Working with Double Point Needles
by Laura Bain
I have a confession. I wasn't a huge fan of Double Pointed Needles (DPNs). The great irony is that I love to work in the round and I love to work on seamless knits.
Over the years I have become a fan, and can tell you that working with DPNs looks much more intimidating than it really is. The most difficult part of working with DPNs is the cast on and first round. After that it's just knitting (and/or purling) with a lot of knitting needles sticking out of your work while they wait their turn to be used.
Here are a few free patterns from redheart.com which use double pointed needles.
Knit in Team Spirit
Knit in Reflective
Knit in Super Saver
What are Double Pointed Needles?
Double pointed needles come in sets of 4, 5, or 6 needles. These types of needles have a point on both ends so that you can knit from either side of the needle. Knitting from both sides of the needle is necessary when working in the round on items like socks, sweater sleeves, hats and many other cylindrical objects. DPNs are also used to make iCords.
The easiest way to learn to work with DPNs is to finish off an adult sized hat wherein most of the knitting is worked on a 16 inch circular needle. Often you will use DPNs to close up the crown of a hat that is worked from the brim to the crown.
In the following example, I have used Red Heart With Love in Parade. I usually use a total of 4 DPNs when I'm working, and for this demonstration I've used size 9 needles. Three of the needles hold the work and the last is used to knit. (If you're using 5 DPNs, four of the needles will hold the work and the fifth is used to knit.)
In this example, I began my work using a 16" circular needle to work in the round (as one would for many hats) with a total of 48 stitches cast on initially. In the last round of knitting on the circular needles I worked a round repeating the pattern of *knit 6 stitches, k2tog, repeat from * around, which will decrease the total number of stitches on the circular needle to 42 stitches.
Now you will move this work onto the DPNs (as if you were going to finish the crown of a hat) by knitting an equal number of stitches onto each of the 3 needles that will hold your work, starting with the first needle and the first stitch. In this example we have 3 needles to knit onto and 42 stitches, so to divide them evenly we will put 14 stitches onto each needle. To knit onto the DPN, just ignore the other end of the circular needle and use the DPN as your right-hand needle instead.
This is what your work will look like after having worked 14 stitches on the first needle.
Hint: As you are learning to use your double pointed needles you may feel more comfortable leaving stitches on the double point needles that you are not working with by capping each end with a point protector. However, you will likely find that as you get more comfortable working with DPNs using point protectors is an unnecessary step.
After there are 14 stitches on the first DPN, take the second DPN and knit the second set of 14 stitches from the circular needle to the DPN, then repeat with the third needle.
After moving all stitches to your DPNs your work will look like the image below.
At this point you would just continue to work your pattern as written on the DPNs instead of the circular needle. You will take the loose needle and knit the stitches from the first needle onto the loose needle. Take the new loose needle and use it to knit the stitches from the second needle onto the loose needle, then repeat with the third needle. As you go around you will always be moving stitches from the circle onto the loose needle.
Using Double Pointed Needles to Cast On
As mentioned above, using DPNs when you cast on may be the most challenging portion of working with DPNs. In this part of the tutorial I will be working with my Hocus Pocus Wristlets pattern. Instead of using the Reflective yarn, I'm again using Red Heart With Love in Parade as I did in the hat example above. Again I am using 4 total DPNs (3 needles holding the work and the 4th used to knit) in size 9 needles.
The first step in working with DPNs at the cast on edge of your work is figuring out how many stitches need to be cast on to each needle (this number will be different if you use 4 or 5 needles for your work). My pattern calls for a total of 24 stitches to be cast on. Since I will use 3 needles to hold my work, I divide 24 by 3, which tells me that I need to put 8 stitches onto each of the 3 needles that will hold my work.
Cast 8 stitches onto the first DPN as you would normally work (I used the long tail cast on):
Next, pick up the second DPN, hold it beside the first needle and cast on 8 stitches to this second needle.
After casting on 16 stitches your needles should look like the image below.
Now, pick up the third needle, hold it beside the first 2 and cast on the final 8 stitches.
Now you will make the needles look like a triangle, so that you can join so as to work in the round.
Now you will work the pattern written in the instructions. In this case you will knit the first 2 stitches, holding only the first needle you cast onto and the fourth "working" needle.
You will continue to follow the pattern, which reads "knit 2, purl 2," so you will knit 1 more and purl two to complete the repeated pattern.
Finish working with the first needle by knitting 2 and purling 2.
Now you will repeat the process on the next 2 needles to complete the round.
After three or four rounds you will begin to see the cylinder that you are creating by knitting in the round.
As you switch to knitting all stitches in the round, your mitts will begin to appear before your eyes! Hocus Pocus: you just made your own magic!
Finally, sometimes it's just easier to watch a video than see what is going on in still pictures, so here is a concise video sharing how to use DPNs.
Here are some more fun and simple patterns to test working with DPNs: