Many knit enthusiasts initially learn to knit using straight knitting needles. Transitioning to circular or double point knitting needles sounds intimidating to some novice knitters. Really, it’s the same as working the stitches on straight knitting needles, with a couple extra bonuses.
Circular knitting needles are often used for larger or seamless projects. Many people think you have to be knitting in a circular fashion to use circular knitting needles. This is not the case. Once I learned to use circular knitting needles, I got rid of many of my long, straight (single point) knitting needles. I found it much easier to sit in my chair and knit using circular knitting needles (straight needles would often bump against the arms of the chair). It’s been my experience that knitting heavy projects on long, straight (single point) needles makes the weight shift from one needle to the other. Eventually, my wrist will start to hurt because the weight of the project on the needles puts an extra strain on that wrist.
You can knit back and forth (as one would for single point needles) or knit in a circular fashion. My favorite raglan seamless sweater pattern is knit from the neck to the waist, with no seams to stitch together for the sleeves and sides of the sweater. Once it’s bound off the knitting needles, I usually only have to hide a few yarn ends and the project is done.
Circular knitting needles come in different lengths of cable connecting the two knitting needle points. The different lengths allow the knitter to make larger projects (such as afghans) without crowding the stitches on the needles. Sometimes, you will start with smaller length knitting needles and transition to longer cabled knitting needles as the stitches become crowded on the smaller cable needle.
Most of the time, I use my 16- or 24-inch circular needles for my projects. I have my late mother-in-law’s circular knitting needle sets and there are a couple of circular needles that are only 9 inches long. She would use these circular needles to knit sleeves on baby sweater or make pairs of baby mittens. I don’t use them very often because they are troublesome to work the stitches. (Often, I will use double point knitting needles for very small circles such as sweater sleeves or the last few rows of a watch cap.)
Working in a circular fashion entails casting on the needed number of stitches and joining the round. A closed marker is placed between the first and last stitch of the round. This way you know when to begin the next row shaping or color work for the knit project.