simultaneous sleeves on circular needles


I have too  many projects on needles at the moment. I did not mind having two projects, the mohair throw for my nephew, and then a jumper for myself. However, I then noticed that my son’s need is greater than mine, that the elbows of one of his woollen jumpers are too worn to expect the jumper to provide a lot of warmth this winter. He has had it for a couple of years, and his jumpers require fairly frequent washing.

Since the drama of the green alpaca, I have decided to follow the advice of Elizabeth Zimmermann, and begin with the sleeves in order to determine gauge, and to knit them on the same circular needles that are used for the body to gain an accurate measure. When knitting the sleeves for my jumper, I used two circular needles, and kept forgetting to increase when necessary (the rounds just went so quickly). So for my son’s jumper I am knitting the two sleeves simultaneously, and I am increasing the stitches more regularly, at the planned intervals. 

When knitting narrow tubes, people have a variety of needle options.

Sometimes I use double-pointed needles, but as my gauge seems to be a bit loose these days, I preferred to use my circulars both for consistency and because the circulars are slightly less than 4 mm in diameter.

Some people use the ‘magic loop’ method with a single circular needle, but I find the manual pushing of stitches around the cable becomes very tiring and my arm begins to give the warning signals of injury to follow. It is not for me, and it is the reason I use the smallest cable I can to hold the stitches when knitting larger (body) tubes, usually 60 cm including needle tips.

So I use the two needle method, two circular needles. (If I did not have sufficient needle tips, I would use a smaller tip for the end that holds the stitches before they are knitted.) The description I read in  ‘Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines’ (Kay Gardiner and Anne Shayne; and they refer to ‘Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles’ by Cat Bordhi) made it clear to me. The most important detail is that each set of stitches (so half the tube) has its own needle, and the needles do not ever knit the stitches belonging to the other needle (until that very last round, when the sleeve will be abandoned, waiting for the body to be ready for its incorporation).

I used to have trouble setting up the stitches, and would do a bit of shuffling around after casting on, while knitting the first row (and sometimes was very glad that I could screw off the ends of the needles with just a few stitches on them). This time I amazed myself by realising when I needed to cast on and knit each group of stitches, so I took a few photos to demonstrate, and to remind myself. I also gave myself an easier time by using two balls of wool, yarn pulled from the centre, sitting snuggly side-by-side in a bag. Working from a single ball enables too many twists and tangles, although it is not impossible and I have done that several times when knitting gloves. 

1. cast on one cuff. using a second circular needle, knit half of the first row.2circularscaston12. cast on the second cuff on that first circular needle.2circularscaston23. knit the first half of the first row of the second cuff, onto the same circular needle as the first half of the first cuff. (The first needle is running across the top of the photo, and shows yarn ends at beginning of cast-on, the second needle is wound in a circle at the bottom of the photo.)2circularscaston3

4. needles arranged parallel to each other, it is time to knit the second half of each row. 2circularscaston45. Notice that only one of the pieces of knitting has its yarn at the tips of the needles – it is the only section that can be knitted, and this is how it is when knitting simultaneous tubes on two circular needles. There is no need to worry about working out which piece needs to be worked next – only one is available.2circularscaston5

6. It can be confusing, working out how to arrange the needles if the work needs to be put down at this stage. But it cannot always be avoided. So breathe deeply, and calmly twist the needles so that all of one needle is at the front or on top of the work, and the other is behind or underneath – no twisting of the cables allowed!

2circularscaston67. More pictures to show sets of stitches owning a needle, and that only one set of stitches is available for working on at any one time.

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3 Responses to simultaneous sleeves on circular needles

  1. My Little Man needs a new sweater for this winter. I have avoided working two at a time on two needles, mainly because my double points have served me well for a long time, but I may just give it a try this time!

    • klehm2497 says:

      Good luck! I started using circular needles for most knitting when my son was a toddler. He loved pulling needles from knitting, and circular needles do not provide the joy that a straight needle does for such people. Of course he would not dream of doing any such thing now!

      • Thnak you! I had a lace shawl on the needles once, and my son’s toddler pulled it off. My girlfriend was aghast. Circulars aren’t quite as easy to pull out, either, and I use them for everything except sleeves in the round, socks, and anything for the hand. I have one project that is still on the needles, (3 yrs later), that was my first attempt at working in the round with two needles. I wasn’t thrilled, but maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance. If I wind up changing my ways, I shall give all credit to you! 🙂

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