In sorting through what knitting needles to add to your collection it is important to understand the type of knitting needles that are available as well as their uses and limitations. Then you can apply that knowledge to the types of projects you most enjoy knitting. Already we have discussed single pointed needles, often the first type of needle people are exposed to. Today I’d like to talk a bit about double pointed needles.
Double Pointed Needles
Double pointed needles, often abbreviated as dpns, are frequently used in sets of 4 or 5 to knit small circumference things in the round such as socks, mittens, sweater sleeves and the crowns of hats. They are called double pointed because both ends have pointed tips so you can knit onto or off of either end.
Available in varied lengths from 4-8 inches, 6 or 7 inch dpns are the most commonly available and versatile. To avoid dropping stitches you need a length that exceeds the width of the project that needs to be on a given needle. For example, if you are knitting a 12 inch circumference straight sleeve on 5 dpns (4 holding the sts and one actively knitting) you would need needles that are 12/4=3″ plus an extra 1″ at each end to ensure no stitches are lost when the project is resting (experienced dpn knitters may require less) you would need dpns of at least 3″+2″=5″. If you work with all 5 in a set you can use a shorter dpn than if you work with only 4 (in the example above you’d need 6″ long dpns when working with 4). The shortest lengths are best for fingers and thumbs of gloves or baby socks and booties. The longer ones are needed for larger circumferences like hats and upper sleeves.
Dpns can be turned into shorter single pointed needles, great for knitting skinny scarves, if you place a point protector on one end of 2 of the needles. Therefore, if you knit mostly smaller items in the round and occasionally work flat items that are relatively narrow you may get more use out of dpns than single pointed needles. Like single pointed needles you can fashion your own from dowels if desired. When knitting in the round some find dpns uncomfortable to work with due to all those points. Ladders of looser stitches can sometimes form at the join between needles. It can also be easy to twist your cast-on stitches when first joining for knitting in the round.
With a little practice double pointed needles can be great to work with. As we’ll cover next, there are ways to knit smaller circumferences with circular needles if all those points are intimidating.