amounts of stitches), and that leaves 4 stitches left on the needle (total 13, which is a third of the original 39 cast on).

Sorry for the slightly fuzzy close-up but here you can see where I have started casting on 5 stitches to replace the ones on the pin. Just loop the working yarn round the needle as shown - bring it forwards, back over and down through the gap and pull tight.

So here we have the 5 new stitches cast on to replace the held ones - all made by looping the yarn round the needle as I did in the picture before.

You then just knit as normal to the end of the needle and carry on until your glove is the length required - mine was 24cm/9.5in in total, so after the thumb I knitted for another 7.5cm/3in. After the rolled edges, this gave a glove length of 20cm/8in, but of course you could make yours longer or shorter as required.

After casting off the top you go back to knit the thumb, in just the same way - you put your held 5 stitches on one needle (at the bottom) and I then picked up another 10 (5 on each needle) to make the thumb. I knitted the thumb for 5cm/2in before casting off.

So that's it - remember you must immediately cast on your second glove, otherwise the first will be forever solitary.

And once you have knitted the first pair, you can try some variations - I knitted Princess Bunchy a pair in Skein Queen Little Desire yarn in Lagoon, which you can see in the top picture. For these I cast on 36 stitches (hold and recast on 4 stitches for the thumb, then pick up another 8 to make 12 thumb stitches), and knitted the gloves shorter to the measurements of her hand.

I have also made a stripy pair in cream and slate Cashmerino from Debbie Bliss (4 rounds grey, 6 rounds cream). These have garter stitch ribbed edges - this is 6 rows of purl stitch to begin and end, and at the thumb top. (Please avert your eyes from the end not sewn in and just visible under the glove - I promise I will do it tomorrow.)

So if anybody is still with me after that, I think you deserve a cup of tea and a bit piece of cake. So you go and do that, and I will just wish for a cup that cheers.

But before I go I just wanted to pass on some advice about knitting and aching or arthritic joints. Contrary to received opinion, knitting will not cause arthritis and can even help exercise your joints (see the Arthritis Care advice here), but knitting with metal needles can put a strain on the joints and make your hands ache because they don't absorb the forces exerted in the same way that bamboo does, so your hand takes the strain.

Non-specialist medics often tend to ascribe aching thumb joints in people over 35 to incipient arthritis, and too much knitting or sewing - the same happened to me, but luckily enough I saw a rheumatologist and physiotherapist who knew better.

If you have problems with your hands, get yourself to a specialist hand therapist - every hospital physio department should have one, but many GPs don't know that they exist, so you might have to do a little work to find one. I was given some simple strengthening exercises and a neoprene splint (a sort of handwarmer-shaped glove) to wear to support my hand when knitting (all on the NHS) and even though I am physically challenged in various ways, I now knit more than ever, and no longer have a painful joint.

I also always use bamboo needles - I would highly recommend them, and if you are having problems with painful hands, it might be worth seeing a hand therapist to see if they can help.

And now I will get down from my soapbox and go and knit some more handwarmers. Have a good weekend!


BusyLizzie said...

Thank you for your comment on my blog, I do have rather a soft spot for these vintage mannequins....Have a lovely weekend. Lizzie x

Sal said...

It must have taken you ages to photograph all of that!
I don't like knitting but I am very tempted to give that a go!

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

The handwarmers do indeed look 'toasty' - thanks for the good advice Pomona. Will definitely use your step-by-step guide if I ever get around to having a go! Bfn. Lesley

MelMel said... fantastic, I so admire ppl who can knit n crochet cos I'm toatlly rubbish at it....they look great!x

Lola Nova said...

Oh my, what a lot of work went into that very informative and splendid post! Good on you for the last bit too, I'm needing to get to the doctor for an arm/shoulder trouble and I did need reminding.
I may never knit, but I do so admire those who can. For now, I think I will stick to my crochet which only requires the one hook :)

Thank you again for stopping by the tea party over at my place, it was lovely to "see" you there.

KC'sCourt! said...

I used to think knitting in the round was difficult till a friend convinced me differently. I knit on two ciculars. GOOGLE "knitting on two circular knitting needles" its easy-peasy!

Unknown said...

Now you've gone and done it. I'm going to have to give this a try. Great tutorial. Wonderful yarn.

MarmaladeRose said...

Lovely mitts. I want to have a go, but I already have my finger in too many pies!

Floss said...

Well, I remember my grandma doing this... I have a feeling I never will, but then I never expected to move to France!

Thanks for your comments - I like the picture of you as a new romantic swaithed (as ever) in shawls. I was too rebellious against my own generation to be a New Romantic at the time, and it wasn't until I was an adult that I realised that New Romantic bands were often excellent, actually.

jennyflowerblue said...

Thank you, no really thank you, that was a brilliant post- bloomin brilliant. I understand. I even feel that after my mammoth finish-a-thon I may have a little dalliance with some double ended beauties myself!

Eternal Magpie said...

Brilliant tutorial, thank you very much!

It always takes me at least three goes to figure out how to join that first round. It seems to take me by surprise every time!

Marigold Jam said...

Thank you for sharing this pattern with us - I have been meaning to have a go at making some of these fingerless mittens which seem so popular just now and had been searching for a pattern for mittens which I could follow but just not shape the top. This is much easier. Watch this space!!


Anonymous said...

I feel so fortunate to have found this post. I had forgotten how to knit on the round having not done it for many a year.

I also found my self mesmerised by all the gorgeousness in Your sidebar. You have a Lovely blog here.



Victoria - Florence and Mary said...

Well you certainly make it sound easy!

Thank you for helping us out with such fabulous photos and advice

Victoria xx

menopausalmusing said...

On my (very short) "lust" list........... bamboo knitting needles....... I only have two pairs and would love a whole case of them. Didn't know that double ended ones existed and now that I do, then I shall lust after those too.......

Helen said...


So glad to have come across this post! I've been wondering how to do this for a long time! You're right, it doesn't look as complicated as I'd expected ... I must have a go at it.


Helen x

Sarah - Red Gingham said...

Bamboo knitting needles sound lovely. I must tell my mother about them. As for knitting, I think it best I leave it to those who have the patience for it. I've decided that we can't all be good at everything, and sewing is my thing.

Lululiz said...

One day I will be brave enough to give this a go. I hope. Your instructions are excellent.

wonderwoman said...

wow,that was very instructive - i have tried socks with double pointed pins and gave up, but you have inspired me to have a go again!!!


Anonymous said...

Wow what a great post, such dedication. Thanks for the bamboo needle advice, I will use those in future.

Beki said...

Have to agree with Sarah, I think sewing is my thing but determined to give it a go.
You're right, it could be next months project.
A wonderful tutorial, thank you very much.

Take care
Beki xxx

Rosa-Munda said...

Hi Pomona, Thank you for the wonderful knitting lesson. Ann Budd's sock book arrived in the post this morning, so all I need now is a ball or two of wool and some lovely bamboo needles. Ros

Susan McShannon-Monteith said...

Splendid job Pomona and I love the hand warmers. I'm working on a long cone shape that is to be felted upon completion for a Spring display for May Day...
Susan x

Flower Girl said...

I am a huge fan of hand warmers and your knitted in the round ones look fabulous. I am also a huge fan of bamboo needles - so much nicer to knit with than plastic or metal ones! Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Rebecca x

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

OK, are you ready for this? I am knitting a hat (free internet pattern) on double ended needles. Suffered a bit at the beginning but going fine now. This is in preparation for knitting some socks, which is my great ambition. So thank you for the inspiration and the timely tutorial. My only concern is that the hat does seem to be for someone with a rather small head (i.e. not me).

Frances said...

This is a grand post. I am just imagining how many hands will soon be warmed by beautifully knit mitts! I have also made use of Leslie Friend's wonderful patterns, and want to put a word in for "Those Mitts."

Easy to do variations. It is all up to what the knitter wants to do!

Been doing a bit of knitting today myself, and am starting on my second pair of socks.

It is fun to share our knitting inspirations and enthusiasm as this new year gets going.


Shirleyanne said...

Thank you for sharing this.
Absolutely brilliant.
Not the best of knitters mainly because I'm left-handed & hold the needles very awkwardly.
Your instructions are making feel that I would like to have a go again even though I've not done any for many years.
I especially like your hand-warmers! Would have been very useful over the last few weeks.
Many thanks

Sarah said...

I've never knitted in the round before and have always avoided it as it looked so awkward and difficult, but I think you've just convinced me otherwise!

Rowan said...

This is excellent, thanks Pomona! When I've finished Gabriel's jumper I shall have a go at some socks!
I'm fortunate enough not to have problems with my hands even though I'm in my 60s, I've been gradually changing all my needles to bamboo though, they are much nicer to use.

Chrissie said...

Oh Pomona, my first attempts at knitting with four needles last year still ended up with a straight line! (I did work it out in the end.) Your instructions are so clear and helpful I might even have a go at some 'toast' ones!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for going to the trouble to share this with us (it must have taken quite a while)? I'm now off to add 'knitting in the round' to my crafty must-do's for 2010.xx

Julies Knit Stitch Corner said...

I still get in a bit of a pickle when I try it this way. But I have enjoyed your post and you have showed me a few pointers that will help me, thank you for that. I am not giving up yet. best wishes Julie.C

cathleen said...

You are a sweetheart!

sarah-jane down the lane said...

I salute you, this is very comprehensive and must have taken you a really long time. So I want to say you're brilliant!

Sarah x

Serenata said...

What an excellent post - I have a problem with knitting - hence why all the unfinished projects - I forget so start again and then give up. Now where is the best place to get these needles from? Wonder if they do them in crochet hooks as well?

Thanks so much for the information!

MILLY said...

Wonderful instructions. Hand warmers next they look so nice and cosy.

Amy Friend said...

Great directions! I totally agree. I figured out circular knitting therefore anyone can! I love those fingerless gloves. Just when I thought I was done knitting for awhile, I might have to start up again. I also have to tell my knitting friend about the arthritis info. She has been bothered a lot lately and sadly, we both just turned 35! Who knew!

Joshy and belle said...

Thanks so much for all your lovely comments just recently its been a tough time so it really means a lot to me!
I've just learnt to knit in the round on my socks but my heel went quite wrong! your knitting looks fab, my knitting never quite works no matter how hard i try! fliss xx

Duchess of Tea said...

The Duchess of Tea has bestowed a title upon you. Her Grace requests the honour of your presence at the knighting ceremony to be held at Rose Tea Cottage.

The Duchess will be honoured if you accept the award she is presenting you by copy and pasting it on your blog.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could knit, I can sew but don't have any knitting genes! I love the tea cosy. . .do you make & sell them? B

Pomona said...

B - Sorry Blogger won't let me email you via your comment, but you can email me (address on the blog)! I don't have a shop but will make things to commission.

Pomona x

Marisa said...

These are really cute and easy to do...I gave my old needles to my daughter who wanted to give knitting a try so I got a gift package of 12 sets for Christmas for myself that I haven't opened yet. It's amazing to see how much they cost now. The ones I gave my daughter still had the price stickers on the packages...99 cents to $1.99...purchased 20 - 30 years ago.

Jooles said...

I found it!...thank you so much x
I have bookmarked this page for future reference, you are my knitty hero :o)

Dori said...

Hurrah! Somehow I stumbled upon you via Bloglovin' and this post of yours took all the mystery out of knitting a pair of handwarmers! It's that thumb bit! By gosh, I think I can do this! Thanks so much. :)


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