How To Measure Circular Knitting Needles – A Guide


This blog post will teach you how to measure circular knitting needles

Circular needles are a great knitting tool to have for any project. 

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced knitter, a pair of interchangeable needles will be a great addition to your kit. 

Personally, whether I am knitting flat or in the round, I favor circular knitting needles as they take the weight of the project of the needles and transfer it to the flexible cord.

Which takes the strain off your wrists as your project can lay in your lap. 

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How to measure circular needles

What Are Circular Knitting Needles?

Circulars are a type of knitting needle. 

They consist of two short needle tips connected by a flexible cable, allowing knitters to work in the round and create seamless tube items such as hats, sweaters, and socks.

The needle tips are available in various materials, including stainless steel, wood, plastic, and bamboo, catering to different knitting preferences. 

And a wide range of sizes.

These needles are a versatile solution for both circular and flat knitting, as they can be used in the same way as straight needles when needed.

Circular needles offer significant advantages, especially for larger or more complex projects. 

They also eliminate the need for seaming, as there are no separate pieces to join together, making them a popular choice for garments and accessories. 

interchangeable knitting needles

How To Measure Circular Knitting Needles – A Guide

How To Measure Circular Knitting Needles?    

Measuring circular knitting needles, often called “circulars,” is important for determining the length and size you need for your specific knitting project. 

To measure circular knitting needles, follow these steps:

  1. Check the Label: Most circular knitting needles have the size (diameter) and length marked on the label or packaging. Start by checking this information to see if the needles are the size and length you require.
  2. Measure the Cable Length: To measure the length of circular knitting needles, do not include the needle tips. Instead, measure with a tape measure from the tip of one needle to the tip of the other, excluding the cable. This length is commonly called the “cable length” or “cord length.” For example, if you need a 24-inch circular needle for a project, measure from tip to tip, excluding the needle points.
  3. Check the Needle Size: Circular knitting needles come in various sizes, usually indicated in millimeters (mm) or US sizes. Ensure that the needle size is the one required by your knitting pattern.
  4. Verify the Cable Material: Circular needle cables are made from various materials, including plastic, nylon, metal, or even flexible wires. The material may affect the needle’s flexibility and durability, so choose one that suits your knitting preferences.
  5. Consider the Needle Tips: Circular needle tips are available in different materials, such as wood, metal, or plastic. The material you choose can affect how your yarn behaves while knitting and may provide varying levels of grip or slipperiness.

When purchasing circular knitting needles or selecting them for your project, it’s essential to match the needle size and cable length to your pattern’s requirements.

To make sure your project will come out correctly, make a knitting gauge swatch.

Remember that cable lengths can vary, and choosing the right length is particularly crucial for projects like hats, baby hats, baby blankets, mittens, socks, and sweaters. 

Always double-check your project’s needs and ensure you have the appropriate circular knitting needles in your collection.

how to measure circular knitting needles

How To Measure Knitting Needles With A Gauge?    

Measuring knitting needles with a gauge, also known as a knitting needle gauge, is a simple and accurate way to determine the size of your needles.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Select a Needle Gauge: Choose a needle gauge that is labeled with both U.S. knitting needle sizes and metric sizes in millimeters. This tool typically looks like a flat rectangular or square piece of metal or plastic with holes of various sizes.
  2. Insert the Needle Tip: Insert the tip of the knitting needle into one of the labeled holes on the needle gauge. Start with a hole that appears close to the size you suspect your needle to be.
  3. Check for Fit: The needle should fit snugly into one of the holes, neither too loose nor too tight. Gently wiggle the needle to ensure a secure fit. If the needle fits easily into a hole with a noticeable gap, try the next smaller hole. If the needle doesn’t fit into a hole or is too tight, move to the next larger hole.
  4. Identify the Size: Once you find the hole that provides the best fit for your needle, check the label next to the hole. It will indicate the U.S. knitting needle size (e.g., US 7) and the corresponding metric size in millimeters (e.g., 4.5 mm).
  5. Note the Size: Note the needle size you found on the gauge. This is the correct size of your knitting needle.
  6. Check Other Needle Tips: If you have a set of interchangeable knitting needles with multiple tips, measure each tip individually using the same method, as some sets might have different sizes.

Check out my favorite knitting needle gauge here – Knitter’s Pride Needle and Crochet Gauge Tool

needle gauge tool knit pro

Circular Knitting Needles FAQ

How Many Types Of Circular Knitting Needles Are There? 

There are several types of circular knitting needles available, each with unique features and advantages to suit various knitting needs and preferences.

  • Fixed Circular Needles: These are pre-attached circular needles with a fixed cable length and needle tip. They come in various materials and lengths. Fixed circular needles are convenient for specific projects and are widely available in standard sizes.
  • Interchangeable Circular Needles: Interchangeable circular knitting needles have detachable needle tips and cables that can be mixed and matched. This versatility allows you to change the needle size or cable length as needed. These sets often come in a compact case with multiple tip sizes and cable lengths.
  • Double-Pointed Needle (DPN) Sets: While not technically circular needles, double-pointed needle sets consist of multiple short, pointed needles and are used for knitting in the round. They are especially useful for projects like socks, mittens, and sleeves.
  • Fixed Circulars with Specialty Tips: Some circular needles have unique tips designed for specific purposes. For example, lace needles have sharp tips for intricate lacework, and short-tip circulars are designed for knitting small-diameter projects using the Magic Loop method.
  • Circular Needles with Addi Turbo Click System: The Addi Turbo Click system is a notable example of an interchangeable needle system that includes various needle tips and cable lengths, as well as a unique Click mechanism for securely attaching the tips to the cables.
circular knitting needles

Are Circular Knitting Needles The Same Size As Straight Needles?    

Circular knitting needles are not necessarily the same size as straight needles. 

The size of a knitting needle is determined by its diameter, which is typically measured in millimeters (mm) or labeled with a U.S. knitting needle size. 

Both straight needles and circular needles are labeled with these size indicators, making it easy to select the right size for your project.

However, there is one key difference between straight needles and circular needles in terms of size.

When you look at a pair of straight needles, you have two individual needles of the same size. In contrast, a set of circular knitting needles includes two needle tips connected by a cable or cord. 

The size indicated on circular needles refers to the size of the needle tips.

For example, if you have a pair of straight knitting needles and you need a U.S. size 8 (5 mm) needle, you would select two individual straight needles, each of which is a U.S. size 8. 

For circular knitting needles, if you need a U.S. size 8 (5 mm), you would choose a circular needle set that includes two U.S. size 8 (5 mm) needle tips connected by a cable of the desired length.

how to measure circular needles knit pro

How Long Should My Circular Needles Be?  

The length of your circular knitting needles, often called the “circular needle cable length” or “cord length,” depends on the specific project you’re working on and your preferred knitting method.

The right length of circular needles can make a significant difference in your comfort and efficiency when knitting.

Here are some ger for choosing the appropriate length:

  1. Magic Loop Method or Small Projects:
    • For smaller projects, such as socks or sleeves, many knitters prefer a shorter circular needle with a cable length of 24 to 32 inches (60 to 80 cm). This length allows for the Magic Loop technique, which involves dividing the stitches into two halves of the needle cable to create a loop, making it suitable for small circumferences.
  2. Average-Sized Projects:
    • For most average-sized projects, like hats, cowls, or baby garments, a 16 to 24-inch (40 to 60 cm) circular needle is often sufficient. This length provides flexibility for knitting in the round without an excessive amount of cable.
  3. Large Projects and Sweaters:
    • When working on larger projects, such as adult-sized sweaters, or blankets, a circular needle with a cable length of 32 to 40 inches (80 to 100 cm) or longer is typically recommended. This length accommodates a larger number of stitches and allows for even tension and comfortable knitting.
  4. Flat or Panel Knitting:
    • If you’re using circular needles for flat or panel knitting, such as shawls, scarves, or blankets, the cable length can vary widely. A shorter length, like 16 to 24 inches (40 to 60 cm), can work for narrower pieces, while a longer cable, like 32 inches (80 cm) or more, may be necessary for wider projects.

Ultimately, your choice of circular needle length should align with the size and type of project you’re working on. 

Be sure to check the pattern’s recommendations for needle size and length to ensure you have the right tools for your knitting project. 

Additionally, it’s always a good idea to have a variety of circular needle lengths in your knitting toolkit to accommodate different project sizes and techniques.

Addi circular needles

Are Knitting Needles Measured By Diameter?    

Yes, knitting needles are measured by their diameter, which is typically expressed in millimeters (mm) or labeled with U.S. knitting needle sizes. 

The diameter of the knitting needle affects the size of the stitches you create and, in turn, the overall gauge and size of your knitted fabric.

The two common systems for measuring knitting needle sizes are:

  1. Metric Sizes (Millimeters): In the metric system, knitting needle sizes are indicated by the diameter of the needle shaft in millimeters. For example, a 4.0 mm needle has a shaft with a diameter of 4.0 millimeters. This system is used worldwide and is often the preferred method for specifying needle sizes in knitting patterns.
  2. U.S. Needle Sizes: In the United States, knitting needle sizes are labeled with U.S. knitting needle sizes, typically ranging from 0 to 50 (or higher). These sizes do not directly correspond to millimeters but are standardized for U.S. knitting needles. For example, a U.S. size 6 needle is approximately 4.0 mm in diameter, making it a common size for medium-weight yarn.

The choice between metric or U.S. needle sizing often depends on your location, personal preference, and the pattern you’re using. 

It’s important to match the needle size specified in your pattern to create the desired gauge and ensure your finished project is the correct size. 

Many knitting needles are labeled with both metric and U.S. sizes for ease of use, and you can use conversion charts to translate between the two sizing systems if needed.

knitpro interchangeable needles

Why Is It Important To Know The Size Of Your Needles?

Knowing the size of your circular knitting needles is crucial for ensuring the success of your knitting projects. 

The needle size significantly affects the gauge of your knitting, which in turn impacts the size and fit of your finished items. 

Using the wrong size of needles can result in a project that’s either too tight or too loose, leading to discomfort and dissatisfaction. 

Proper needle sizing also ensures that the yarn and pattern’s requirements are met, resulting in the desired texture, drape, and appearance of your knitted fabric. 

Moreover, it helps you follow pattern instructions accurately and enables you to create projects that match the intended design. 

Knit pro circular needles

Knitting Needles

Knitting Lessons

If you are a new maker and need help with the knitting basics, check out the knitting lessons here – Knitting Lessons (With Video Tutorials).

There, you will find tutorial posts for all the knitting techniques a newbie needs to know. 

And if you need more video tutorials, check out my YouTube channel here – Handy Little Me – YouTube.  

Magic Loop Step 2

My Favorite Circular Knitting Needles 

Rowan Circular Needle 80cm (32″) 

Rowan Circular Needle 80cm (32″) is a versatile knitting tool that can be used for various projects.

The circular needle has a flexible cable that lets you knit in the round, making it ideal for large projects such as cardigans, sweaters, and blankets. 

Check it out here.

Rowan Circular Needle 80cm (32)

Loopy Mango Maple Wood & Brass Fixed Circular Knitting Needles 50cm

If you’re looking for high-quality circular knitting needles for your next project, consider the Loopy Mango Maple Wood & Brass Fixed Circular Knitting Needles.

These needles are 50cm (20in) in length and come in a pair. 

Check it out here.

Loopy Mango Maple Wood & Brass Fixed Circular Knitting Needles 50cm

Clover Takumi Bamboo Circular 16-Inch Knitting Needles

The Clover Takumi Bamboo Needles are a great option for your knitting projects.

The size 6 needle has a diameter of 4.0 mm and is perfect for a range of projects.

The bamboo material of the needle provides a smooth and comfortable knitting experience, reducing hand fatigue and ensuring even stitches.

Check it out here. 

Clover Takumi Bamboo Circular 16-Inch Knitting Needles

Needlemaster 40-Piece Interchangeable Aluminum Knitting Set

The Needlemaster 40-piece interchangeable aluminum knitting set is a fantastic tool for any knitter.

This set includes 40 interchangeable needle tips that range in size from US 2 to US 15, along with four different cable lengths, making it easy to customize your needles to the specific needs of your project.

The set also has stitch holders, a needle gauge, and an attractive carrying case to keep all your tools organized and easily transported.

Check it out here. 

Needlemaster 40-Piece Interchangeable Aluminum Knitting Set

The Lykke Long Tip Interchangeable Knitting Needle Set 

The Lykke Long Tip Interchangeable Knitting Needle Set (Umber) is a versatile and high-quality set of circular knitting needles that are perfect for any knitting project.

The set features 12 pairs of needle tips, ranging in size from US 4 to US 17, which can be easily attached to four different cable lengths (16″, 20″, 24″, and 32″) to create circular needles of various lengths. 

Check it out here.

The Lykke Long Tip Interchangeable Knitting Needle Set

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