Circular Needles: How many stitches will they hold?

You know when you run across those notes on little scrap pieces of paper and you say, “Hey, I’ve been looking for that!”  And at the time you scribble them down, think, “I’ll remember where I got this!”

Well, I just ran across this one, and with apologies, I do not remember the source. If anyone knows who the original author is, please let me know so I can give credit here (I’m pretty sure it came from a book).

This table lists approximate minimum (min) and maximum (max) number of sts that will fit different circular needles at the stated gauges. The minimums are the least you should consider for each needle; to avoid stretching the work unnecessarily, it is recommended that more than the absolute minimum number of stitches be worked on any given size needle. 

Gauge sts/in 16″ [41cm] min / max 24″ [61cm] min / max 29″ [74cm] min / max 36″ [91cm]min / max 60″ [152cm]min / max
5 80 / 160 120 / 240 145 / 290 180 / 360 300 / 600
6 100 / 200 140 / 280 175 / 350 215 / 430 360 / 720
7 110 / 220 170 / 340 205 / 410 250 / 500 420 / 840
8 130 / 260 190 / 380 230 / 460 290 / 580 480 / 960
9 140 / 280 220 / 440 260 / 520 325 / 650 540 / 1080
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22 comments

  1. I divided these stitch counts out, and it turns out that it’s giving the number of stitches to equal the size of the circular (all the ones under 16″ are 16″ around…). Are you sure that it isn’t the _minimum_ number of stitches rather than the max? My vague memory is that you can cram up to 4x the width on a circular, but you don’t want to go below the circular size or things get rather stretched out…

  2. I believe you are absolutely right — seems that’s true for all of the entries in the table. More reasons to take really good notes! I will amend the post. Thanks!

  3. Thank you so much for this info. My favorite circular needles are the 16 inch length. I knit hats for charity and Ships Support and the 16 inch length works the best (IMHO).

  4. This is just what I was looking for, but I want to make sure I understand your table correctly. So, if the gauge says 20 stitches, 26 rows to 4″, would mean that I could get a min. of 60 and max. of 140 sts on a 16″ needle?
    Thank you.

    • 80 and 160, yes. It does depend on the yarn you’re using a bit — wool will tend to squish together more while solid plant-based fibres may max out at a slightly lower number.

  5. I have an Afghan that I want to make. It calls for an size eight circular needle, but I only have a 24 inch circular needle. Will this work?? I also have to increase 2 stitches on some rows. Can you help me out with this??
    Connie Jeanne

    • I haven’t done a sample for a 12-ply (bulky yarn / approx 14 sts per 4″ (10cm) gauge) but you can use the finished measurement for your piece as a guide. The 250 sts @ 3.5 sts / inch (2.5cm) gauge would yield a piece 71.4″ (181.4cm) wide. So, a 60″ (152cm) circular should do just fine. Hope that helps.

    • Hi Diana, It depends on the weight of yarn are you using. The heavier the yarn, the wider your stitches will be so they will need a longer circular. However, having said that, a 32″ or 40″ lengths are pretty good generic lengths. Since you’re knitting flat, either of those lengths should be good not matter the yarn weight you’re using. Hope that helps 🙂

    • I haven’t tried a 9″ but extrapolating from the data in the table, my best guess would be this:
      Gauge ————min / max # of sts
      sts per inch
      5 — 45 / 90
      6 — 55 / 110
      7 — 65 / 130
      8 — 72 / 144
      9 — 80 / 160

      Hope that helps!

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