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January 16, 2007

Totally Tubular

In the course of making a gift for a friend (yes, I'm being a bit cryptic here because I don't want to spoil the surprise), I learned (from an online tutorial) how to knit two tubes at the same time on two circular needles.

As is probably obvious even to non-knitters, circular needles were invented for knitting tubes: you just go around and around and there it is. The catch, however, is that the circumference of the tube must be at least as large as the length of the needle, and the shortest circs I have ever seen are nine inches. Nine inches is still too large for socks, mittens, and the project I made over the weekend. In situations like this, knitters usually resort to double-pointed needles (dpns). Even on a hat, the bulk of which can be knit on a circ, it is necessary to switch to dpns to decrease at the top of the head because the circumference gets too small for circs. Double-pointed needles work very well, as long as you don't accidentally pull one out of the stitches thinking that it is the working needle. They are also much slower than a circular needle because you are constantly switching from one to the next. There is also the issue of the dreaded ladder.

The cool thing about circular needles is that they are flexible, so you can put half the stitches for the tube on one circ and the other half on the other circ, and the flexibility of the needle accommodates the curve of the tube. You simply knit the stitches from one needle onto the other side of the same needle. With two circs, there are only two joins, rather than the three or four you have with dpns, and the flexibility of the needles helps to prevent ladders. On two circs, because you are simply going across each side, rather than around and around, you can knit two (or more) tubes at once, simply by casting them on one after the other from two separate balls of yarn. You then knit the first side of the first tube, switch yarns, knit the first side of the second tube, switch needles, knit the second side of the second tube, switch yarns, and knit the second side of the first tube. In theory, it is all very logical, but in practice, my yarn kept getting tangled. The benefit, however, is that you avoid "second sock syndrome" -- both are done at the same time.

It was fun to learn a new technique, but I felt a bit silly sitting in a giant chair at Sweetwaters (free wireless) knitting with my computer balanced on my lap!

Posted by eklanche at January 16, 2007 07:58 AM

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