Circular cable knitting needles or circular knitting needles are two knitting needle tips linked together by a cable. The needle size (or diameter) can be in different sizes, and the attached cable comes in differing lengths. Don’t confuse them with a “cable needle.” A cable needle is used for holding stitches while you execute a cable or stitch transfer pattern stitch.
Types of Circular Knitting Needles
There are many brands of Circular Cable Knitting needles and they come in various forms:
Fixed – Fixed needles are where the needle ends are attached permanently to the cable
Interchangeable -Interchangeable means that the tips can be disconnected from the cable and replaced with a different size needle
Single-Point Cabled Knitting Needles – these aren’t able to knit in-the-round, so they’re not technically circular cable knitting needles, but they are single knitting needle tips attached to a cable on one end only and typically a stopper at the other end of the cable
Wood, metal and plastic – Like standard straight needles, cable knitting needles are made many different materials
Differing length cable and needle tips – since cable knitting needles work with many types of projects like socks, afghans, Fair-Isle sweaters, etc., knitters will want to make sure the length of the needle tips and the length of the cable connecting the tips works best for their project and style of knitting
Uses For Circular Knitting Needles
The circular knitting needles can be used for a variety of reasons:
Replace conventional straight knitting needles for back and forth (or flat) knitting
Replace double-pointed needles for knitting circularly or in-the-round
Working on knitting projects with more stitches than straight needles can hold easily
Working on two circular projects at a time (like two socks or mittens done in-the-round)
Knitting increasing and decreasing sized tubes, such as tapered sleeves, turtlenecks, etc.
Before circular cable knitting needles came into use, hand-knitters used either straight knitting needles or double-pointed needles (also known as knitting pins in some areas). As good quality cable knitting needles have emerged onto the market, most knitters prefer the flexibility and comfortability of using cable knitting needles exclusively. Most serious knitters will tell you that they abandoned conventional straight knitting needles years ago.
There are a number of characteristics of cable knitting needles that knitters consider:
The “join” or the part of the needle where the tip is connected to cable – Having a smooth join that doesn’t snag your knitting as it transitions from the cable back onto the needle tip is very important to most knitters.
The needle tip material – whether it’s wood, carbon-steel, nickel-plated aluminum, plastic or some other material, knitters are very particular about their needles. Different materials have different “drag” on your knitting…smooth, silky, slightly grabby, etc. The weight of the needles is also affected, as is the warmth of working with one material over another.
The cable material – the cable can be made of plastic, vinyl or wire. While most are made of plastic, the flexibility or looseness of the material can significantly impact how your stitches move along the cable or how much twist stays in the cable while you’re knitting. A common trick many knitters used when they found the cable to be too stiff or inflexible is they would run it under warm water to loosen it up.
The point or tip of the needle – some knitting techniques work easier on sharper points, others on more blunt points. Various knitters prefer a specific type of point for knitting lace, or fine yarns, or not splitting their working yarn with the needle tip, or not hurting a fingertip that pushes on the point of the needle.