knit in the round

How to Knit in the Round

Knitting in the round is a fantastic skill to master. With it, you can knit hats, mitts, sleeves, and other projects without seams. And it’s easier than you might think!

Watch this video to learn how, then read the rest of this tutorial.

The Cast On

To knit in the round, cast on the same as you would for a flat piece. You can use any cast on you like. 

Leave a slightly longer tail than you would ordinarily. There is always a little gap between the first and last cast on and you can use the tail to sew that gap shut. (There are special join techniques to avoid this gap, but it’s easier – and usually just as inconspicuous – to sew it shut with the tail.)

The tricky part of the cast on is making sure your stitches are not twisted around the needles or cord prior to joining the cast on to knit in the round. A twist is disastrous because the only way to fix it is to rip out your work and start over.

This is a photo of a typical cast on. Notice how it’s bunched up in places. It’s difficult to determine if it’s twisted around the cord.

Knit in the round cast on

The following 2 photos are identical, but one is marked to highlight the twists. The breaks in the red and yellow lines indicate where the cast on twists under the cord or needle. 

Knit in the round cast on with a twist
Knit in the round cast on with a twist

To ensure that there are no twists in your cast on, lay it on a flat surface with the working yarn on the right needle. Then carefully work your way around it to position the cast on stitches on the inside of the curve, as shown in the following photo. Double and triple check that the cast on is not twisted around your cord or needle.

Cast on ready to join

The Join & First Round

After you’ve straightened out your cast on:

  1. Slide a stitch marker or row counter (as demonstrated in the video) onto the right needle to mark your beginning of round (BOR). 
  2. Carefully pick up your work, with the working yarn on the needle in your right hand.
  3. Begin knitting round 1 of your pattern. Pull the first stitch snug.
    Note: In the video above, I did the join with a knit stitch. It is less common, but some patterns have you join with a purl stitch. The technique is exactly the same except you purl, instead of knit, the first stitch.

The knitting is pretty much the same as for flat pieces – just follow your pattern. You’ll notice that flat patterns have row numbers and in-the-round patterns have round numbers. This is because you don’t turn your work over when you are knitting in the round like you do at the end of each row on a flat piece. You just keep going round and round in the same direction.

When you reach your BOR marker, slide it to the right needle and follow the directions in your pattern for round 2.

Continue in this manner until it’s time to bind off.

The Bind Off

Binding off an in-the-round piece is the same as binding off a flat piece. There is a little technique using your bind off tail that will make the bind off seamless. Watch this quick video to learn how:

Tips for Knitting in the Round

Knit in the Right Direction

When you knit in the round, it’s easy to get confused which direction you were knitting when you pick up your work after a break. 

Knitting in the round forms a tube. It might be a big tube, like the bodice of a sweater. It might be a teeny tiny tube like the finger of a glove. Regardless of the size, always make sure:

  1. The right side of your work is on the outside of the tube you and hanging down from your needles. If you are not good at differentiating the right side from the wrong side, pin a stitch marker to the right side after you complete your first round. (Just make sure it’s one that will not easily slip through the fabric to the wrong side.)
  2. The working yarn is attached to the needle in your right hand. I have a saying for knitting in the round… “If the working yarn isn’t on the right, then it’s wrong! If it’s not right, it’s wrong!”

The Dreaded Twist

It is possible to twist your work on any round in the first inch or two of your piece. Check your work often in the beginning to make sure it is not twisted. 

This is one of the most common mistakes – even for experienced knitters. It’s very frustrating to find a twist after you’ve knit several inches of your project, because the only way to fix it is to rip it out and start over.

Knitting Small Circumferences

Sometimes your cast on is shorter than your needle. For example, if you are knitting gloves. You can also encounter a similar problem when doing the decreases necessary to knit the crown of a beanie. 

In such cases, you simply don’t have enough stitches to “stretch” around your cord and you need an alternative way to knit in the round. Some knitters use double pointed needles for knitting small circumferences, others use a method involving 2 circular needles. I prefer the magic loop method. Check out my Magic Loop Method tutorial here.

Try Knitting in the Round

The Waverly Weekend Cowl is a perfect project to learn and practice how to knit in the round. Our Waverly Weekend Cowl Knit Along will guide you through every step of the pattern with written, photo, and video tutorials.

Waverly Weekend Cowl KAL with lessons
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