A small, white sock on tiny circular needles is sitting on a white marble countertop with an antique botanical print and two balls of white yarn. These tiny circular needles are some of my favorite needles for knitting socks.

One thing a lot of knitters struggle with is picking the right needles for knitting socks. When you’re working with such a small circumference, things can get fiddly.

There are a few different options for addressing that. I’m going to cover my two favorites in this post.

When I first started knitting socks, I only knew double-pointed needles. I used them for hats, for sleeves, for socks, you name it. If it was small and circular, I went to my DPNs.

Eventually, I discovered circular needles for the hats and larger items, but at the time, nobody was making tiny circular needles for socks yet. I tried magic loop and two circulars, but neither of those methods ever really clicked for me.

Until a few years ago, then, I was knitting all my socks on double-pointed needles. It was fine, and I got through quite a few pairs of socks that way, but the needles were always a bit fiddly.

Then, I saw somebody on the internet using a pair of teeny tiny circular needles to knit their socks. It felt like my world had been blown wide open. Where did these magical little tools come from, and how could I get my hands on some?

I ordered my first pair of tiny circular needles in the summer of 2018 and never looked back. Now, I knit most of my socks with small circular needles, and I use double pointed needles for heels and toes.

Here’s why.

How I Fell in Love with Small Circular Needles

With the small circular needles, I have to do less adjusting as I move around the circumference of the sock. Less time spent on rearranging stitches means more time spent knitting. I find that the small circular needles have significantly cut down the amount of time I spend on each sock. Speed isn’t everything, but when you’re trying to keep up with a busy self-publication schedule, it’s nice too have a way to streamline the process a bit.

It’s also easier to toss a sock in my purse and go if it’s on tiny circular needles compared to double-pointed needles. With the small circs, there are only two spots for the yarn to slip off your needles, as opposed to six or eight with the DPNs. I also don’t run the risk of losing my working needle in the depths of my bag.

One thing to be aware of: the tiny circular needles have very small tips. Some knitters have reported that these small circular needles make their hands feel cramped. This isn’t something I’ve experienced, but I also have small hands generally. For me, tiny needles were a little bit of an adjustment. Once I got the hang of them, however, my hands felt just fine.

I use the 9″ circular steel needles from ChiaoGoo. They’re great little needles, and I have them in several sizes now.

Why I Still Love Double-Pointed Needles for Knitting Socks

Tiny circular needles, however, have the same limitation that all circular needles have: the cable means you can’t totally close up the tube you’re working on. For closing toes, nothing beats my trusty double-pointed needles. When I first started out, I used bamboo needles. I’m a tight knitter, though, and I wound up snapping several of them. To avoid that problem, I switched to metal needles. I’ve been using this same set from KnitPicks since 2009, and I’ve never needed to buy another set of DPNs since.

I also like double-pointed needles for working on heels. That allows me to leave half the sock resting on the small circular needle and have a wider range of motion as my heel flap or short-row heel grows. If I’m working an afterthought or peasant heel, which is worked much like a wedge toe, I also need the double-pointed needles so I can close the heel completely.

When It Comes to Sock Knitting, Do What Works For You

This system of two different needle types works great for me, but you might find you prefer a different style of sock knitting. Maybe you’re a Magic Looper who loves doing toe-up, two-at-a-time socks. It could be you love old-school DPNs and don’t see a need to fix what isn’t broken. Perhaps you’ve mastered those new-fangled Flexiflips (I gotta try those out).

Whatever your preferred sock-knitting style may be, it’s valid. Go forth and knit!

24 Replies to “My Favorite Needles for Knitting Socks I Love”

  1. I started out knitting socks on DPNs and never changed. I call it being a purist. What I did do was bought another set of needles so I could knit both socks at the same time ( you will need another ball of yarn also ). Don’t like knitting one then the other. I knit so far on one then knit that much and more on the other. I work back and forth until I finish the socks. I then have a pair of socks. I don’t like the magic loop either. This works for me.

    1. I’m so glad you found a method that works for you! Ultimately, that’s what matters most in knitting. If it gets us the finished result we want and makes the process enjoyable, then that’s the right way to go.

  2. I learned how to knit socks on 9 inch circulars. I absolutely love them. As you said, I still have to use dpn’s for the heel and toe but other than that it’s 9″. I also use them for bottoms of sleeves.

  3. Haven’t tried socks yet, but I’ve got a new great grand on the way. I’m working on his first sweater, when I finish it I’ll tackle the socks. Thanks for the info.

  4. My favorite needles: ChiaoGoo circular needles, with their super flexible, never-kinking cables. I use them for everything. And, yes, I am totally “a Magic Looper who loves doing toe-up, two-at-a-time socks,” not that I’m all that prolific a sock knitter, with only a dozen or so pair completed. I know myself well enough to know that I would never keep good enough notes to make the same tweaks or modifications on both socks if I knit them serially. Knitting toe-up takes away the yarn-chicken element; I always know I will have enough yarn. BONUS: no grafting toes closed!

    1. The ChiaoGoo needles are great! The surface is not quite as slick as the Addis, but I do like their super-pointy tips and their reasonable price. I have a few sets of size 4 32″ circs for the umpteen shawls and sweaters I’ve always got going.

  5. The only way I can get two socks that are the same is to knit them at the same time so it’s 2 circular needles for me. To keep from absent-mindedly knitting both of them onto the same needle (and the forehead slap when you hear the other needle hit the floor), I repeat Cat Bordhi’s mantra to knit all the stitches that are on one needle and leave the “udder” needle hanging. That gives me a little smile and a little pang of loss at the same time. Cat lives on in our knitting.

  6. I use both dpns and circulars. I use the Chicago mini twists, love them. I have to use dpns when making baby socks as well as heels.

    1. I’d love to hear more about the mini twists! My only interchangeables are the Addi Clicks, where you just twist the cable to settle it into place. How do you like the tiny screw feature on the mini twists?

  7. I started out with double pointed needles. They were always slipping out and all those needle points kept getting in the way. Then I discovered the magic loop method and a long circular needle with fixed points by knitpicks. The cords are flexible and about the best I have found in that department. I have nickle plated for yarns that don’t want to slide over the needle easily and woods for that very slippery yarn. Dark color needles are great for light yarn and light needles for dark yarn. Your eyes will thank you. I do have a collection of needles but I’m always knitting something.

    1. The KnitPicks needles are great! I think it’s about time for me to get a new set of DPNs (I’m a tight knitter and mine have, ehm, bent a bit over the years). Love that slick nickel coating.

  8. I recently discovered Neko curved double point needles.

    They are just DPN that are bent. You only use 3 needles

    DPN were always my nemesis.

  9. Just recently started “doing” socks on 9 inch circs .. so happy I went through the learning curve! Still use DPNs for heel & toe but gave up on bamboo when I discovered Knitter’s Pride Karbonz. Tried FlexiFlips but got major laddering so those were a waste of $$! LOVE the Chiaogoo 9 inch circs .. their 2 inch tips fit my hands perfectly!

    1. I’m too tight of a knitter for bamboo! I tend to break them pretty regularly. I haven’t tried the Karbonz, but those are on the list! My Knit Picks nickel-coated DPNs have been my trusty buddies for over a decade now.

  10. I’m a DPN girl. I have several sets and by far my fav is my Knit Picks Platina 5”. I also just treated myself to a set of DPN Zings for socks.
    I have to admit it’s a little tedious starting as you have all those loosely-goosey needles flopping around and I have lost track of how many times I have stuck the girls…my arms need to be longer! I found an easy solution to avoid the initial frustration of starting on DPN’s. I start on the same size using circus then after a couple of rows for stability I transfer the stitches to my DPNs.

  11. I love knitting soxs they are my passion.
    I use two 50cm circular and using Judes magic cast on have no problems at all.
    I’m also a tight knitter but find this to be great.
    For me. I love Addis or ChiaoGoo whichever here in New Zealand we can get our hands on.
    I’ve taught a number of friends to knit soxs this way who could not get their heads around the DPNs or the magic loop.
    Happy knitting
    Mary

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