Some people use circular knitting needles when they are working flat, aka not working in the round. Why is that and how does it work?
I personally only use circular knitting needles. To work flat on circular needles, you do not need to do anything special. Just turn them around when you reach the end of your row, as you would normally, never join. If you think of it as two separate needles with a string holding them together, it may be easier to imagine how it works.
I believe there are quite a few advantages to using just circular needles:
- You only need a set of circular needles rather than a set of straight needles and a set of circular needles.
- You can't lose the "other needle".
- Once your work starts getting bigger and heavier, it will rest on your lap instead of on the end of your long needle with seemingly increased weight due to the lever effect.
- You don't poke the person next to you.
- You can get long cables that support big items like blankets.
- Various brand of circular knitting needles have removable cables. This allows you to move the knitting to the cables and remove or change the needles. This is especially helpful in a few small ways, for example picking up dropped stitches with a smaller needle becomes easier, but you can also store your knitting away on the cable white reusing the needles.
When knitting straight, the beginning of a new row is a stitch on which the working yarn is connected. When knitting straight with circular needles, one knits till one exhausts all the stitches in the working row, flips the needles (such that working needle is now in the opposite hand), and starts a new row by first working the last worked stitch, with the opposite side of the knitting facing us.
In comparison, while knitting in the round, once the knitting is joined, one never encounters the last worked stitch.
Also: Many airlines have arbitrary restrictions on straight needles. Circular needles are great for getting through security.
You can get needles longer than straight needles (which max out at about 16 inches) for working wide pieces like a blanket or a sweater for fat Uncle Ed.
As your work grows on straight needles the weight can take a toll on your wrists and hands. With circular needles most of the weight is in your lap.
Seamless sweaters can't be done on straight needles.
If you're into making socks there's the magic loop method of working two at a time (TAAT) that can't be done on straight needles.
If you're making a tube (sleeve, sock, pullover) you can use a circular needle instead of double points. Then you only have the one needle to keep track of instead of 4 or 5 double points.
If you drop one or both they don't go anywhere.