Why knit ‘in the round’?
When knitting first began as a craft all knitting was done this way. The only stitches used were plain knitting and patterns were formed by using one or more colours in the knitting. By the 16th Century purl stitches were developed and ‘clocking’ patterns (formed by mixing plain and purl stitches) grew in popularity. At about this time experiments were also made knitting with two needles. Prior to this time all knitting had been tube like, but was first felted (once more becoming popular in modern times) to make a fabric and then cut and sewn into the required shape.
By Victorian times knitting on two needles was much more popular and garments were actually shaped as they were knitted.
Older more traditional garments such as fishermen’s ganseys and socks are still knitted in the round today and some of these patterns have remained virtually unchanged for centuries.
Knitting in the round gives a seamless garment, which does not have any points of weakness such as seams and in the case of socks is more comfortable for the wearer. Yokes on sweaters are often knitted on four needles as this gives a continuous pattern without breaks for seams.