Circle concepts are everywhere! Whether we refer to the cycle of seasons, the shape and rotations of the Earth, , or the Moon. Our circles of friends, the circular economy... We come in full circles, go around the clock, and all year around...
Knitting could not escape... One says, "There is no knot in knit", which is kind of true! Knitting is about intertwining strings, making loops, and looping those loops around other loops!
That's the principle!
Regarding knitting methods, there are two: flat knitting and circular knitting - or knitting in the round. Of course, they both have a purpose, specificities, advantages, and downsides.
The principle of flat knitting is that you knit back and forth, having a “right side and a “wrong side”. You will knit one row, and then turn the work around and knit the next one. Unless your item is reversible, in flat knitting, the right side (RS in the pattern) will generally be the exposed side of your work, though the wrong side (WS in the pattern), will generally be inside the garment. It means that when you knit on the wrong side, you do the reversed stitches of what you want to see. You're following?
The method is ideal for creating rectangular or square shapes, or if a specific shape will be given during the blocking phase. For example, when a section is in stockinette, the method is to KNIT the stitches on the right side, and PURL the stitches on the wrong side. Why? Easy! The purl stitch is a reversed knit stitch. So, when you purl on the wrong side, it appears as a KNIT (V-shaped stitch) on the right side. With the same logic, when a section is in garter, you use the KNIT all the stitches back and forth, right and wrong side.
Circular knitting is instead done in a continuum, in the round.
Using the circular method, there is no right or wrong side to manage. Circular is kind of a “what you do is what you get” knitting method. It is used to basically create pieces that will have a tube shape: like socks, beanies, infinity scarves, headbands… or… our cocoon. There are more and more patterns that are developed to knit in the round sweaters, and tops. The uninterrupted design offers the benefit of being a seamless piece. A seam might sometimes get in the way, interrupt a design, or add a style and texture and make an impression! It's neither bad nor good, it all depends on what you want to achieve. For a stockinette texture, you just KNIT all the stitches, and for a garter effect, you KNIT one row and PURL the next one.
So? Flat or Circular? Like most answers to most questions: it depends! It depends on the piece and your personal preferences. A blanket is obviously a flat-knitted item. A beanie can be flat knitted and then seamed to close. Some sweaters and tops, dresses, and skirts are made of multiple pieces that are later seamed together, and some others are made in circular top-down or bottom-up. Follow the patterns!
And... Which needles for what? Interestingly enough, the methods and the types of needles are not entirely dependent. Wow!!?? What ?? How? Full disclosure big fan of circulars here – so we will describe them… but yes, totally biased!
The classic straight needles: Those are the “cliché” needles! Two sticks, pointy on one side, closed on the other by a stopper or a knob. Those are the ones you first picture in your head when you hear “knitting” needles. Those are your grandma’s needles (#cliché). And there is nothing wrong with that… But, you can only flat knit with those, and the length of the needles will define the maximum length of the project. The double-pointing needles: those are straight needles, pointy on both sides. They are typically used for knitting in the round using 3 or 4 needles. They can also be used as straight needles by adding a stitch blocker (or being very careful not to let the stitches slip away).
The circular needles: Those are made with tapered needle tips, relatively short, connected by a flexible cable, of various lengths. They are very handy to knit in the round. Moreover, they can be very useful for flat knitting, especially when you manage a large piece like a blanket. The knitting work will lay on the cable.
With circular needles, you can also go for a set of interchangeable needles.
If you start looking into project of various sizes, various yarns, this is definitely worth the investment.
Those sets will typically have multiple needle tips of various sizes, and multiple cables of various lengths. So, you can adapt both the length and the needle size depending on your project. Very handy!
Me, myself, and I are in agreement: we are hooked on those circular needles, at least for now.
They offer multiple advantages, plus I got myself an interchangeable set, and that so convenient!
To begin with, you can use them either for flat or circular knitting, which is quite an advantage.
The other bonus is that if you are like me, taking my knitting projects on the go: subways, trains, planes… while I’m waiting... Really anywhere I’m waiting, I’ll take it out and knit even only a few stitches! The circular needles are made with shorter tips, making them more manageable to take out in contained spaces. When I need to tuck it back in my bag, I simply push the stitches on the cable, and they will not slip away.
Finally, the cable will be long enough to hold a large item that you want to flat-knit. They are ideal for a blanket or a shawl, for example, and you don’t need another pair to knit a smaller item like a beanie. I have tried knitting in the round using multiple double-pointed needles, but I don’t find this method quite convenient.
I also know some fellow knitters whom I love and respect, and admire, who have never used them, and they live a very happy knitting journey!
The most important here is that there are probably as many knitting styles as there are knitters, and you are free to choose your own path, try things out, leave behind, return, and change your mind.
Sometimes, the destination is what matters, and we want to rush there as fast as possible. Some other times, the journey itself, the learning through exploration, discoveries, and experience, is the true treasure.
To close the loop... ;)
Be the knitter you want to be: Pick any needles, methods, and techniques you like and #Movetheneedles with us, one stitch at a time!