Double Pointed Needles

The dreaded double pointed needles! Learning to use double pointed needles is probably the biggest leap a beginner knitter can take into the world beyond scarves. Hats, sleeves, mittens, gloves, socks... all pretty much require the use of double pointed needles. So if you're ready, here we go!

An Overview

Double pointed needles are used to knit things in the round that are too small for circular needles. For example, when you knit a hat on a circular needle, toward the top of the hat the stitches become so few that they no longer reach around the circular needle. At that point you need to switch to double pointed needles. Other projects start out too small for circular needles, like the Toadstool Baby Rattle, which is the project this tutorial is illustrating.

If you've never knit anything in the round before, it's very important to know that you never turn your work around when you knit circularly. In other words, the right side of the fabric always faces you. The major consequence of this is that some stitch patterns are different in the round than they are flat. For example, to knit stockinette stitch in the round you only use the knit stitch; you never purl. As you gain experience, this concept won't sound so complicated!

Double pointed needles come in a pack of five, but the knitting tradition in America is to usually use only four at a time. Three needles hold the stitches while a fourth knits them. Sometimes you do use all five, four to hold the stitches and the fifth to knit. This would come in handy when the pattern increases or decreases in multiples of four or if you can't fit all the stitches onto three. Either way, the instructions are basically the same, but this tutorial illustrates the more common use of four double pointed needles.

And, finally, I  painted my double pointed needles four different colors to help you keep track of which needle is doing what!

Casting On

Cast all the stitches onto one double pointed needle. Try to cast on somewhat loosely, so that the stitches are able to slide freely on the needle.


Then slip 2/3 of the stitches onto a second double pointed needle. (In this case, there are 72 cast on stitches,  divided by 3 = 24 x 2 = 48.)


Slip 1/2 of the stitches from the second needle onto a third double pointed needle. Each needle now holds a third of the total number of cast on stitches (24 stitches on each needle). (If the cast on is not exactly divisible by 3, then just have one more or less stitch on one needle.)


Join into the Round

In order to join for working in the round, you need the needle where tail and yarn are coming from (the "white" needle) in your right hand. This usually requires that you flip everything around, the needle in your left hand switching with the needle in your right hand.

Arrange the stitches so they are all facing the same way and aren't spun around on any of the needles.

Insert the fourth (empty) needle into the first stitch of the left needle. 


Firmly knit the first stitch.


You're joined into the round!  

Knitting with Double Pointed Needles

Continue to knit across the stitches of this first needle. Just pretend that you're knitting with two needles instead of four!


Having knit across all the stitches of the first needle, that needle becomes free to knit the stitches of the next needle. For example, the green needle knit all of the stitches of the yellow needle, freeing the yellow needle to now knit the stitches of the pink needle.

Keep knitting around and around, three needles holding the stitches, one needle knitting.  (The first round is the trickiest because the needles tend to squirm around a bit. Don't despair! It gets easier!)

Tips and Details

End of the Round Marker

You don't usually need a marker to indicate the end of the round when you use double pointed needles.  Instead, the end of the round is marked by the cast on tail. The first stitch of the needle where the tail comes from is the first stitch of the round.

If, occasionally, you do need a marker, it's easier to put it after the first stitch so that the marker doesn't keep sliding off the needle. Just remember that the first stitch is actually the one before the marker.

The First Stitch of Each Needle

If the first stitch of  a new needle is a knit stitch, then make sure that the needle you're knitting with is situated under the previous needle (in this photo, the yellow needle is positioned under the green one, ready to knit the first stitch of the pink needle.)

This helps to prevent a column of loose stitches at the intersection of the needles.

If the first stitch on the needle is a purl stitch, then it's better to start the new needle above the previous needle.

Also, always give the first stitch of each needle a bit of an extra tug to close the gap between needles.


If you need to decrease at the end of a needle and only have one stitch left on the needle,

then slip that 1 stitch to the next needle, and do the decrease at the beginning of the next needle.

That's about it! Good luck with this new skill. I hope that it opens many knitting doors for you!

Click here to add a comment

65 Responses to Double Pointed Needles

  1. PJ says:

    Thank you for explaining this in the most simplistic of terms. You have opened up an whole new world for me.

  2. ml says:

    Great tutorial, thank you. Can you tell us what the best way to knit a gauge swatch is….using a traditional stockinette stitch (knit one row and purl the next) can’t give same gauge as with continuous knit stitches in the round.

  3. Patricia says:

    This is probably the best tutorial i have seen for using DPNS. I have always hated knitting with the dreaded DPNS but i think i may have another try now!
    Thank you :)

  4. Meredith says:

    This was so very helpful, thank you for the excellent photos and description along the way! I now may be inspired to try socks ;-)

  5. Kimz says:

    Thank you so much for putting these instructions up. I found them easier to understand than watching a video tutorial!
    I’m so excited to try and make a hat as a Christmas gift… I’m not sure I can wait for the painted tips of the needles to dry LOL! That is a clever idea though… I’m going to try and be patient.

  6. Christine says:

    Thank you for very clear instructions on knitting on double pointed needles. I will have to try this now as I have been putting it off for too long. Christine Australia

  7. truj says:

    Thanks for a great tutorial — I might just try making the toadstool rattle. My sister’s baby is due in August … hopefully I will muster up enough time and patience!!!
    Thanks again… truj

  8. Elaine from Oakland, CA says:

    I found your website looking for a tutorial on double-point needles. LOVE LOVE LOVE the tutorial and the website. So beautiful. I’m glad I found it. Only sad I’m too far from the store to go in.

  9. angela from toronto, CA says:

    Thank you thank you thank you!!

  10. wax says:

    What a nice post. It is really clear with sharp pictures. Thank you :)

  11. Nicole says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial – It has been very helpful!

  12. Jessica says:

    This is the best tutorial on dpns I have found. Thank you for taking the time to create such clear instructions and helpful photos! I love that you painted the needle tips; that helped me so much. I tried unsuccessfully to knit with dpns for the first time yesterday (using a different tutorial), and from looking at your photos and instructions, I can already see what I was doing wrong. I am excited to give it another try!

  13. Kate says:

    this was wonderful! it’s opened so many new projects for me. I couldn’t be happier with this tutorial, and how easy it was. your photos and language made everything crystal clear, and I can’t wait to start my first dpn project. thank you so so much!

  14. Carrie Abel says:

    THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. I did not think it was possible to receive a better lesson from photos than I have from other videos online! GREAT idea to color code the needles. VERY HUGE help!

  15. Jilly says:

    Thank you for this, I have been looking all over for pics I can easily follow for working on DPns and yours is fab I especially love the colour coded needles.!!

    Cant wait to have a go with this, might take me a few tries but at least with your pictures I should be able to work out whats what!

    Thank you !! x x

  16. Carmen says:

    I had just given up on ever being able to use double-pointed needles when I found your wonderful tutorial. Even my knitting teacher hadn't been able to help me figure this out. Now I am well on my way to my first pair of fingerless gloves! This is the BEST tutorial on the Internet and better than anything in ANY book I have found. Clear language, great photos, and colored needles! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  17. Carrie says:

    The best tutorial ever. I am now recommending it to others! Thanks so much.

  18. Paulette says:

    I have viewed many tutorials trying to figure out how to join. This was THE BEST. The only one I truly understood. THANK YOU so much!!

  19. PATRICIA says:

    Thank you so very much for the tutorial. I have just tried an internet video of such but the darkness of it, and pace, discouraged me to take it in. Your helpful hints are enlightening besides inspiring. I cannot say enough. The more I knit I learn and this is another example; for a senior (75) I am proud to confess of another achievement thru you! May the warmth of your generousity continue

  20. PATRICIA says:

    hELLO and thanks once more for the double pointed needle tutorial. However, I am still densed on how to work the steps; I did review Purl Bee and I found the missed step elsewhere. Undaunted, I researched further and discovered the missing step was SLIDING THE WORKED STITCHES DOWN THE NEEDLE. I will practice double pointed needle at a knitting group meet Tuesday. I always wondered why, once given directions, the same question is asked of others.

  21. Kim says:

    Ok maybe I am missing something but I just can't get the first stitch tight enough, I am trying to knit christmas ball ornaments from a book beaded ornaments to knit.. and you have to cast on so many and then increase and then after like six rows you put on the dpns and then you start your rows. when I do this it has a gap at the beginning and then I get the needles twisted.. I want to be able to do this can someone please please please help me…

  22. Elizabeth says:

    This is amazing, I was struggling with joining in the round and your step by step instructions helped me so much. Thank you so much!!! You are amazing!

  23. purl bee says:

    Hi Kim,

    It's totally normal for there to be a “gap” at the beginning of the first round. Believe it or not, as you continue to work the gap does minimize, although usually you're able to really tighten it when you weave in the cast on tail. It sounds like you're starting to work in the round part way through the project and so don't have this luxury. So, you may try knitiing the first stitch of the first round through the back loop to help close the gap a little bit more.

    As far as getting your needles twisted, I'm not sure I have a magic solution except practice. It may help to focus on just the two needle you're actually knitting with instead of trying to keep all five organized at once!

    Please let us know if we can give you any more tips and good luck!

  24. Shirley says:

    Hi and thank you, your article apears to be simple and clear.

    I cannot wait to put it into practice this avo.

    I understand and love the idea of coloured needles, i can see myself doing the same as a beginner in Double pointed needles.

    I basically need this for Hats and Berets to have a seamless professional look as oposed to sew in seam.


  25. Kim says:

    I got it after practice like Whitney said and time and patience.. I got it !!! The colored points on the needles works great… and a little tip.. if you don't have the bamboo needles you can use finger nail polish on the tips of the others and it works out great…

    Thanks for all of the help, and encouragement..

  26. Julie says:

    This is a wonderful tutorial, clear and practical. I knew the basics, having learned from a book, but the tips on how to avoid gaps while moving from needle to needle were a big help. Coloring the needles was a good idea.

  27. Jennie says:

    Thank you for this fantastic tutorial.
    I think I get it, but I still don't understand one of the first steps–
    Once you've distributed your stitches by slipping them onto the other two needles, how do you flip your work so that the tail is on the right hand, while keeping the 'right' side facing you?
    After that I'm golden… I think.
    Thanks again!

  28. purlbee says:

    Hi Jennie,

    When you situate your needles to join into the round, it may help you to not think about the right side facing you. I never do! What should really be concerning you is that the needle with the last stitch you cast on (with the working yarn) is in your right hand and the needle with first stitch you cast on is in your left hand. The rest just works itself out!

    Good luck – please let me know if I can clarify further!


  29. kim says:

    Super helpful! thanks so much!

  30. Fern says:

    Thankyou so much for this tutorial! I've seen loads of patterns recently which require knitting in the round, but I've never been brave enough to do it ;) I knitted along with the pictures and it seems to have worked! Yours is the clearest out of many I've seen, thankyou for the obvious effort you put into this, without it I wouldn't have attempted it :)

    Thankyou! Fern xxx

  31. Debbie- UK says:

    What a PERFECT tutorial! The pictures are excellent, and every step is so clearly explained. I have sat in front of this as a new knitter and learned to knit on 4 needles!! I feel like celebrating, it's a fantastic feeling! THANKYOU!

  32. Liz says:

    Thank you so much! You have made this so much easier for me :) I've been scared of dpns until now. I'm currently working on my first knitted hat and this has helped immensely. I love your idea of the painted tips too.

  33. Caughtmyeyedesigns says:

    Yes, I have had a dread of the dpns. Now visually seeing the color needles at work, I will order my set and practice your lesson. Thank you ..Joyce

  34. Diana says:

    Hi Purl Bee,

    My first project turned out with the knits (chevons) on the outside of the tube. When I tried making the same project again, the knits were on the inside of the tube. I've started and re-started many times to no avail. Any ideas on what I might be doing wrong?

  35. purl bee says:

    Hi Diana,

    It sounds like you're knitting inside out which is pretty common for double pointed needle beginners. This happens when you join for working in the round. Make sure that the first stitch you knit is the first stitch of your cast on (instead of the last stitch, which is what I think you're doing).

    If you realize you're knitting inside out and don't want to start over, try just turning the work right side out and see if you can continue on your way. Usually you can!

    Please let us know if you need more help and good luck!

  36. Julia says:

    I'm so sorry but I just don't understand: you hold the yarn in the right hand but I always hold the yarn in me left hand, so what should I do? Hold the yarn as I always do and knit counter clockwise? Or it's important to flip knitting?

  37. Izzy says:

    Thank you sooo much! I now have scarves coming out of my ears from not having a clue how to use DPNs. I can now have a go at making a little dog for my brother! Thank you!

  38. purl bee says:

    Hi Julia,

    Holding the yarn in the left hand makes surprisingly little difference! Continental knitters (which is what you're called) should follow the directions just as they're written. When you join to work in the round you still want the yarn to be coming from the right needle (so, yes, flip) and you still want to knit clockwise.

    I hope you get the hang of it. Please let me know if you have any more questions and thanks for these!


  39. Cissy says:

    Wish I had seen your tutorial for using double pointed needles years ago–it is wonderful. I juggled those sticks for the longest time before finally getting the idea. Painting the tips of the needles is ingenious! Your website is beautiful, and if I ever come to NYC (doubtful), want to visit your store more than any other place.

  40. Holliday says:

    My mom bought me double pointed needles a few years ago and every so often I stumble upon them when I get to the bottom of my yarn basket. They have always intimidated me and I am always jealous of others when I see them knitting with them, but after reading your tutorial I think I can finally conquer them! I have a long Montana winter coming up, and I think mastering these needles will make the time go much faster! Thank you!

  41. Lisa says:

    Hi, thanks for the brilliant tutorial, I learnt how to use DPNs from this months ago and have never looked back! I was just rereading it as no matter how tight I pull the first stitch of each needle, I always end up with a slight ladder effect in the joins, have you anymore tips on how to avoid this? or is a slight ladder inevitable?

    Thanks again, Lisa x

  42. purl bee says:

    HI Lisa,

    I'm so glad you're on the road with double pointed needles! A slight ladder is not inevitable, but it eliminating it may be a matter of lots of practice. Besides making sure that the working needle is situated above or below the right hand needle (depending on whether you're knitting or purling) and giving a little extra tug on the first stitch, another tip I've heard is knitting the first stitch of each needle through the back loop. This does take up tension, but it also adds a twist to that stitch which is almost as visible as the ladder! Also wool yarn will cause fewer ladder problems than more slippery yarns like cotton or cashmere. Likewise, with bamboo needles you'll be able to control slippage a little more easily than with metal needles. And, again, practice!

    Thanks for your question. Good luck!

  43. Doreen says:

    ~~i don't have a problem with dp needles…..EXCEPT….when there are only, say, 6 sts to go on 3 needles…that is 2 on each needle…..i'm an experienced knitter & i've tried & tried but i fail miserably every time…i fell like i'm just starting to knit!….any tips please?

  44. purl bee says:

    Hi Doreen-

    Can you be more specific about what your problem is? Do the stitches fall off? Do you knit them out of order?



  45. Ann says:

    Your dp tutorial is fantastic and I've used your technique for a few years – clear, easy and it works. My problem now is a project on dps where you cast on with only 5 stitches and then on the third round, start increasing. I'm finding it really tough to maneuver 5 stitches on 3 needles. I'd appreicate any suggestions to make this easier. Thanks so much.

  46. Doreen says:

    ~~i thought i had answered this question somewhere…oh well….the sts. fall off and/or get twisted…it's just really awkward/impossible to do!

  47. Ginny says:

    Thanks so much for these directions. What kind of paint did you use on your needles? It looks really helpful. Thanks!!

  48. purl bee says:

    Hi Ginny-

    It's just acrylic paint. Thank you for writing in.


  49. Ginny says:

    Thank you!

  50. purl bee says:

    Hi Doreen,

    Yes, manipulating so few stitches on double pointed needles can be quite awkward! You might prefer to cast your stitches onto one needle and to knit the first few rounds back and forth in rows. After a few rows, it'll be much easier to join into the round and to continue on your way. You can use your cast on tail to sew up the tiny seam.

    I hope this helps, because there really is no magic trick for working a small number of stitches on dpn's, except a lot of patience and a few deep breaths!

    Thanks for your question and good luck!

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