As the name suggests, double pointed needles have points at both ends, they come in sets of four or five, and are made in the same materials as for straight and circular needles. Double pointed needles range in length from 10cm(4in) to 20cm(8in), and longer. Double pointed needles are used when the circumference of the piece is too small to knit in the round comfortably on a circular needle. The shorter lengths, particularly 15cm(6in) are preferred by sock knitters. These needles are handy for small projects like socks, gloves, mittens, the crown of hats, and to make I-cord.
My current favorite are 15cm, metal Addi Flip Stix. They come in a set of five, and what I like is one end of the needle is more blunt than the other end. You choose which end is easiest to insert into the stitches. They are also not too slippery, due to the matte finish.
Double pointed needles are a little fiddly at first, but with practice they are easy to manipulate. The following are the how-to’s of using dpn’s correctly.
Casting on. The stitches are divided evenly over 3 or 4 needles. The last or free needle is used to knit the stitches. Casting on stitches over 3 needles forms a triangle; over 4 needles forms a square. Four needles are typically used for larger projects, like the sleeve below that I’m knitting in the round. Cast on the required number of stitches, either using 3 or 4 needles. I like to cast on to a straight needle, then divide the stitches evenly between 3 or 4 needles, by slipping the stitches purlwise from one needle to the next. If casting on with all dpns, cast on the required number of stitches on the first needle, plus an extra stitch. Slip this extra stitch to the next needle and start casting on that needle, and continue to the last needle. Arrange the needles with the cast on edge facing the centre of the triangle or square and the tips overlapping. The first stitch you cast on should be on the end of the left needle facing you, and the last stitch cast on the right needle. As with casting on circular needles; do not twist the stitches. This is the point where a marker is placed between the first and last cast on stitch. I prefer to place a safety pin or closed marker here on the fabric, rather than on the end of the needle.
Knitting in the round. Take the free needle, and pulling the yarn tail across from the last stitch, knit the first stitch off the left needle. Knit firmly and pull the yarn tight. Joining the first round is typically the most difficult part of knitting with dpns. Once you knit past the first few rounds, it’s easier to manipulate the needles. When you finish knitting the stitches off the first needle, that needle becomes free, ready to knit the next needle of stitches. Knit the stitches off each needle till you reach the beginning or marked point; one round completed. Note: When I work with dpns, I hold the needles differently than for straights. Hold the right needle in the crook of your thumb and forefinger, like a pencil. This position works very well for a small number of stitches, making the knitting less awkward, and prevents the needles from flailing around.
Avoiding the ladder effect. A common problem when knitting in the round with dpns is a ladder of gaping or stretched stitches, formed at the changeover points between the needles. It’s a result of a loose tension when switching from one needle to another. To prevent a ladder when starting a new needle of stitches, pull the yarn tightly before knitting the first stitch, and knit it firmly. Also make sure to knit with an even tension, as knitting too tight can cause a column of tight stitches formed at the junction between two needles.
Binding off. When binding off use the free needle to bind off stitches on the first needle, till one stitch remains. Drop the free needle, and use the needle with one stitch remaining to bind the stitches off the next needle. Continue in this manner to the last stitch and fasten off by cutting the yarn and drawing it through the loop.
These are the basic how-to’s when working with dpns. With practice you’ll be able to manipulate these practical needles with ease.