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Casting On with Double Pointed Needles

October 3, 2013

MaterialsDouble pointed needles (DPNs) can seem a little scary at first. The cast on is often the most confusing part of working with DPNs but fear not!

Follow our simple step-by-step instructions and you will be casting on and knitting in the round on DPNs in no time.

Three Steps to Cast On to DPNs :::

Step One ::: Cast on the number of stitches required for your pattern plus one more onto a single DPN (so if your pattern says to cast on 28, cast on 29).


Cast on required stitches + 1 onto a single double pointed needle

Step Two ::: distribute your stitches – there are many ways to distribute your stitches and all of them are fine but I prefer to spread my stitches out over the three needles in a particular way. This way I don’t have to place a marker, keeping things simple. Picking up another needle and slipping from the back (aka starting with the first stitch you cast on) slip about half of your stitches onto 1 needle. Then pick up a second needle and slip about 1/4 of the total stitches onto that needle. Pick up a third needle and slip the remaining stitches onto that needle. You will now have your stitches distributed over 3 needles.

Slipping a stitch (purlwise): place the right hand needle in to the next stitch as if to purl

Slipping a stitch (purlwise): place the right hand needle in to the next stitch as if to purl

One stitch slipped

One stitch slipped

Step Three ::: Join for working in the round. Remember that extra stitch we cast on? We are going to use that extra stitch to create a nice clean join. First take your 3 needles and lay them down (see picture). Make sure all of the cast on edge is going ‘inwards’ – this is a good way to make sure your cast on is NOT twisted. To join slip the last stitch cast on (that extra stitch) over to the start of round stitch (the first stitch cast on). Knit or purl those two stitches together – this will be the first stitch of your round. If your instruction is to knit the first stitch, k2tog, if your instruction is to purl the first stitch, p2tog.


Stitches on 3 needles

Slipping last stitch cast on to beginning of round

Slipping last stitch cast on to beginning of round

Ready to k2tog or p2tog and start the round

Ready to k2tog or p2tog and start the round

Now you have joined for working in the round! For more information on what to do next, see our tutorial ‘Knitting on DPN’s’.

Helpful Hint ::: How to avoid ‘ladders’ – Ladders look kind of like runs in a stocking. They are loose stitches and gaps in the fabric that sometimes occur between the last stitch of one needle and the first stitch of the next. How can you avoid this? Simply make sure to give an extra tug to your yarn on the first stitch of a needle, this will make it extra tight and prevent ladders.

Some cute patterns, perfect to practice knitting in the round using DPNs:

lumberjack socksantler mittens

39 Comments leave one →
  1. Natalie S Prosser permalink
    December 5, 2020 7:06 am

    Hi. I wonder if you can help me. I’m really confused with the joining in the round part. When you say to distribute the stitches, you say to start from the back, so I assume this means to turn your needle around, and slip the very first stitch that you cast on first. So then when it comes to laying down the needles after they are distributed over the 3 (in picture 4), you have to turn the needles around again right? And then to be able to slip the last stitch cast on over to the BOR/first stitch cast on (on the left), you have to flip the needles again. So then you are doing this with the back of the work facing you, in order for the first and last cast on stitches to end up on the left needle and to then knit/purl those 2 stitches together. This is what is confusing me, I thought we would have the other side facing me. I have followed this before, when I started some mittens previously and some socks, and for some reason I just can’t remember or work it out this time.
    Also, when you slip the last cast on stitch over to the first cast on stitch, do you have the working yarn in front or behind?
    I hope this explanation and questions are clear. Thanks : )

    • December 8, 2020 2:04 pm

      Hi Natalie – I slip the the last stitch cast on over beside the first stitch cast on and knit those 2 stitches together.

  2. Caroline Sharp permalink
    May 18, 2020 3:09 am

    Hi, I was wondering if you could help me with my cotton yarn. I am doing a first attempt at a lacy tablecloth but having trouble casting on with this very fine yarn. Any tips please. Thanks, Caroline.

    • May 19, 2020 3:47 pm

      Hi Caroline – I’m sorry, I’m not much help. I don’t have a lot of experience with fine cotton yarns.

  3. jeannewelker permalink
    November 26, 2019 1:17 pm

    I’m looking at your tutorial for joining in the round on done and just don’t understand at all. Your written directions day take the extra stitch and put it on the right needle, but your picture shows taking the stitch from the right needle and putting on the left needle. Please elaborate because I just can’t figure it out. Thank you. Jeanne

    • November 27, 2019 9:10 am

      Hi Jeanne – Sorry, I can’t see where it says that in the ‘Casting On with Double Pointed Needles’ tutorial… The instruction is: To join slip the last stitch cast on (that extra stitch) over to the start of round stitch (the first stitch cast on).

  4. Arlene permalink
    August 14, 2018 6:18 pm

    When I get to the toe of Rye socks I don’t understand where the BOR is supposed to be . Please help
    My toe keeps coming up lol sided

    • August 15, 2018 3:28 am

      Throughout the foot part of the knit, the BOR is at the centre of the sole of the foot.

      When you begin the toe, you shift the BOR to the side of the foot. The instruction reads:
      To shift beginning of round (BOR) remove marker, k7 (8, 9, 10, 11, 12), replace marker – this is the new BOR.

      Hope this helps!

  5. Jordan permalink
    May 5, 2018 5:09 pm

    What if you can’t cast all your sts on to one needle before dividing? May pattern requires 60 but I can only fit 50 onto one needle.
    Thanks, Jordan

  6. Tara permalink
    February 2, 2018 12:09 am

    I just want to say you have the patience of a SAINT!

  7. Jenny permalink
    March 21, 2017 8:19 am

    I am trying to start the OpArt baby blanket. It says to cast on 4 stitches sing 2 DPN and then join in round. I can’t figure it out. Help!!

    • March 21, 2017 9:34 am

      Hi Jenny – I’m not sure I can really help that much over email, check out our Vivid blanket tutorial. It uses only a few sts at the beginning as well

  8. Nannieree permalink
    January 5, 2017 12:02 pm

    I am to cast on 38 sts and then divide them on 3 dpns. It doesn’t come out even. Do I put 12 on needle 1&2 and then the remaining 14 sts on needle 3? Thanks so much.

    • January 5, 2017 12:07 pm

      Hi – I like to put about 1/2 my stitches on the first needle and about 1/4 on each of the other 2 needles. That way I don’t have to place a BOR marker, I know my beginning of round is at the start of the ‘fuller’ needle.

  9. 20qmindreader permalink
    November 7, 2016 7:47 am

    Is there a specific casting on method that you use so that both the tail and the ball are at the “start” of the first round?

    • November 7, 2016 9:58 am

      Any method you use would result in having both the tail and the ball at the same place, because the ball will always be at the end of the cast on and the tail will be at either the beginning (like with a knitted cast on), or at the end (with a long tail cast on), and when you join to work in the round, the beginning and end are in the same spot. Make sense?

      • 20qmindreader permalink
        November 14, 2016 10:49 am

        Yes, thank-you, I see it now!! Cheers.

  10. Taehee kim permalink
    October 22, 2016 1:15 am

    how are we supposed to distribute the stitches when we cast on? do we divide them equally or do we have to do something else?

    • October 23, 2016 12:38 am

      Hi Taehee – you can distribute your stitches however you like, but I usually do about 1/2 on the first needle and 1/4 on each of the other 2.

  11. Niki. permalink
    June 27, 2016 1:28 am

    I can’t thank you enough for this tutorial. (: l’ve just wasted the last 2 hours doing and redoing my hideously unsuccessful attempts. Wish l’d found your method first.

  12. Maureen permalink
    June 5, 2016 1:27 pm

    Doing the toe with dpn. Pattern says to use needle 1. Which is needle 1. Thanks

  13. Robin permalink
    May 24, 2016 9:52 am

    I am having real problems with the needles getting twisted. Any suggestions? Thank you!

  14. Melinda permalink
    April 15, 2016 9:10 am

    Hi there, I’m knitting my second rye sock. I’ve cast on 48, backed off 24, now I back off another 10? is it? I actually remember how to join the knitting but forgot distribution. Love your classes.

    • April 15, 2016 10:14 am

      Hi Melinda! So, you want 1/2 on needle 1 (24) and 1/4 on needles 2 and 3 (12 and 12)

  15. Elizabeth Weiss permalink
    August 17, 2015 2:25 pm

    Love this pattern–on my 5th pair, but………the right side of the knitting on the sock where I have picked up the stitches just never looks as good as it should. Sometimes one side does, but the other does not. I must not be picking up the right eight stitches. I can only find seven, and I have knitted 12 rows on the heel flap. Where does the other one come from–the corner? (Using the Baby size) I never made a sock until I found your pattern, and I must say that with your instructions, it was very doable! Thank you so very much for your wonderful website, patterns, and yarn. ( I know I am supposed to pick up the whole loop, and I do, but it just looks messy after I have finished putting it together with the rest. H E L P please!!!

    • August 18, 2015 9:34 am

      Hi Elizabth – I usually pick up one in the corner. You would have 1 before the heel flap, 6 slipped sts on the edges from the heel flap and 1 more from the heel turn. If it looks better to just pick up seven though, I would just pick up seven and you will have one less decrease round in the gusset. It’s more important (in this case)that the pick-up looks nice than the exact number. Another tip is to pick up 1 stitch further in. It makes a slightly bigger pick-up seam but looks a little cleaner.

      • Elizabeth Weiss permalink
        August 18, 2015 3:27 pm

        Thank you so much! I did what you suggested and it did look so much better.

      • August 19, 2015 5:42 pm

        You can always try magic loop, but don’t be afraid to try new things!

  16. Doris Shaw permalink
    April 22, 2015 7:59 am

    I’ve been knitting (and crocheting) for yrs but had a decade away from these crafts. Couldn’t remember the finer pts to finishing and was delighted by your DPN join info. Will be checking back often. Thank you sincerely.

  17. Claire permalink
    March 11, 2015 5:12 am

    I have a pattern requiring double pointed needles (my first project with DPNs!). It says “using 2 double pointed needles and A, cast on 2 stitches”. I’m not sure what they mean by “and A”. Could you clarify?! Thanks in advance.

    • March 11, 2015 2:14 pm

      Hi Claire – its hard to say without knowing the pattern but I’m guessing it is a 2 color project? A is probably the color you cast on with

  18. Margaret permalink
    October 9, 2014 8:54 pm

    Hello, I’m a little confused by the instructions for distributing the stiches. If the goal is to distribute the stitches on three needles, why are the instructions for four needles? The instructions say put all of the stitches on one DPN (needle #1) then slip half onto another needle (needle #2) and then pick up another needle (needle #3) and slip 1/4 onto that needle and then pick up another needle (needle #4) and slip the remaining stitches. I apologize if I’m missing something obvious, but I even made my husband who is an engineer go through the steps with me, and we’re both confused.


    • October 17, 2014 2:40 pm

      Hi Margaret

      Your stitches will go on 3 needles and you need a fourth needle to knit them with. Does this clear things up?

    • Serra Boten permalink
      January 21, 2016 2:19 pm

      Hey! This is my second attempt at following these instructions and I keep getting stuck on this step as well. Here’s my confusion:

      “Then pick up a second needle and slip about 1/4 of the total stitches onto that needle.”
      – I’m not sure which end I should be slipping from? The “back”?

      “Pick up a third needle and slip the remaining stitches onto that needle.”
      – I’m not sure if the “remaining stitches” are the ones on the original needle, or the second one?

      At the end, should the work be distributed in even thirds across 3 needles? Or is it more like 1/2 is on one needle, and 1/4 is on each of the other needles? In the photo above it looks more like 1/2 and 1/4s, but I’m not sure. Or maybe it doesn’t matter?

      Thanks so much for your help and instructions!

      • January 25, 2016 12:53 pm

        Hi Serra- I always slip from the back, (you don’t really need to slip the sts from the 3rd needle, they are ready to go), and at the end it will be 1/2, 1/4, 1/4

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