If you're just learning to knit, then I suggest you begin by checking out Knitting Essentials -- you'll learn everything you need to know to get started with this fun craft!
Double pointed needles are specifically for knitting in the round. Some people think circular needles are for circular knitting but they are actually too large for this purpose and are mainly for knitting large things such as afghans that require a large number of stitches--the length of the circle means you can pack a large number of stitches on them.
Socks and mittens are typically knitted on double pointed needles. These can intimidate novice knitters, but they needn't. Knitting on double pointed needles just takes a little bit of experience in handling the needles, but once you've mastered that, you can knit anything.
Double pointed needles come in packs of four, and usually, you have knitting on three of them while the fourth is the knitter.
Here's how to knit a simple tube:
- Cast ten or fifteen stitches on one needle.
- Then, pick up another needle in the same hand holding the first one, and cast on another ten or fifteen stitches. Do the same for the third needle.
- At this point, you might want to lay the three needles down on a flat surface, one over the other, and make sure the cast-on row isn't twisted.
- Now form a triangle with the needles and hold it in your left hand (if you're right handed) by the points of the first and third needles. The yarn on the last needle is looped around the right hand holding the fourth needle.
- Work the fourth needle through the stitches on the first needle. The first needle is now free of stitches and becomes the knitter.
- Use the free needle to stitch through the stitches on the second needle, then on again around the row.
- Make the tube as long as you like, then bind off as usual.
If you are knitting the stitches, the inside of the tube will be knitted and the outside purled. You can either purl across to get a knitted exterior, or simply turn the tube inside-out when you are done.
Things to watch out for:
- Twisted rows. When first starting, it's easy to twist the cast-on row around the needles. Make sure they are straight before knitting them.
- Loose stitches at the edges. Stitch the first and last stitch of every needle tighter than normal so you don't get gapping between the needles. This can leave what looks like a ladder climbing up the side of the tube.
- Dropped stitches. It's really hard to drop stitches off either end of double pointed needles, since you typically don't have very many stitches per needle and keeping them all in the center keeps them safe. But if it worries you, buy rubber tips to put on the ends of the needles you are not actively working to prevent the stitches from sliding off.
Mastering knitting in the round is a sign of the accomplished craftsman, so experiment with your double pointed needles and then move on to knitting socks.