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Knitting on Double Pointed Needles

August 17, 2013

Knitting in the round on double pointed needles seems daunting at first, but it’s really not too tough. The trickiest part is figuring out the best way to hold your work and your needles (and everyone is different). A little practice is all you need to wrestle the porcupine!

::: How to Knit in the Round on Double Pointed Needles (dpns) :::

1. Distribute your knitting onto 3 needles (or 4, if you prefer, and you have a total of 5 dpns)

2. Pick up your fourth needle

3. Starting at the first stitch of the round, knit with needle 4 in your right hand and needle 1 in your left hand.
(note: make sure you pull the first stitch on a needle a little extra tight, if you are too loose you will get ‘ladders’, loose points in the knit fabric between needles)

Even though you are using 4 needles, you are really only working with 2 at a time. If you put your knitting down or just plain forget where you are at, remember that your yarn will always come from the right.


Work all the stitches on needle 1, keeping in pattern (follow pattern directions to see how you should be working these stitches). Now you will have one empty needle (formerly needle 1) and your 4th needle will be full.


Next you will be knitting with needle 1 (recently emptied) and needle 2.


Take your empty needle and begin working with your empty needle and needle 2. Starting to see a pattern? You are always using the empty needle to knit the next needle in the series. The trick is never to put your needle down. You are always working with 4 needles, but only using 2 at a time.

Round and round you go, always using the empty needle to knit the next.

This tutorial is part of The Simple Collection – our 100% free learn-to-knit series.  Check out the 8 fabulous free patterns sized from baby to big, and get started making modern seamless knits for the entire family!  Like our work?  Get our email updates and we will let you know about new patterns, tutorials, and events.

33 Comments leave one →
  1. Joanna permalink
    March 4, 2020 2:35 pm

    Pleased to find your tutorial on DPN’s. Especially like the reminder that we are only knitting with 2 needles at a time. Am having a terrible time figuring out how to process a YO at the junction between needles. YO is the end of the repeat and I’m just not having any luck guessing at what might work. This is what swatches are for – right!? Thank you

    • March 5, 2020 12:57 pm

      Hi Joanna – YOs at the end of a needle are notoriously easy to drop. The key is really just vigilance, knowing that it’s there and making sure it didn’t disappear as you went around!

  2. Penny permalink
    February 24, 2020 2:40 pm

    Hello, I am knitting the Flax Light sweater, 4yrs-6yrs and about to start the sleeves. I have never used dpns (tried once) and need some guidance for starting the sleeves with magic loop. What length is necessary to magic loop the whole sleeve? 24″ or 32″?. Are there any other concerns I might be missing?
    Still consider myself a novice even though I’ve fumbled through 2 flax sweaters and one harvest cardigan. I keep forgetting the rules!

    Thanks for all your support,

    • February 25, 2020 1:28 pm

      Hi Penny – Either length is fine. I prefer 32″ or longer myself, but others prefer less cord getting in their way. No other concerns, I personally like to pull the cord out at the sides of the sleeves, rather than in the garter panel.

      • Penny permalink
        February 29, 2020 11:24 am

        Hmm… Where exactly should I pull out the cord? Just after the garter or before? It won’t be even close to half and half. Won’t I run into a problem decreasing?( I cannot remember how I did it on my other Flax.) Maybe I should learn to use dpns.

      • March 2, 2020 1:00 pm

        Hi – You can pull the cord out wherever you like. I personally like to have it at the side of the sleeve. If you try one way and find you don’t like it, you can always pull them out a different spot.

  3. Bonnie permalink
    October 25, 2019 4:28 pm

    How do you change colors when knitting with DPNs?

    • October 29, 2019 3:09 pm

      Hi Bonnie – the same way I do any other colour change, I put my needle in ready to knit and throw a loop of the new yarn over the needle, then I work a few sts then give the tail a little tug.

  4. Theresa Rosenhack permalink
    February 12, 2018 4:05 am

    Going to try and make a big chunky mitten for my grandson to use to hide his tiny animals in , per his request, like the animals that go in his book called
    “Mitten” that he is fascinated with. Hate using double pointed needles but love your explanation and will try it.

  5. Pam Ralston permalink
    November 19, 2017 8:35 am

    Hi! I am knitting the barley hat and am up to the decreases. After I place my 6 markers, on round 1, it says purl to the 2nd marker. Is this to the 2nd marker of the 6, or to the one that is at the end of the purl section placed previously? It’s turning out lovely and I don’t want to mess up now! Thanks!

    • November 22, 2017 9:32 am

      Hi Pam – you only need one marker at the end of the purl section. If you place 6 markers as well as the one you already placed for the garter section you should have 2 makrers in the same place. The second marker of the 6 is the same as the one that previously marked your garter st.

  6. demaris vos permalink
    November 15, 2017 6:09 am

    Thank you.

  7. Arlene Willard permalink
    January 4, 2017 1:53 pm

    The pattern says Using the pinhole method cast on 8 sts. What is the pinhole method?

  8. Eva Thomas permalink
    August 1, 2016 6:25 pm

    Great site, good offers. Good instructions

  9. wickins, Margaret permalink
    May 22, 2016 7:13 pm

    Beautifully explained and demonstrated. Good on you. I’m going to make a start on the trash of yarn I have in a bag.

  10. Dana Selanders permalink
    March 7, 2016 4:31 pm

    How difficult is it switching from the circular needle to dpns when knitting the barley hat?

  11. Deborah permalink
    March 8, 2015 10:27 am

    I accidentally knit one set of stitches on one of my 3 needles with the needle beside it instead of using my 4th working needle. What should I do now???

  12. Beth Greenberg permalink
    December 14, 2014 12:07 pm

    Thanks, just what I needed when I needed it!

  13. Caitlyn permalink
    October 23, 2014 7:27 pm

    Thank you for the step by step instructions! I have been extremely hesitant (and all around avoiding!) using DPN’s. I promised a friend I would knit a hat for Xmas, and these helped me to overcome my DPN fear! :D

  14. kali permalink
    May 18, 2014 7:35 am

    Wow, I have yet to use don’s.. I’m just getting used to using circular needles, but these tutorials are AWESOME! They really helped and I ADORE THIS patterns and the Harvest Sweater.. just wished I knitted a little faster ahahahahah

    • May 22, 2014 7:25 am

      Practice, practice, and more practice will make your knitting quicker! You could also try to learn to knit continental style… most folk think it’s faster than english style (but I just knit slowly!).

  15. Anna permalink
    April 25, 2014 1:14 am

    Thanks for the tutorial! I’m learning to knit with DPN’s.

    What brand of DPN do you use here and in this tutorial They look nice and pointy!

    • April 25, 2014 3:03 pm

      I can’t remember for the life of me what the brand is but they are rosewood (which I love) and I got them at Unwind Knit and Fiber Lounge!

      • Anna permalink
        April 25, 2014 4:00 pm

        Thanks! It seems they are Lantern Moon.

  16. August 18, 2013 9:06 am

    Beautifully illustrated. I am trying to change over to wood only. It is so pleasant to work with and your stitches don’t usually fall off unless they are very loose. The metal aggravates my arthritis too :P


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