Circular vs Flat Knitting aabharcreations

Flat Knitting vs. Circular Knitting – An Introduction

Flat and Circular Knitting (knitting in the round) are two unique techniques where every little knitting detail is different!

When it comes to knitting, there’re a lot of questions regarding flat knits and circular knits.

In short, there’s a massive difference between knitting flat and in the round. Starting from knitting needles, reading the pattern, and every little thing is different. Even after finishing the project, how much post-knitting things you need to do will depend on whether you’ve knit flat or in the round.

So, in this article, we’ll try to sort out the differences between the two and cover all the relevant little topics to make it a comprehensive read.

And don’t worry, even if you are a beginner, it’s easier than it looks and sounds.

What is Flat Knitting?

Flat knitting or knitting flat means that you knit back and forth on mostly straight needles. You end up with a square, rectangle, or any flat-shaped knitted fabric.

You start knitting across a row on one needle, and when you reach the end, all the knitted stitches are on the other right-hand needle. And to knit the next row, you’ll turn the work, move the needle with all the stitches to your left hand, and repeat the process again.

You can learn some interesting patterns from our Knit with Aabhar tutorials, and you can Subscribe to our YouTube Channel: Aabhar Creations.

What is Circular Knitting?

Circular knits involve knitting in the continuous round, which creates a circular tube. It is also commonly referred to as ‘Knitting-in-the-Round.’

So, rather than working back and forth on straight needles, you will use circular needles or double-pointed needles (DPNs) for circular knitting. In this type of knitting, you always knit around and around without turning your work. You can mark the beginning of each round with a stitch marker.

circular knitting aabharcreations

One of the positives of choosing to knit in the round is that you can avoid having to sew up the seams of the project. And since there are no seams, there is no need for any finishing work of tucking in loose threads.

Circular needles are basically straight needles with a cable joining the two needles from one end. Usually, the cable lengths range from 16 inches to 60 inches. These circular knitting needles come in various sizes, so you can select the one that works best with your knitting project.

These circular needles are also available in an interchangeable format where you get to choose the needle sizes and cable sizes independently.

To be clear, knitting in the round is not just restricted to using circular needles.

Right Side vs Wrong Side?

In knitting, we always talk in the terms of the ‘right side (RS)’ and ‘wrong side (WS).’

For something like a scarf, it can be a bit tricky. For example, if you are knitting a pullover, the outside is the right side, and the inside is the wrong side. There are some patterns where both sides are near identical, and others have a pretty right side and a less pretty wrong side.

Even if both sides are similar, you need to know which side is which.

When we are knitting flat, knowing the side of the pattern is going to be quite simple as you will be turning it over at the end of the row. On the other hand, in circular knitting, you are always knitting on the right side of the work. The right side is always the outside of the work in terms of the finished fabric.

As you can see from these two images, for flat knits, there are two sides that you flip around while knitting one row after the other. For knitting in the round, you keep working on the right side without turning the project.

For example, take a look at the table below to see how the knitting instructions are different for flat knitting and circular knitting of garter and stockinette stitches.

Flat KnittingCircular Knitting
alternating between right side and wrong sidealways working on the right side
Garter Stitch
Row 1: Knit all stitches
Row 2: Knit all stitches
repeat rows 1 and 2
Garter Stitch
Round 1: Knit all stitches
Round 2: Purl all stitches
repeat rows 1 and 2
Stockinette Stitch
Row 1: Knit all stitches
Row 2: Purl all stitches
repeat rows 1 and 2
Stockinette Stitches
Round 1: Knit all stitches
Round 2: Knit all stitches
repeat rows 1 and 2

The main reason for the difference between the two is that when you are knitting in the round, you are only working on the right side of the fabric. In flat knitting, you turn the fabric from right to wrong to the right again in every row.

Two things pop out from the knitting instructions for these two stitches:

  • flat knitting instructions are for rows while the circualr knitting works in rounds.
  • the pattern for garter stitch and stockinette stitch are switched from flat to circular knitting.

Knitting Needles for Flat Knitting vs Circular Knitting

Is Circular Knitting Possible Without Circular Needles?

Circular knitting needles are not an indispensable part of circular knits. You can knit in the round even without using circular needles. There’s no need to be wary about learning to knit with circular needles as you can just as easily use straight needles.

However, that said, it isn’t too difficult to learn to knit with circular needles. And maybe, once you learn, you might not even want to switch back to straight needles anymore.

Several patterns require ‘in-the-round’ style knitting. For example, projects such as gloves, mittens, and hats are knitted in the round. You’ll also find several patterns where you can knit in the flat and stitch them together after knitting.

Can You Use Circular Needles Instead of Straight For Flat and Circular Knitting?

One of the positives of using circular knitting needles is that you can use them for straight knitting and circular knitting!

So, even if the needles are joined together with a cable in the middle, you can knit using these needles back and forth, just like with straight needles.

One benefit of using these needles is that you can knit large projects such as afghans and baby blankets without struggling to hold all the many stitches on the needles. The unworked stitches will rest on the cable without your arms having to do all the heavy lifting. Usually, the straight needles are 10 to 14 inches long, and projects like baby blankets can go up to 60 to 70 inches. That’s a lot of stitches to work on the usual straight needles! On the other hand, circular needles can have a length of up to 60 inches, which will make it easy to work on really big projects.

What If You Have To Knit Small Projects In The Round?

Working on large projects with circular needles while knitting in the round is so much easy as the sizes range from 16 to 60 inches.

But, what if you want to knit small things like baby booties or socks or even toys?

knitting with double pointed needles

The usual circular needles will not be able to bend enough to continue knitting in the round. It won’t be easy to get the end of the right-hand needle into the next stitch. So, for smaller projects, you need to knit with double-pointed needles so that you can work on a smaller number of stitches.

To knit in the round with a small circumference, you will need to use double-pointed needles (DPNs).

Usually, the DPNs come in sets of five. These are essentially straight knitting needles with pointed ends on both sides.

Can You Knit A Blanket With Straight Needles?

Of course, you can knit a blanket using your basic simple straight needles.

However, there are several reasons not to use these straight needles for knitting large projects such as blankets and afghans.

The primary reason is the size of the project.

As mentioned above, straight needles come in two lengths, mainly – 9-10 inches and 11-12 inches. The longer size can work for most baby blankets and other projects of similar size.

The problem comes when you are knitting projects much larger than that. With so many stitches, holding them all in these straight needles will be an issue. You may run into problems such as stitches falling off from the end of the needle. You may also find it difficult to knit as there are so many stitches on the needle.

If you are set on using straight needles, try to get some point protectors that can help you keep the stitches on the needles when you are not working on the project.

The other reason is the weight of the project.

A large project can get heavy, and it will put a strain on your wrists, arms, and even shoulders. You will end up holding the weight of all the stitches in the needles.

Knitting Flat with Circular Knitting Needles

Once you start knitting using circular needles, you will surely forget all about your regular straight needles. That’s because you can use them for all the different types of knitting. Whether you are going with flat knits or working on a project about knitting-in-the-round, circular needles are perfect for both.

And the best part, you won’t have to search for the other needle of the pair as in circular needles, they are always attached!

So, next time you are working on a large project, switch to circular needles, and you won’t wanna go back!

So, Knitting Flat or Circular Knitting?

To wrap up the whole article, we believe you must at least try both flat and knitting in the round as a beginner. Search for some easy patterns for both knitting styles and see which type of knitting suits you best.

There is no universal choice as some patterns only work with one type of knitting and not the other. For example, intarsia knitting is only possible when you are knitting flat. Similarly, Fair Isle is better suited for circular knitting as yarn movement becomes easier.

Which technique do you like the best and why?

circular vs flat knitting aabharcreations

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