This is really not nearly as complex as it might seem, in fact, I think it makes knitting easier. The main idea is to think of the project as a whole, rather than individual parts. I like to take a sheet of regular paper and lightly sketch out the pattern, as it is written flat, then work through the same measurements and dimensions circularly, even drawing a tiny picture of the item along the way, if I think I might get confused. I keep this page around until I have finished the item.
Items knitted easily in either method: mittens, gloves, sweaters, vests, hats, or drop me a note if there’s one I missed.
Hats are the perfect, and I mean PERFECT, thing to learn to comfortably work in the round. I make a zillion of them because they are so easy, and they are also small enough to be the perfect “canvas” for trying out new stitches or color work on a small scale. The secret here is getting a 12” or 16” circular needle, so that it’s on one needle. It can be done on dpns, but sometimes, particularly with a tam or beret, there are a lot more stitches, which require more dpns, or they fall off, which is totally annoying. You will need dpns to finish the hat, though, but that doesn’t last long.
You will really only need one marker, and that’s if you are doing spiffy stitches or colorwork. This marker tells you where the next row begins so that you can make any changes for stitchwork or color work start.
Put a marker on the needle, cast on all stitches as for flat knitting, and knit happy until the shaping needs doing. Decrease same as for flat work, and when the stitches get strained, switch to dpns, finish shaping and end up your hat.
Once you get used to doing hats on circs, they will fall off your needles like magic, truly.
Gloves and Mittens
I really prefer these done circularly, since all those seams can be abrasive. If you have a particular pattern you like that’s flat, just work it round by putting at marker at the spot where the seamline would be, or each seamline if you have several, and knit up to the end of the thumb gusset, if you have one. Put thumb stitches on a holder, cast on a suitable number of stitches over the gap, work to the tip and shape as usual, rounds instead of rows. Go back and work the thumb (and or fingers) in a wee little circle.
Sweaters and vests:
1. Prep work: make a little diagram or chart indicating at what measurement you’ll be making changes for armpits, yokes, necklines. If you think this through thoroughly before starting, the rest is easy – you’ll just be following the pattern YOU just wrote!
2. BODY: For the combined front and back, add the stitch counts together. This works for cardigans, vests and pullovers as well. First put a marker on the circ, then do HALF the casting on, add another marker, cast on the remainder and knit circularly up to the next change point. These markers tell you where the side seams would be if you were knitting a flat, pieced garment.
For open-front garments, you won’t need the first marker. Instead, you will need one at each seamline (1/4, and ¾ of the way around) AND, if you so desire, a tactile “warning” marker before each button band, if you are knitting it as you go, which would equal four markers. If you are knitting the button band separately, you’ll only need two markers.
3. ARMS: Work the arms individually up to the armpit point. For circular arms, you will use ONE marker, at the beginning of each round, so you know where the seamline would be. Knit them in the round, usually with dpns at first, or whatever means you prefer, increasing as per the flat pattern, using, of course “rounds” instead of “rows”. You will be leaving two stitches (for example, see below) unworked or cast them off now, on either side of the marker to correlate to the armpit ease on the body.
4. Back to the body: at the armpit, which is, conveniently, usually where you start neckline stuff for V-necks also, refer to the directions for knitting flat for the number of stitches to cast off or put on a holder for the pit. For example, if the flat pattern says, “cast off two, then decrease one every fourth row” – for raglan shaping, then two stitches BEFORE your seamline marker, you will cast off two, remove the marker, then cast off two more. Knit to two stitches before the next marker and repeat.
5. Adding in ARMS: When joining the arms to the body, after you have cast off for both armpits, you will knit across the front or back (depending on which direction you are knitting) up to your first armhole gap. Knit across the sleeve stitches; do NOT knit the pit stitches; those remain loose for now. This is usually where people think they have done something wrong because, frankly, it gets bunchy here and your needle may feel strained. You are not doing anything wrong, this is just happening because that wee underarm ease area is making your needle pinch in that zone. Knit the other side (back or front) and repeat on the other side.
6. NECK: If you also need to begin neckline shaping here, carefully count your front side stitches (and if there’s a difference, I put a safety pin in the front side so I remember which one it is), place a marker in the center and work the shaping the same as you would for flat knitting for the front, since you now have, really, a front side and two sleeves on the same needle as the back, but they are no longer joined. The neckline breaks the join.
As soon as you have begun working the neckline, you have in reality one very large flat piece of knitting. Markers are extremely handing for reminding you of shaping spots, but you are now working back and forth across the first side of the front, the sleeve, the back, the other sleeve, and the other side of the front. It is usually helpful to develop a system to record or remind you of when you were supposed to be decreasing or shaping and how often.
All shaping is worked the same as it would be for a piecework sweater.
When the shaping is complete, all you’re missing is the neckline ribbing or finishing, and you can leave your existing stitches on the needle live, pick up around as indicated, and finish off.
Graft or sew the armpit stitches, work in ends, Voila!
With a vest, as soon as you cast off for the armpits, you are working two flat pieces, the front and the back, so these are just worked exactly as they would be in the flat pattern.
Hope that helped. Let me know if you have questions.