How to Prevent Ladders in Circular Knitting

Learn how to prevent ladders in circular knitting from expert Jessica Kaufman in this Howcast video.


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Learn circular knitting -- also known as knitting in the round -- from expert Jessica Kaufman in these Howcast videos.




I'm going to show you how to prevent ladders in your circular knitting. You don't have to worry about ladders showing up when you're knitting on a short circular needle because there's no break between the needle points. However, when you're knitting circularly where you divide the number of stitches over either either side of the cable or over several needles, you do have to be mindful of what's happening in between those sections. So I'll show you here what I do to prevent ladders forming in my work. And there was really nothing I could do when I was a beginning circular knitter. This is just something that comes with practice. But I'll try to break down for you in words what I do with my fingers, all the little subtle things to prevent a ladder. So I'll show you first on a magic loop example. I've got my front needle loaded in and my back needle pulled out and around and it helps that this is not the first couple rounds because I've got this nice, stable foundation of an entire sock to help hold things together. But these are the same tricks that I use when I'm starting off circular knitting. So the first thing I do is that I pinch the front section of yarn against the back section of yarn, so the needle and the cable in this case. I pinch them together really hard here to begin the first stitch. You can see my thumb is holding everything down and I can't see anything but that first stitch. So I've got my needle pulled out and around. I am going to put the yarn behind the needle because this first stitch is a knit. I'm going to stick my needle in and then I'm going to really give a yank-way more than I would on any other stitch. Again, we want our stitches to be nice and loose so that they can slide over the join, but because stitches on the end and the beginning tend to be naturally looser than their brothers that are caught in between, in the middle of the row, you're going to counteract that looseness by giving a nice, firm tug. So now I'm going to wrap the yarn around the needle, pull up a new stitch, and I'm really pushing hard with my finger here to make sure that my needles stay touching. I'm going to put my needle into the second stitch, tighten again. So I'm just tugging it all the way and then I can stop doing that. I don't do it anymore on the third, fourth and fifth stitches as I go. And what that means is that what I've got here is a really tight, last stitch on the other side-tighter than I would normally want it if it was in the middle here. And that will all even out when I'm knitting on this side again and I get to this stitch and it's the last stitch because the last stitch is always a little bit looser than the ones in the middle. So that's pretty easy because in magic loop you only have a front needle and a back needle to hold together and it can flatten out. But what if you have three needles that you have to worry about? First of all, I'm going to find where I need to start. I'm going to follow the working yarn back to this stitch. This is the last stitch I worked because it's got the working yarn coming from it. And I'm going to do basically the same thing. I'm going to stick my empty needle into the first stitch that needs to be worked here and I'm going to use my thumb to hold all three and give a really strong tug on the last stitch that I worked. And when I wrap the yarn around my working needle, I've got it really snugged up close to the needle from which my last stitch is coming. So I'm going to slide it down and again pull really, really, really hard-not so hard that you break your yarn-and I'm tugging again as I bring it around to my second stitch, and then I'm good to go. And because I pulled so hard, these two stitches-the last one from this needle and the first one from this needle-are just snugged up really close to each other. I'm going to show you that one more time. I'm going to finish this needle, keeping a nice, loose tension here. And when I get to my last stitch, it's going to feel looser than the other ones do, just because of the nature of the last stitch. So I give a little tug down. I'm constantly adjusting my fabric, sort of evening out the tension. I've got an empty needle in my right hand. I load up the tip of the needle in my left hand. And I'm going to make this really snug with the last one. So I'm going to stick my empty needle in, I'm going to pull nice and hard, and I'm going to get them just right up against each other there and sort of trap the yarn, pull up the new stitch, give another tug, knit the next stitch, give another tug, and now I'm good to go. And this method produces no ladders for me. I haven't had ladders in over a decade from when I started knitting circularly, so if you follow these tips, you too can avoid getting ladders in your circular knitting.


  • Jessica Kaufman

    Jessica's handwork skills include knitting and designing knitting patterns, felting, spinning and dyeing, flame working, stained glass, blacksmithing, woodturning, silversmithing, batik and tie dye, candle making, block printing and papermaking, soap making, sewing, quilting, macramé, cloisonné and enameling, ceramics, and polymer clay-- and she wants to teach you how to do all of it!