My first introduction to double-point knitting was a glimpse of a knitting class in which knitters seemed to be knitting strange tubes bristling with long toothpicks. I learned that they were knitting socks with ‘double-points’. Whenever you need to knit a tube, double-points can do the job. They are a versatile alternative to circular knitting needles, allowing a knitter to knit around the outside of a tube. Double-points are usually purchased in sets of 5 matching needles. Knitters will distribute stiches across their choice of either 3 or 4 needles arranged in a circle. This allows for a tube of almost any size, depending on the number of stitches in the work. You will knit with only one of these at a time, plus an empty needle. The needle with the working yarn is ‘live’ while the others are ‘sleeping’, or unused.
To begin, cast on the required number of stitches for your project onto any spare knitting needle of the correct size, whether straight or circular. Once stitches are cast on, slide the stitches, one or two at a time, onto your double-point needles, distributing them approximately equally. You can use either 3 or 4 double points. Most people develop a preference, although the end result is the same. There is no need for the stitch count to be the same on each needle. The next stitch will connect the working end of the yarn to the first cast on stitch, forming a circle. Be very sure that your stitches are all hanging down so that your circle isn’t twisted.
If you are right-handed, arrange the stitches so that the working yarn is at the left end of any double point. The next needle to the left of it is live. Hold that needle in your left hand, and an empty double point in your right. Knit as usual, knitting stitches from the left live needle onto the empty right needle. (If you are left-handed, arrange stitches so that the working yarn is at the right end of any double point needle. The next needle to the right of it is live. Hold that needle in your right hand, and an empty double point in your left. Knit as usual, knitting stitches from the right live needle onto the empty left needle.) Simply ignore the other needles which will be hanging behind. Try to be sure that stitches on the sleeping needles aren’t too close to the edge so they don’t drop off when dangling. When you reach the end of the stitches on that needle, you will have an empty needle in your non-dominant hand. Transfer it to your dominant hand. The next needle to your left (right, for lefties) becomes live, so pick it up with your non-dominant hand and repeat the process. Right-handed knitters will always knit clockwise and will always pick up the next needle to the left, and left handed knitters will always knit counter-clockwise and always pick up the next needle to the right. The needle emptied of stitches last set will become your new empty for the next set.
Unless you pull the first and last stitches of each needle rather firmly, you may develop ‘ladders’, or loose areas between needles. To eliminate this, some knitters shift the stitches over by a few every few rounds, so the gap between the needles changes enough to avoid the problem.
Since double points always involve several sleeping needles, many knitters choose bamboo or wood double-points for the added friction that keeps stitches from sliding off of sleeping needles. Metal double-points are available for the really small sizes, like those smaller than US 1, for their extra strength. These are frequently used for sock knitting.
The real advantage of knitting with double-point needles is the ability to create a tube of nearly any diameter with the same set of needles, eliminating clutter and keeping costs in check. For a tube that continually changes diameter, such as when decreasing to form the top of a hat, many knitters find that nothing but double-points will comfortably do the job. Give it a try and expand your options!