No problem! The trick is that you can knit small diameter pieces on long cables if you pull a little loop of the cable out - this is essentially what Magic Loop is. For example, I could do the Easy Peasy Hat on a 16" fixed circular, but I could also use a 40" circular (and, in that case, interchangeable needle tips) as long as I let the excess cable "escape" the knitting in a loop at one side of the work.
If DPNs seem less intimidating (and I learned on DPNs), you can buy an inexpensive set of nickel DPNs in all the sizes needed for sock knitting. I prefer circulars for Magic Loop now, and I would buy fixed circular needles in size 0, 1, or 2 with 40" cables for sock knitting. It really depends on the yarn you're planning to use and the way you knit, so you may have to experiment with a range of sizes to find what you like for a given type of yarn.
Perhaps I have too much going on at once, but I am happy to report that I am (successfully) knitting the Easy Peasy hat on a 16" circular needle. I also tried my hand at using 4 DPN to knit a starter sock. I ran into a bit of trouble with the pattern I was following. I think I might be confused because I am not yet (mentally) adept at understanding the requirements of ribbing. I will try to explain: I followed a pattern for a size based on my leg/foot measurements. According to the chart, it was necessary that I cast on 40 stitches. I was already a bit intimidated because this number does not evenly divide by 3. I separated as directed to three needles (14, 12, 14). The first stitches were for a K2 P2 ribbing. I was very careful to count my stitches. When I joined my round, I used the crossover method slipping (essentially trading) the first and last stitch over each other. Somehow, when I got to round 2 or 3, I discovered I had 41 stitches on the needles and this totally threw off my K2P2 ribbing. I panicked and simply could not figure out what to do. Should I have decreased a stitch, and if so, at what point? I worked three or four more rows just to get the hang of using the DPN but I knew something was terribly off because the ribbing didn't look right. I assume that with a K2P2 ribbing, I am essentially purling the knit stitches and knitting the purl stitches, is that correct? If so, could I have kept that extra stitch and just followed the pattern until I came to the "off" stitch?
All in all, I think the DPNs were manageable but as suggested, a bit cumbersome. I am eager to try the single circular method but I am awaiting a delivery of a better needle. I purchased circulars at my LYS and even after soaking the cable in hot water, it is unruly, stiff and impossible to manipulate.
I apologize for the longwinded post.
My last question is this: Are there sock patterns out there that use the shorter cable on a singular circular needle, just as the Easy Peasy hat does?
Is there a place I can download patterns that are especially for the shorter single circulars? I feel very comfortable using the 16" for the hat, and I would be interested in trying some of the shorter cables too.
You may have picked up a stitch by accidentally wrapping your yarn in the knitting process (in fact I did this today with a pair of socks. K2P2 ribbing,,, you should be knitting the knitted stitched and purling the purled stitches. I have included the tutorial link here at KP that explains ribbing. Hope this helps.
Michelle: I agree with Susan's answer, but you have several things going on. Susan is right, you should K the K and P the P. When you work in the round, you are always on the right side (at least until you start going back and forth for the heel), so you work the sts as they appear unless told otherwise.
I think I saw a circular needle small enough for socks somewhere, but the tighter the circumference of a circ, the shorter the needle tips need to be. These circs for socks (sounds funny, doesn't it?) end up with needle tips that are really hard to hold onto. If you liked working the hat on a 16" circ, you will probably like making socks using either:
1) 2 circs (24" works well, and you just do half of the sock on one needle and half on the other), or
2) Magic Loop (you will do better with a longer circ, but you will only need one, and you still do half of the sock on one side and half on the other).
I ADORE my Knit Picks circs, both the fixed circs and the Options. The cables are really flexible.
I will try to find some sock patterns you can download, but you can actually use any sock pattern with circulars once you understand sock construction and have a few pairs under your belt. Some books, such as Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks, have the option of using dpns or two circs. You can do Magic Loop by following the pattern for two circs.
I'll look for socks with circs and get back to you
You can knit smaller diameter projects in several manners, depending on the diameter and personal preference.
Socks are very small diameter and for a whole lot of history, were knitted on DPN... because they really had no other options.
Slightly larger diameter projects, like a hat, were either knit on DPNs, or later, when someone came up with the idea of circular needles, some people started knitting hats on short length cables... like a 16" circular needle. Like the directions for the Easy Peasy Hat. (You could also use ML to do this pattern, hence a longer circular needle would be required.)
Then, someone (Cat Bordhi) came up with the idea that you could use two shorter circular needles at the same time instead of DPN to knit small diameter projects like socks and hats.
Finally, someone came up with the idea of using ONE LONG circular needle instead of DPNs or a short length circular needle or two circular needles: Magic Loop.
Magic Loop can, theoretically, eliminate the need for DPN and short circular needles. I, personally, use ML for pretty much all circular knitting. I may submit to the 4" DPNs for glove fingers, but other than that, if it is a smaller diameter than comfortably fits on the shortest cable for my Options needles, I use Magic Loop.
First, about the hat... do check out the tutorial and pattern Alison suggested. Its an excellent first in the round project.
As for the "ball bouncing around in my bag" I find a gallon zip bag inside my bag a better solution. Keeps my ball cleaner, prevents snags on objects in my bag, and the bag helps the ball "bounce" better which helps it unwind more smoothly.
Hanks and Ball Winding:
You can avoid winding yarn into balls lots of times. There is a school of thought that all yarn should be rewound into the flatbottomed "cakes" you can create with a ballwinder. They do use space more efficiently that way and are often much neater than skeins. But, most people who use a center-pull skein don't.
If your yarn has been put up into a hank, you'll want to seriously consider winding it up into a ball. I've heard of some people who have opened up the hank and hung it on something nearby and knit directly from the hank... but you'd want to only knit your project from that same location until the hank has been almost completely used.
A hank of yarn can tangle up into an unholy mess faster than you can possibly imagine! It is entirely possible you'll prefer to wind it up, somehow or other, into a ball as quickly as possible before knitting with it. Some people will wind a hank into a ball when they get it, for better storage. Some wait until getting ready to use it.
KP's ball winder is the best price you'll probably find anywhere, certainly for the price. They are even kind enough to provide a video tutorial on how to use it! :-)
If you want to wait to invest in a ball winder, you may find one of these useful:
... or devise your own variation. I'm one of those weird birds who enjoys winding yarn into balls. I find it a great activity while watching a movie or the news (especially these days). It can be a very "Zen" sort of soothing activity. I sit up in bed with my knees bent and drape the opened hank around my knees and wind, and wind, and wind, and...
If you are interested in a swift that is nicely handmade and 1/2 the price of the regular umbrella swifts, email me, and I will send you the link. I found it on ebay. I thought it would be ok to say that here, since KnitPicks does not offer a swift at this time. It is a nice gift to yourself, or if you have a birthday or something coming up....
I am interested in a swift, although I'm not in any big hurry for one. I'm hoping to finally get my basement cleaned out and one half of it organized into a craft center for my daughter and I. When I do, I'll have a permanent place to put a swift and then I'll definitely want one. For now, my knees work fine and I don't wind that many hanks of yarn that I really wish I had one particularly.
A swift, for me, is definitely a "wanna" not a "gotta." But, I would be interested in your link... PM it to me?
I learned to knit socks with dpn's and Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch. She includes instructions for 4 or 5 dpn's and 2 circular needles. I started with the practice sock and a worsted weight yarn in a light color so I could see what was going on. Now I've knit lots of socks with the different methods which keeps me from getting bored. Don't use metal dpn's at first because they are slippery and heavier than wood and you would get frustrated. The only difficult part of dpn's is the first few rounds until you've knit enough to steady the needles. Just practice on something you don't plan to keep or wear and you'll have no worries.
I only recently bought the Knit Picks ball winder and I've always done mine by hand even if they do fall apart by the end of the ball. I would set hanks on my knees or around my laptop. It's not very graceful but it gets the job done.