Which length circular needles?

I’m a fairly new knitter. I’ve seen a lot of cute kids hats, and I’d like to knit some hats for my toddlers. I knitted one on double pointed needles, and I really didn’t like the double pointed needle experience very much, so I want to try circular needles now. I’m confused as to which length one should use. I want to knit a hat that is 20" in circumference at its widest. The circular needle options I saw at the store were 16" long and 27" long. So do I go shorter or longer? What’s the rule of thumb?

Also, from what I understand, I’ll probably have to switch down to double pointed needles once I’m far enough into the decreases for the top. How do I know when it’s time to go to double pointed?

Thanks in advance!

You would likely want fairly short circular needles if you want to knit the hat in the round. Say 16" or less, if you can find them.

To close the crown, you’ll still need to use double-pointed needles, though.

Think of it this way: the number of stitches need to be able to fit totally on your circular needles - so you can close the loop, right? When you are stretching those stitches too hard to be able to knit the whole circle of stitches, then it’s time to go to the double-pointed needles. So you can fit more stitches on the shorter circular needles because you’ll still be able to knit the loop around and around. On the longer circular needles, your stitches would have to be enough to go completely around the bigger circle - so you’d need more stitches just to close the knitted circle.

Hope this helps,

Thanks, Dot. I thought I should use the shorter ones, but I wanted to be sure before I got too far into anything. Thanks again!


I agree with Dot. I don’t have 16" and have made hats with a 24" (for a larger head, obviously). But the extra cable gets in the way…it’s doable, but easier with shorter length cables.

the alternative is to go for 27" or longer and to use the magic loop method which has a demo video on this site under ‘advanced techniques’ i think. It will alow you to do the whole hat on the one circular needle without switching to DPNs for the top.

I use 16" for most hats I make. I do have to go to dpns when I get close to the crown, but it isn’t usually for very many rows. I find the 16" very manageable. Good luck!

Thanks again, everyone. I’ve cast on to the 16" length - too many stitches, so now I must rip back, but c’est la vie - and I much prefer the circular needles thus far. I think I’ll switch to the DPNs when the time comes. I have seen the magic loop tutorial, but I think I’m going to try one new thing at a time for now. :slight_smile: