Thursday, April 23, 2009

Knitting in the Round--the Basics

Learning to knit in the round is a perennial problem for new knitters—Every knitting board and forum has the same basic questions being asked time and time again.

So lets go over the basics.

The tools:
Basic tools for knitting in the round are Double Pointed Needles (DPN’s)
These come in size (US sizes/mm sizes) and lengths.
The common sizes are from 000 to size 15.. (about 2mm to 20mm)
The common lengths are 5 inches to 14 inches –with 7 to 8 inch long ones being the most common.

DPN’s commonly come in set of 4 needles and in sets of 5 needles--today sets of 5 are more common, but there are still companies that sell sets of 4.
But they can be used, in sets of 6 or 7 or 8—by buying 2 or more sets.

Circular needles are (think about it!) another form of a double pointed needle!
These come in sizes (US sizes/mm sizes) and lengths
The common sizes are from 00 to 15—but its not as hard to find uncommon sizes (like 000 or 35!) as it is with DPN’s
The common lengths are from 16 inches to 40 inches (or about 28mm to 1 meter) but there are lots of places that carry uncommon lengths (12 inches or 47 inches, or even 60 inches)
The commonest lengths are 24 to 40 inches.

Both DPN’s and circulars (circ’s) come in a wide range of materials
Aluminum, nickel coated brass, steel, bronze and precious metals
Bamboo, birch, ebony, rosewood and other natural materials
Nylon, plastic (various sorts of plastics) and glass and so on, because this list is far from complete.

Circ’s, also come in INTER CHANGEABLE sets—there are lots different sets and complete discussions about the various sets is an other whole essay!

The sets consist of tips (about 6 inches long) that screw or snap on, and cords of various lengths that can be use, as is, or joined together to make any length cord desired.
Most set include connectors (to connect the cords) and ‘buttons or end caps” that allow you to use the cord as a stitch holder, by removing the knitting tip(s) and replacing it with a button/end cap.

Set come in different material, and different ranges of sizes.
Most set can be, (if you find you don’t like something about the set) resold on ebay or on swap forums for about 90 to 95% of what you originally paid for them.
(Especially true if you bought them when on sale or if you use a discount coupon for the purchase)

Circ’s can be used 1 at a time, --a 32 inch circ can easily hold 60 inches worth of stitches--or in multiples (remember they are just long flexible double pointed needles)
A single LONG length circ can be used—for any number of stitches--even very few –by using a method called Magic Loop. Circs that are 40 to 47 inches long are the most common size for Magic Loop knitting, but in some cases, a 32 inch needle is long enough.

When knitting in the round there are 2 basic styles:
Disks or Tubes.

The disks can be flat (perfectly!) or NOT.
Doily’s, shawls, placemats, “pinwheel’ blankets and other blankets are some uses for flat disks. Beret’s are make from flat disks, too.

Uses for cupped disks are hats, or knit (and felted) bowls, or other shaped items.

Cupped disks often turn into TUBES.
A disk that has excessive increases wil ruffle, and flat disks can be trimmed with ruffles.

There are some general guidelines for making disks, and some general (not perfect, but general rules) for the number of increases or decreases needed to create a flat disk, vs a cupped one vs a ruffled one. This information will be in a future post. 

Tubes can be straight, or tapered or even something like an hourglass shape.

Both methods can easily be combined.
Flat disk can  change into tubes, and tubes can change into flat disks
A hat is a Tube with disk (usually a slightly cupped disk).
Socks are shaped (bent) tubes with marked cupped disks (pointy toes!)

A hat can start at the brim (with a tube) and end with a disk (the crown)
Or it can start with a disk, (crown) and end with a tube (brim)

The same is true for socks(they can start at the toe or at the cuff,), mittens, (tip of the mitten or the cuff) and sweaters.(hem to neck band, or neck band to hem)

In some traditions of knitting, one method is more common than the other, but both methos (styles) work and both are ‘correct’.

Sweaters knit in the round can start with a single tube (the neck line)
the tube can expand (rapidly!) and then be divided into 3 tubes (2 smaller ones are the sleeves, the large center tube will be the body)
Or you can knit 3 tubes (2 sleeves and a body) join them into a single tube, (shoulder/yoke) and end at the neckline.)

More about knitting in the round tomorrow.
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