Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Knitting Tool Profiles: The Circular Needle

This is the third post in a year-long series.1 I'll post a new one on the last Tuesday of every month, with facts, photos, and further resources about twelve knitting tools.

A further benefit is that it is impossible to lose on e of the pair, as often happens with straight needles. Even better, you can fit into even the narrowest chair (airplane seat) and still manage to knit without risk of poking your neighbor.
-June Hemmons Hiatt, The Principles of Knitting

Intreccio, 50 mm circs
Photo: artstringboutique

What is it?
Circular needles are knitting needles that are connected to each other by a flexible wire or cord.

Fun Facts
  • The first US patent for a circular needle was issued in 1918, although in Europe they may have been used a little earlier.
  • The 1900’s saw the invention of the circular knitting needle, which is in fact a pair of straight needles connected by a flexible material. Early circular needles were made of steel wire cable with the rigid ends crimped on. These joints would often snag the knitted yarn, which was a major reason why the circular needle was so slow in gaining acceptance.
  • In The History of Handknitting by Richard Rutt this is what is said about the circular needle; "The circular needle was probably developed in Norway. It was advertised as "Flexknit, patent applied for", in 'Ladies'Field' Jumpers(Book 1) in 1924. The flexible part was then made of steel wire cable, and the rigid ends were crimped on. The join would,with use and wear, tend to snag the knitted yarn, and this feature contributed to the slow sucess of the circular needle."
  • Circular shawls do not have the long history that square shawls do because of the relative newness of circs (from Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls by Martha Waterman Nichols).
  • According to June Hemmons Hiatt, circular needles are called "twin pins" in Britain.
Further Reading
Asking people about their experience is very valuable: read some feedback on the lived history of circular needles on the Knitter’s Review forum here.

Hiya Hiya
Knit Picks
1 First on needle gauges, second on cable needles.


Meredith M said...

Those size 50's are crazy! I wonder how smooth they are to knit with. I love my circs, and can't imagine the wrist strain iD be enduring if I had to knit everything on straight needles. Thanks for the informative post!

Lloer said...

I think they may have been been called 'twin pins' in the UK in the past but not for at least 30 years ;)