Skip to content

I utterly love the Reindeer Moss Mittens from MDK Field Guide No. 26: Moss, and I’m so excited to knit them. I bet you are, too. You might have noticed that the pattern specifically calls for double-pointed needles (DPNs).

Using DPNs is the traditional way of doing small circumference projects like mittens and socks; for a long time they were the only needles that worked. That’s why you see a lot of patterns written out that way, including this one.

Not everyone uses DPNs and not everyone feels confident about working with them—that’s ok! One of the best things about knitting is that there are lots of different ways to do things.

The good news is that it’s all utterly interchangeable: you can use any small-circumference methods for any small-circumference project, no matter how the instructions are written.

As to which you might choose: that’s entirely up to you! There are pros and cons for all methods, they all achieve exactly the same thing. Go with the one you’re comfortable with, the one that works best for you.

Here are four of the most popular options to choose from:

DPNs are traditional, and are still liked because it’s the most efficient method. There’s very little moving around of the stitches on the needles, beyond knitting them. The downside of DPNs is that you can drop needles, stitches can fall off the ends of them, and it can all be a bit pointy.

Knitters love Magic Loop because there’s only one needle, so there’s nothing to drop! The downside to this method is that you have to move your stitches around on the needle at the end of every side, which can be slower.

The Two Circulars method is very similar to magic loop, introducing a couple of extra points, but reduces how much you have to move stitches around.

The newest method, Flexible DPNs, is a clever compromise. Although you’re still working with a set of short needles, they are flexible and a little more forgiving to handle, and there’s one less of them, so fewer needles to keep track of and drop. And just like standard DPNs, you don’t need to shift stitches around much when working them.

Other than calling for DPNs in the materials list, there’s actually nothing specific about the needles in the instructions, so you can use whatever configuration you like.

Here are a few tips for the project itself:

Casting On

Cast on the stitch count as specified.

The ribbing pattern is a multiple of 2 stitches, so no matter which needles you’re using, when distributing the stitches across your needles, make sure that each needle/side has an even number of stitches.

For DPNs, divide the stitches across 3 or 4 needles as you prefer, keeping an even number on each. It doesn’t have to be exactly the same number on each needle. Divide as evenly as possible, or if you’re using three, you might want to keep the first half on one needle, and divide the second half across the two others.

For Magic Loop, Two Circulars, and Flexible DPNs, divide the stitches precisely in half.

Joining in the Round

To “pm”—place a marker—clip a removeable stitch marker in the fabric near the start of the round (as in the pictures above). When using a full-circular method, the marker can actually go ON the needle, between stitches, but it will just fall off for small circumference knitting. A lot of people will skip the marker entirely for these set-ups and use the position of the cast-on tail as the indicator.

Then join in the round. For more on this step, see this article.


Then follow the pattern! Easy-peasy!

A Few Notes (mostly involving thumb gussets)

As you increase for the thumb gusset, you’ll have more stitches. I recommend keeping the new stitches grouped together on one needle, no matter what your configuration is. The means that for certain parts of the project, one needle will be holding more stitches—absolutely fine!

If you find it helpful, place markers on the needles to help you keep track of the pattern and keep count of your stitches. I’d be inclined to place one after that first thumb increase on round 2, making sure to work the increases before the marker.

You can also rearrange the stitches as you work if you use three DPNs. Once you start the “hand” charts, I suggest you set things up so that the stitches for the reindeer motif are gathered together on one needle, and the stitches for the tree motif are split across two.

If you’re using traditional DPNs, the smaller stitch count and the picking-up for the thumb can be a little fiddly to manage at first. I tend to cheat a little to get started:

Put the top stitches onto one needle and the bottom onto a second. This set-up has you work a pickup-and-knit at the start of a side, then work across the stitches of the side. I work the first step with the stitches on just those two needles, using a third to actually knit.

Again, I’ll clip a removable marker in the fabric to keep track of the start of the round. Once I’ve completed one round, then I redistribute across so I’m divided up. (Even if you usually split your stitches across four DPNs, I would still recommend using three here, because of the smaller stitch count.)

To help you work the decreases, keep the first half of the round on one needle and split the second half across two.

No matter which needles you use, enjoy the knitting—and know that you’ll be ready in plenty of time for next winter.

About The Author

Kate Atherley is a teacher, designer, author and technical editor. She’s also the publisher of Digits & Threads, a magazine all about Canadian fibre and textile arts.


  • Super advice, as always, Kate! These tips are so useful for all kinds of small circumference projects. Thank you! I have this saved now.

  • Saving this post for sure! I have a really hard time with DPN’s, but Magic Loop seems to work… Have been really curious to try the flexi-DPN’s – this may be the right project!

  • Oh my GOODNESS, how did I miss this the first time around! With Magic Loop I Often lose the BOR stitch marker even when I clamp it into the first stitch itself (I must be a particularly rambunctious knitter). How clever and useful to just line up the two strands of yarn. Other than that Magic Loop is my way to go. I started out knitting hats with DPNs and often ended up with all the stitches on one needle. (i blame it on sleep deprivation.). Magic Loop works for me. To prevent laddering be sure to have a long enough cord to keep those first and last stitches of the circle tightly close together, especially in the beginning). Hard to do with a shorter cord. I learned with the original Hauschka booklet, which I have since sadly lost. Thanks, Kate, for filling in that gap!

  • This is the first time I heard of flexible double points. Do you have a source?

    • Addi’s and Denise’s

    • I have FlexiFlips which are made by Addi. They are pricy. Due to my ingrained knitting style (after 60+ years I’m stuck, I’m afraid) I poke holes in my thumbs when I use regular DPs for anything besides finishing a hat.

  • Wait a minute! Wait a minute!
    What about small circumference circular needles??? I knit all my mittens on 9 or 11 inch circular needles. No need to play with lots of needles or shift stitches.
    Try it, you might like it. My knitting group have become converts.

    • I agree! I nearly gave up on sock knitting using DPNs it was so fiddly even with 5 needles then I discovered 25cm circulars (Knit Pro/Knitters Pride). They are brilliant. No ladders, no stitches falling off needles and no fiddling around moving from 1 needle to another. I find I just need to switch to DPNs for the last 5 or 6 rows of the toe decreases. And a WIP is much more portable in a small project bag!

    • Hi Edie! You’re right, they are absolutely amazing. There are, however, two big buts there: the first is that you still need a small-circumference method for the decrease at the tips of the fingers (and the small stitch count at sock toes), and for the very small stitch counts of the thumbs.

      The other issue is that because of the very very short needle tips, some knitters find them a little uncomfortable to hold and use. I can use them well enough but I’m fairly slow with them, and my tension isn’t consistent. (A bit jealous of those knitters who can make them work really well to be honest 🙂 )

    • Yes yes yes. I recently became a user of. small circumference needles. I tried all others and these are my favorite.

  • I’ve tried all of these techniques, however I like the small circumference circular needles the best. They are referred to as shorties by some of the manufacturers. So much easier!

    • Hi Kathy! As per my comment to Edie, they are great but they don’t always work for every situation, and not for every knitter. You still need something else for the thumb…

  • I really like the Flexiflips. I have sizes 1 and 2 for knitting socks which I find work very well and 5 for sleeves/cuffs. They also have 2 different tip types, one end of the needle has a pointy lace type tip and the other end is a regular tip so you can choose to insert whichever tip suits the yarn you’re knitting with. Knitting needle companies other than Addi are making them now too, prices vary and they’re less expensive in Europe.

    • Yes the double ends are so useful!

  • “…and it can all be a bit pointy.” Yup! It is good to have choices. Thank you for this article!

  • Very timely advice! I have yarn on the way for this project… looking forward to casting on.

  • To mark the end of the round, I place my marker between the second to the last stitch and the last stitch. This way, it won’t fall off and I have a visual (as well as palpable) cue to know when one round is ending and a new one is beginnning. I use the cast-on tail intermittently as reinforcement to make sure the marker’s positioning is correct. I’ve do this foe magic loop (my favorite), as well as when working with DPNs, and two circulars.

    • I do the same—works great!

  • I love dpns, magic loop, and flexi-flips. Sometimes I put my marker after the first stitch of the round. Sometimes I rearrange so that the beginning of the round is in the middle of a needle, so I can use my favorite stitch marker/row counter (Susan Bates) and it doesn’t fall off!

  • DPNs – If considering this tool… here are my additional 2 cents worth:
    In order not to let the stitches slide out from the needles keep the gauge tighter –
    yes, that’s a no brainer, but it is much easier with DPNs made of WOOD or BAMBOO… There is a huge difference – because metal tends to be heavier and so gravity takes over.
    Also – the set of 5 is much better than the one of 4.
    Now is it my turn to try the mitts? This snowy reindeer in the moss are so pretty!

    • BTW – re: markers – it is a good idea to try contrasting scrap yarn, it could also be lightly tied. Easy to move , but stays put.

  • Love your tips and fascinating trips into all parts of fiber!! Thank you!

    But you forgot to show the 9inch single fixed circular for knitting sock and small circumferences. I have tried several and prefer the Chiaogoo 9” metal fixed circular for socks. Do a short row heel and then move to dpn for toe tip. These are lightening fast.
    Check them out. Have fun!

    I used to use strictly dpn but I am a convert and have spread that to help other knitters

  • I love the flexible DPNs. I’ve worked the other two methods too, but especially for traveling sock projects, they rock. I rarely drop stitches and they stay flat in my pocktbook.

    Looking forward to color work mittens.

  • Very interesting article and comments! After 50+ years as a serious knitter, I became a sock knitter due in part to learning about toe-up socks (which made all the difference for me) and the invention of Flexi-Flips (or CraSy Trios, as they’re branded in Europe). (Even after a half-century of knitting, DPNs feel so clunky!) Since Flexi-Flips came into my life, I have had a sock OTN at all times. However, my latest favorite technique is Two-at-a-Time, or TAAT, socks with which I use a 40″ needle with a very flexible cable. There are a couple advantages to TAAT including keeping track of your increases/decreases, and having the same # of rows for each sock isn’t an issue AND there is no such thing as Second Sock Syndrome!

  • I know the technique doesn’t get much love, but I’m a real devotee of two circulars – you can make anything with two circulars, at any diameter, and they are so easy to handle. Give it a try!

  • I am really fond of the flexible option. I think it may be good for those with a bit of arthritis. Or who find the regular dpns keep falling out …
    or I think it just looks neat!
    Sometimes I add an extra short circular or dpn when working sock or thumb gussets and there are a lot of stitches.
    It’s good to have options!

  • I agree! I nearly gave up on sock knitting using DPNs it was so fiddly even with 5 needles then I discovered 25cm circulars (Knit Pro/Knitters Pride). They are brilliant. No ladders, no stitches falling off needles and no fiddling around moving from 1 needle to another. I find I just need to switch to DPNs for the last 5 or 6 rows of the toe decreases. And a WIP is much more portable in a small project bag!

Come Shop With Us

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping