Knitting Hats On Circular Needles – Tips For Straight Needle Knitters

If you are like me and learnt how to knit on straight needles, you may feel daunted by the prospect of knitting in the round on circular needles.

Maybe you have noticed the multitude of hat knitting patterns which are knit in the round and don’t quite know where to start.

This was me a while ago. Actually, as a keen hat knitter, I became quite fed up with sewing up my knitted hats at the end, and then didn’t like the look of the seam.

If you like to knit hats with chunky or super chunky yarn, a sewn up seam on a hat can be really quite obvious. This doesn’t really matter, and you can bet that nobody noticed it. However, when you knit hats in the round there is no seam at all. And no sewing!

This saves so much time. When you knit hats in the round, they are finished off so much faster, enabling you to move on with your next amazing knitting project.

Read on to find out some tips that may help you to get knitting those hats in the round on circular needles.

This article may contain affiliate links.

Choosing the right needles

To knit a hat in the round, you will need some circular knitting needles. Like straight needles, circular ones are available in all of the relevant widths. Also like straight needles, circular ones can be purchased in different lengths. Now, in theory you can use any length of circular needle to knit hats, as you can use a ‘magic loop’ method to enable you to get to the narrower parts of the work.

However, I have found that it is far simpler to simply buy 40cm long circular knitting needles if you want to knit a hat in the round.

You can buy lovely sets of circular needles with interchangeable tips, and these are great for starters to circular knitting. However, for knitting hats I always buy fixed ones. This is because many of the sets don’t contain the shorter cable length which is really optimal for hat knitting.

You can see my collection of circular needles for knitting hats in the round below. They are all Knitpro ones – I think they are lovely to knit with. I don’t think these are available in the USA. These pretty radiant circular needles seem to be a great alternative for USA knitters – they come in a 16 inch size which is perfect for knitting hats.

For UK peeps, Amazon is probably your best bet for Knitpro 40cm circular knitting needles.

I actually start my hats off with straight knitting needles, and then move to the circular needles once I have completed the ribbed part. This means that you only have to buy one pair of circulars and using this method will make the joining to knit in the round part much easier.

This issue is discussed in the next chapter.

Joining to knit in the round

At the beginning of a knitting pattern when you will be working in the round, you will be instructed to join in the round. You will have cast onto your needle like you do on straight needles, and you now need to join it to form a circle.

All you have to do is insert the right hand needle tip into the left hand needle tip, so that the stitches are all joined up in in a circle. Now the thing to look out for here is that you haven’t twisted the stitches. If you twist them, they can’t be untwisted later and you will have to undo the whole lot.

So, as you join the end stitches to form a circle, have a good check that the stitches are all sitting nice and straight on your circular needle.

As already written, I work the first few rows on straight needles, back and forth, where the first rows are ribbing. This is because ribbing is double sided and the pattern won’t change between straight and circular needles. By working the ribbing back and forth on straight needles, you can clearly see that nothing is twisted when you join to knit in the round. So when you start the main part of the hat, you simply bring out your circular needles and start to work with them once the ribbing is done. After one row you join to knit in the round, with no twisting and it is somehow much easier (well, I think so anyway).

The knitting pattern for this mosaic patterned knit in the round hat can be found here.

Why you need a knitting pattern just for knitting in the round

Knitting hats in the round instead of back and forth on straight needles produces entirely different stitch patterns.

For example, stocking stitch is made by knitting round and round with absolutely no purling. If you do this on straight needles you will make a garter stitch instead of stocking stitch.

Therefore, you can’t use a knitting pattern for straight needles and simply knit it in the round – it won’t work. Ribbing is an exception, but generally you need to bear this in mind.

Shaping the crown on circular needles

Knitting hats on circular needles can be tricky when you get to the top part and have to shape the crown.

A knitting pattern will often instruct you to switch to double pointed needles at this point. This is because there sometimes won’t be sufficient stitches left on the needle to be able to use circular needles any longer.

If like me, you don’t like using double pointed knitting needles, or indeed don’t want to learn how to use them, there is a workaround. Simply knit without decreasing for the remainder of the hat. This will only usually be for 3 or 4 rows anyway, and then the hat is gathered at the top as in straight knitting. Your hat probably won’t look any different than the intended design.

I do this all the time and my hats always work out fine. This has saved the cost of buying double pointed knitting needles, and avoided using a method that I personally don’t like.

Double pointed needles are an alternative to circular needles for knitting in the round, and are often used for shaping the top of hats.

The benefits of knitting hats in the round.

Knitting hats in the round is often much faster than straight knitting. This is because you often only have to work the K stitch and therefore don’t have to concentrate too much.

Knitting hats in the round is really fun, and also circular needles take up much less space than straight ones. This makes round knit hats ideal projects for travel or car knitting.

It is also important to note that circular needles are great ‘stitch keepers’. Your work is far less likely to slip off your needles that is the case with straight ones.

The main benefit of knitting hats in the round has already been started – much less sewing! Even if you work the first few rows on straight needles, sewing will be really minimal, making your project faster and much less work intensive.

Placing a marker

Another instruction that you will come across in hat knitting patterns where you are working in the round is to ‘place marker’. This is indicating that you should attach a stitch marker so that you know where the start/end of a round is. You can buy some pretty stitch markers, or you can simply tie in a piece of contracting yarn at the start of your work.

You could even use the cast on yarn as a guide to the location of the start of a new row.

Thanks so much for reading this article. We hope you found some useful tips for knitting hats on circular needles.

Some pompom hats that I knit in the round – great fun!

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