The classic view of knitting is with a pair of straight needles. But honestly, I haven’t made anything with needles that look anything like that in years. I pretty much always knit with circular needles. The reason is simply because you can do pretty much everything with circular needles! They really all the jack-of-all-trades in my knitting toolkit.
When you knit all the way across the right side of the fabric (the “prettier” looking side), then turn it around and knit all the way across the wrong side of the fabric (the back side), this is what I am calling straight knitting here. This is to compare it to knitting in the round. Normally, we think of straight knitting as being done on straight knitting needles, and circular knitting (knitting a tube of fabric in the round) as being done on circular needles. However, it is just as easy, if not easier to just knit straight on circular needles. You simply knit across your stitches until you don’t have any more, pull the cable through to the other side, and repeat.
Circular knitting is what you image circular needles are made for, knitting a circular piece of fabric. This is for the bodies of sweaters, hats, and cowls. All you need to do is choose the right length of cable depending on what you are working on. 32”-47” for sweaters, 24” for small sweaters or cowls, and 16” for hats.
What happens when your work is smaller than the 16” cable used for hats. Well, you can also work socks, gloves, and sleeves using your circular needle. You just need to use a technique called magic loop. This method lets you use a longer cable with a fewer number of stitches, splitting the stitches in half. Your needles are on one side, and a loop of your cable length on the other. This allows you to avoid knitting with double-pointed needles all together.
Circular needles really are a jack-of-all-trades. That is probably why interchangeable needle sets are so popular. These give you endless possibilities for every combination of circular needle you could ever need. And the circular needles let you do pretty much every kind of knitting that you’ll ever need to do.