Knitting in a circle

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fiona Morris offers up some hints and tips on how to knit a circular garment starting from the centre and following a lace chart

I designed the Circular shawl cardigan for Knitting magazine, issue 105, August 2012. The body of the garment starts as a circular shawl design worked from the centre outwards.   

Casting on

When starting a piece of circular knitting from the centre the cast on and first few rows can be quite fiddly as you don't want to make a hole at the centre of the knitting. I find it easier to cast on the stitches onto one needle and then re-arrange them on either 3 double pointed needles or 2 circular needles.


Image 1 shows the 7 sts distributed over 3 needles so there are 2 stitches on 2 needles and 3 stitches on the 3rd needle. Once the stitches are arranged on the 3 needles they can be joined into
a circle to continue knitting.

If you prefer to work with circular needles rather than dpns you can start from the cast on with circular needles but you will have to use either 2 circular needles or one long circular needle and the 'magic loop'.

Image 2 shows the stitches arranged on 2 circular needles (shown after Round 3 has been completed). If you want to start with 2 circular needles you need 3 sts on one needle and 4 stitches on the other when you join the stitches to continue in the round.


Using different stitch markers

7-point star and the chart provided with the pattern gives one repeat of the 7 sections. To make it easier to keep track of where you are in the pattern it is a good idea to use stitch markers to mark the end of each section. In the pattern I suggest you place the stitch markers on Round 3 after the every stitch increases have been worked.

Image 3 shows the stitch markers placed on the double pointed needles. There are 2 repeats on 2 needles so I have only placed one stitch marker at the centre of each of these needles. There are 3 repeats on the 3rd needle so I have used 2 stitch markers to separate the 3 repeats. I haven't placed stitch markers at the ends of the needles as they will fall off and I know the beginning of a needle is a new repeat.

Image 4 shows an alternative where I have used bead stitch markers for the sections and a long length of orange yarn for the beginning/end marker. When placing stitch markers you are also told to place a different colour marker to mark the beginning/end of the round. I find this marker has a tendency to fall off so I prefer to use a marker thread. In Image 3 I used some orange yarn to make stitch markers for each section and a purple yarn to mark the beginning end of the round.

If you have not used this type of marker before, you need a length of contrast coloured yarn. Lay the contrast yarn across the ladder between the first and last stitch so it hangs both sides of the knitting. Knit one round and then bring the coloured yarn end hanging at the back of the knitting forward between the needles and let it hang. Knit another round and then move this yarn end between the needles to the back again. This yarn should never be knitted but leaves a coloured thread marking the beginning/end of the round as shown in Image 4. When you finish knitting the marker yarn can be pulled out.


Working from the chart

For those of you who may not be used to working from a lace chart, the chart should be read from right to left every row as you are knitting in a circle. The chart provided (in the pattern instruction in the magazine) does show every row of the pattern but frequently with lace charts they will only show the 'right side' or pattern row as every other row is just knit. The chart only shows one repeat of the pattern so you will read the same row of the chart from right to left 7 times.

You may find it helpful to photocopy and enlarge the chart to make it easier to read. When I work with charts I use a magnetic chart holder but when I don't use the chart holder, which has a magnetic ruler/guide, I use Post-it notes to mark the row I am working. I find it easier to cover the rows above so the row just below my 'ruler' or Post-it note is the row I am knitting. I find it easier to work this way as the part of the chart I can see is what I have already knitted so I can compare the knitting to the chart to check I am working on the correct row.


Using lifelines in lace

As you progress outwards the pattern becomes more lacy, ending in a mesh lace pattern. If you drop a stitch or make a mistake in lace it can be very difficult to correct and could possibly mean starting again. One tip to help with knitting any kind of lace is to use 'lifelines'. A lifeline is a length of fine, smooth yarn threaded through all the stitches of one particular row. If you drop a stitch or make a mistake several rows later and have to remove the stitches from the needle, you can undo the knitting back to this 'lifeline' row and pick up the stitches again at this point as they are all held on the lifeline yarn.

Image 5 shows when you use a lifeline, it is important to use it after working a knit row so you have a row of clean stitches and also to make a note of the row you have put the lifeline through. To add a lifeline, thread a fine, smooth yarn in contrast colour into a blunt tapestry needle. Pass the needle through
all the stitches in that round as shown in the image.

Image 6 shows a close up of the lifeline passing under the orange stitch marker. When adding a lifeline it is very important that you do not take the lifeline thread through the stitch markers as they need to be free to continue in their relative places as the knitting grows.

Image 7 shows the white lifeline threaded through all the stitches in the round. It is important to try and make sure you go through the centre of the stitches and not split the stitch with the lifeline yarn. As the piece of knitting grows you may want to add more lifelines. The earlier lifelines can be removed as the knitting grows or left until the end when all the lifelines are removed.


Final note

As the garment gets bigger you will need to change to a longer circular needle. If you don't have a very long circular needle you can spread the stitches over several circular needles if necessary. Take care not to drop any stitches off the ends, you can use point protectors to keep the stitches in place on the needles not being knitted at the time.

I hope these tips help with knitting the Circular shawl cardigan or any other lace knitting in the future.


Fiona Morris's pattern for the Circular shawl cardigan can be found in Knitting magazine, issue 105, August 2012.

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