Knitting Blog

5 Ways to Avoid Those Pesky Ladders When Knitting in the Round

When you’re knitting in the round, do you ever notice ladders forming each time you start knitting on a different needle? Ladders are stretched stitches that form when your stitches separate too much between needles. Sometimes ladders might even look like a dropped stitch, but don’t be fooled.

Circular knitting ladder

See the horizontal bars showing up between the stitches in the photo above? That’s a ladder.

Ladders are a common problem for knitters learning the magic loop, but they pop up in double-pointed needle knitting, too, where they’re actually more risky there because there are more needle changes.

Luckily, you only need to make a couple of small adjustments to avoid those ladders. I’m using magic loop to demonstrate here, but some of the same techniques can be applied to knitting with double-pointed needles unless noted otherwise. Let’s take a look at a few of your options.

5 ways to avoid and fix ladders in knitting

1. Pull taut on the second stitch on the new needle.

Many knitters pull tightly on the first stitch of the new needle, and that can solve the problem. But I find that pulling the second stitch tightly can help even out the tension and avoid laddering.

Something many knitters don’t realize about ladders is that they can be caused by both loose tension or tight tension. Sometimes when you pull tightly on that first stitch before moving on, things can get a little too tight at the join between the needles. That first stitch is tight, and it throws off the tension of the join, which then causes a ladder.

If you’re pulling tightly on the working yarn and still getting a ladder, focus more on making the tension even.

2. For magic loop, don’t pull too tightly on the stitches before moving to a new needle.

Magic loop ladder

This is a problem that’s unique to magic loop. Circular needles have cables that are much thinner than the needle tip. So when we tighten the working yarn before we start working on the needle closest to us, we’re tightening that stitch to fit around the cable, rather than around the needle tip.

Just like with Option 1, pulling too tightly can throw off the tension of the entire round, which also causes ladders. Instead of pulling tightly, focus more on making sure all the stitches have an equal sizing and tension.

3. Keep the last stitch on the old needle and the first stitch on the new needle close together.

Magic loop ladders

In the photo above, you can see there’s a pretty big gap between the back needle and the needle closest to me, where I’m knitting the next stitch. Pinch that back cable to meet the new needle when you start knitting on a new needle, and that will close up the gap and help you avoid ladders.

This can work with double-pointed needles, too. When you’re changing to a new double-pointed needle, make sure the old needle and new needle are close together. For double-pointed needles, that usually just means making sure your needles are at an angle.

4. Use a different fiber.

Some fibers like cotton don’t have a lot of stretch to them. So once that ladder forms, it’s unlikely it will spring back in place. Fibers like wool, though, are famous for being springy, which also means they’re more forgiving. (If you used a springy yarn like wool and still have ladders, the next option pairs well with this one!)

5. Block it.

If your ladder only happens occasionally in the project and it isn’t too wide, you might be able to fix it with blocking. As you probably know, blocking shapes the stitches and helps them settle. When you block your ladders, wiggle the stitches around so they shift and hide the ladder. Just try to adjust them so they are the same size as the other stitches.

Do you have any handy tricks for avoiding ladders when you’re knitting in the round? Fill us in!

3 Comments

bfulton

I usually use double-points. I use stitch markers when there is a pattern, not just straight stockinette. This allows me to pick up 2 or so additional stitches onto my right-hand needle as I move around. This eliminates the “ladder area.”

I follow the stitch markers instead of Needle 1, Needle 2 etc to mark pattern changes.

Reply
Vickie Komans

If you are using double pointed needles, every few rounds, before you move to the next needle, work one extra stitch from the needle you would begin next with the current needle instead. If you have “ladders”, this helps hide them, because instead of being in a straight line, the ladders are shifting every few rows. If needed, you can always rearrange your stitches so the count called for in your pattern matches your needles. Example: you have 40 stitches, 10 on each of 4 needles. Knit 10 stitches on first needle plus 1 from next needle. Next needle knit the remaining 9 stitches plus one from next needle, and so on. When you get back to the first needle, and have worked one additional stitch, all needles will be back to 10 stitches each.

Reply
Karen Williams

I fairly new to knitting & almost exclusively use circular needles (love interchangeable tips, as my hands are small). I’ve found I get less laddering mid-row (which I try not to do), if I keep the needles nested to each other, pointing in opposite directions (as if you’re still knitting). I can stick on the protective caps, to keep stitches from slipping off.

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